NASHUA, New Hampshire (CBS) - A day after sending Congress the biggest federal budget in U.S. history along with another trillion dollar deficit, President Obama said "it keeps me awake at night – looking at all that red ink."
In the 13 months since he took office, the National Debt has jumped $1.8-trillion. And his new budget projects a $1.3-trillion deficit in the fiscal year that begins October 1st.
"I'm concerned about it very much," he confided during a riff on federal spending at a Town Hall Meeting in the gymnasium here at Nashua/North High School.
But Mr. Obama deferred some of the blame, saying most of the deficits and debt are "structural and we inherited."
He also told his friendly audience of about 1600 that "responsible families don't do their budgets the way the federal government does."
"When times are tough," he said, "you tighten your belts. You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college. You prioritize. You make tough choices. It's time your government did the same."
But at the same time, the president made no apologies for his spending programs to boost the economy and encourage private sector hiring. He said the worst of the economic story had passed, "but the devastation remains."
Noting that that one in ten Americans still can't find work, he said "that's why jobs will be our #1 focus in 2010."
Mr. Obama used his remarks at the Town Meeting to again trumpet provisions in his new budget to cut, consolidate or eliminate some 120 federal programs as a way of reducing spending, as well as his proposal to impose a spending freeze on about 12% of government expenditures – though some of the biggest programs are exempted, including the military, homeland security, veteran's affairs, foreign aid, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
He thinks Congress could go a long way to reduce deficit spending by enacting the PAYGO bill. "The concept here is very simple," he said, "you want to start a new program? Go ahead. But you've got to cut another one to pay for it. That's how we make sure we're spending your money wisely. "
The president made no effort to disguise his irritation with seven Republican senators last week who at first supported PAYGO but then voted against it on the floor after the president announced his support.
"They make a proposal. They sign on to the bill. I say great – good idea. I turn around – they're gone. What happened?"
Mr. Obama said there's nothing wrong if Republicans have "an honest difference of opinion" with him, but he said they shouldn't walk away from confronting the challenges facing the country because they "think it's good short-term politics."
When it comes to government spending, he said Democrats and Republicans should be able to "just stop playing politics and get past the Washington game."
No telling whether any of us will sleep better then.
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.