20110215 barackobama 35
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington, D.C. - 


Kai Ryssdal: President Obama took to the podium this morning to defend his budget. He's been getting it from both sides of the aisle for taking only a tepid stab at the huge financial hole the federal government has dug. Fact is, almost whatever was in the budget yesterday was going to be criticized.

But the president already had a bipartisan roadmap for fixing the big problems, a roadmap that he mostly ignored. Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale reports.

John Dimsdale: Remember the president's Fiscal Reform Commission? Back in December, it produced a roadmap for bringing deficits under control. There were tough spending cuts, entitlement and tax reforms. At the time, President Obama praised the commission's work. But very little of it ended up in yesterday's budget. When the president's budget director went to Capitol Hill this morning, the Republican committee chairman Paul Ryan wanted to know what happened.

Paul Ryan: I think the fact the president even gave us this fiscal commission to start with acknowledged we agree on the size, the scope and the nature of the problem. Why did you duck? Why are you not taking this opportunity to lead?

Down the street, at a White House news conference, Obama insisted he still values the commission's plan.

Barack Obama: The notion that its been shelved I think is incorrect. It still provides a framework for a conversation.

A conversation, he says, that will take some time. But former Congressional Budget Office director Rudolph Penner says time is running out.

Rudolph Penner: If he had just a little more courage, he would have talked more about the seriousness of the budget problem. He's been extremely politically cautious but I would argue he's also been very reckless with the economy.

Because if there's not a plan soon to attack the long-term deficit, Penner says buyers of the federal government's debt will look elsewhere. Overall those foreign investments are up, but just this week China announced it was scaling back U.S. bond-buying for the second month in a row.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.