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Washington predicts budget deficit in 2012 to end at US$1.2 tril.

WASHINGTON--The White House predicts this year's federal budget deficit will end up at US$1.2 trillion, marking the fourth consecutive year of trillion dollar-plus deficits during U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.

The bleak figures, while expected, are sure to add fuel to the already heated presidential campaign, in which Obama's handling of the economy and the budget is a main topic. Friday's release came as the government announced that U.S. economic growth slowed to an annual rate of just 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year, as consumers cut back sharply on spending.

The White House budget office also predicts for this year that the economy will grow at a modest 2.6 percent annual rate and that the jobless rate will average 8 percent. It forecasts modest growth of 2.6 percent next year — down from the 3.0 percent it predicted in February — before rising to 4 percent in 2014. Unemployment would remain above 7 percent through the end of 2014, registering at 7.3 percent, the report predicts.

“The economic recovery that began in 2009 will continue at a moderate rate and unemployment will gradually decline,” Jeffrey Zients, the acting White House budget director said in a blog post. “The economy still faces significant headwinds,” he added.

The 2012 budget year ends on Sept. 30. The White House also predicted that next year's deficit will fall just short of US$1 trillion, higher than it predicted in its February budget release. The predicted deficit for 2012 actually improved by US$116 billion, but some of that was because Congress didn't enact much of Obama's jobs plan.

But the White House promises deficits will drop to about 3 percent of the size of the economy by 2017, in part through US$1.5 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade.

The White House report — released Friday afternoon with the Olympics poised to distract voters for two weeks — again trumpets Obama's longstanding approach to tackling the deficit. It includes tax increases on families earning above US$250,000, already enacted “caps” on agency operating budgets and modest savings from federal benefit programs like Medicare.

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