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updated: 2/4/2013 7:30 AM

Obama says 'no doubt' U.S. needs revenue with spending cuts

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Bloomberg News

President Barack Obama said there is "no doubt" the government needs new revenue from closing tax "loopholes" and limiting deductions, along with enacting spending cuts, to reduce the federal deficit.

There's "no reason why we can't have really strong growth in 2013," the president said in an interview with CBS television yesterday before the network's Super Bowl broadcast. He cited a recovering housing industry, strong manufacturing and rising car sales.

Revenue could be raised through an overhaul of the tax code, he said, "and we can do it in a gradual way so that it doesn't have a huge impact."

"There is no doubt we need additional revenue, coupled with smart spending reductions in order to bring down our deficit," he said. "I don't think the issue right now is raising rates."

Two reports last week suggested worrying signs about the economy. The Commerce Department said Jan. 30 that the gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, dropped at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the worst performance since the second quarter of 2009, when the world's largest economy was still in the recession.

The fourth-quarter drop in GDP was largely due to a decline in government outlays and a smaller gain in inventories that subtracted a combined 2.6 percentage points from growth, Commerce Department data showed Jan. 30.

Two days later the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate increased to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent, even as employers added 157,000 jobs in January after a revised 196,000 advance in the prior month.

Obama said there are positive signs in the economy. "The big problem was defense spending was cut 22 percent, the biggest drop in 40 years," he said. Business hesitated and defense contracts were postponed or cut during the year-end debate over the increased taxes and cuts in spending, known as the "fiscal cliff," that were part of a budget law enacted in late 2011.

"Washington cannot continually operate under a cloud of crisis," Obama said on CBS. "That freezes up consumers, it gets businesses worried. We can't afford these self-inflicted wounds."

He said the prescription for economic growth is through "a balanced approach" of spending cuts and increases in revenue that he said a majority of Americans agree with.

"We can't have Washington dysfunction getting in the way," the president said.

'Loopholes,' Deductions

Obama said the government can cut health-care costs, though he added that unspecified "loopholes" and deductions should also be tightened or closed.

"If you combine those things together, then we can not only reduce our deficit but we can continue to invest in things like education and research and development that are going to help us grow -- without raising rates again," Obama said.

On other domestic issues, Obama said:

--"No I don't" have any hesitation allowing women in military combat, "because women, as a practical matter, are now in combat."

Women can do "everything a man can, and more," he said, adding that the government shouldn't keep women from advancing in the military.

--Membership in the Boy Scouts and service as Scout leaders should be open to gays and lesbians because they "should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does." The Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to consider reversing its ban later this week.

Obama, who planned to watch the Super Bowl at the White House, repeated his concerns about violence and injuries in professional and intercollegiate football.

On the issue of football injuries, Obama was asked whether if he had a son, would he let him play football.

"I'd have to think about it," the president said. "It's hard to say 'no' to a kid when they've got a passion for something."

"It's a great sport, I'm a huge fan" but injuries "have to give parents pause," Obama said.

He has said the National Collegiate Athletic Association in particular should consider rule changes in view of emerging evidence on long-term health consequences of head blows suffered by players.

"I'm glad to see the NFL is starting to take this seriously," he said, adding that he understood NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has authorized spending $30 million at the National Institutes of Health for studies on preventing concussions.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama were hosting a party for friends and family to watch the Super Bowl, the White House said in a statement.

In honor of the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, guests were being treated to San Francisco Cioppino stew with sourdough toast and Chesapeake crab cakes. To wash it down, Anchor Steam and Clipper City beers from the competing cities were also being served.

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