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Obama urges balanced approach to budget cutting


US President Barack Obama urged members of Congress Saturday to display a "balanced approach" to cutting government spending as he geared up for a new battle with congressional Republicans over budget priorities.

"2013 can be a year of solid growth, more jobs, and higher wages," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "But that will only happen if we put a stop to self-inflicted wounds in Washington."

The comments came as new economic statistics showed the economic recovery advertised by the president during the election campaign remained uneven and lackluster.

According to the Labor Department, the jobless rate rose in January to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent just a month ago -- practically the same level seen in the country since September.

The economy has also suffered an unexpected 0.1 percent fourth-quarter contraction, a sharp downturn after a strong 3.1 percent pace of growth in the third quarter, the government acknowledged.

Against this backdrop, Obama is preparing for tough negotiations with congressional Republicans over next fiscal year's budget as well as the debt ceiling, which has been suspended by Congress, but only until May 18.

The United States exceeded its congressionally mandated $16 trillion borrowing limit late last month, and the Treasury has taken extraordinary measures to keep paying the government's bills through late February.

The president said that everybody in Washington agreed about the need to cut unnecessary spending.

"But we can't just cut our way to prosperity," he insisted. "It hasn't worked in the past, and it won't work today. It could slow down our recovery. It could weaken our economy. And it could cost us jobs - now, and in the future."

Instead, he called for new investment in education and infrastructure, research and development that he believes will help the United States compete in the world.

"What we need instead is a balanced approach; an approach that says let's cut what we can't afford but let's make the investments we can't afford to live without," Obama said.