US Budget constraints limit Barack Obama's second-term agenda
Spending caps that Obama signed into law in 2011 will make it difficult to boost investment in education, scientific research, transportation and other areas that he says will help the country retool for heightened global competition and rapid technological change, budget experts say.
Because those caps won't keep pace with inflation and population growth, the government will effectively have 16 percent less to spend in these areas by the time Obama leaves office in 2017, according to White House estimates.
That could constrain college loans, preschool education, job training and other programs that Obama says will boost national competitiveness.
"Under the caps as they are currently constructed, we're going to see pretty significant diminishment of investment in all of those things," said Scott Lilly, who spent decades writing spending bills as a Democratic staffer in the House of Representatives.
Since taking office in 2009, Obama has tried to balance his belief in an active government with concerns that the nation's finances are on an unsustainable course.
Even as he has pushed through more than $1 trillion in spending increases and tax cuts to fight the deepest recession in 80 years, he has floated deficit-reduction plans that would trim costs over the medium term.
As part of a deal that allowed the government to avert a first-ever debt default in August 2011, Obama and his Republican adversaries agreed to spending limits that would slow government
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