Obama to 'friend' Facebook

Washington - US President Barack Obama heads to Facebook's headquarters on Wednesday to tout his budget cuts to followers of the social media powerhouse, which he also hopes to use to help him get re-elected.

Obama, whose audacious 2008 White House bid leaned heavily on social networking sites, will hype his "Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity" plan at Facebook's Palo Alto, California, headquarters.

With his 2012 re-election campaign just getting into gear, Obama is moving to bring some love to the more than 19 million Facebook followers he has, up close and in person.

The US president is to take part at 20:45 GMT in a scheduled question and answer session at the headquarters not far from San Francisco.

If the format is different, the content should be familiar: Obama has been hammering away since April 13 at his strategy to get the federal deficit under control and pare US debt.

Punching bag

Obama has taken pains to contrast his vision with Republican calls to slash government spending and roll back regulations while lowering tax rates on the richest Americans and corporations.

In public speeches and private appeals to supporters, Obama has made Republican House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's blueprint for cutting some $4.4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years into a political punching bag some 18 months before the November 2012 vote.

Obama - who said his approach will slice some $4 trillion in 12 years or less - has notably accused Ryan of looking to gut the Medicare and Medicaid programmes for the elderly and the poor.

But it will not be simple to slash away at a budget with an annual deficit of $1.6bn and a total federal debt topping $14.2 trillion.

And the budget and debt issue has been catapulted into presidential campaign politics.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut the outlook on US sovereign debt to "negative" on Monday, sending stocks plunging as it doubted Washington's ability to tackle its huge debt and fiscal shortfalls.

"As S&P made clear, getting spending and our deficit under control can no longer be put off for another day," warned Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "Serious reforms are needed to ensure America's fiscal health."

Debt reduction

Obama told students in Virginia that more fortunate taxpayers, himself included, would have to make some sacrifices, while stressing he was not out to punish success. The White House repeatedly makes calls for what it calls "shared sacrifices" on the road to budget cuts and debt reduction.

Obama cited Facebook in his January State of the Union speech as an example of innovative US companies that can help the world's richest country overcome its dreary present economic circumstances and "win the future".
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