President Obama said Sunday the economy is poised for growth, but not if Washington "dysfunction" gets in the way. "Washington cannot continually operate under a cloud of crisis," Obama told CBS News in his annual Super Bowl Sunday interview. He urged Congress to avoid an upcoming series of automatic spending cuts.
Obama, who has granted a pre-game Super Bowl interview every year of his presidency, also urged the Boy Scouts of America to drop its ban on gays, expressed concern about the safety of football, and said he would not hesitate to order women into combat.
In a discussion of the economy, Obama said that he is not interested in further raising income tax rates to reduce the federal debt, but that more tax revenue from the wealthy is needed in the form of closing loopholes and deductions; the president also said that he wants to reduce red ink through "smart" cuts in the budget and more efficient administration of existing programs.
The president spoke just days after news that the economy shrunk slightly in the fourth quarter of 2012, a development Obama attributed to a sharp drop in defense spending brought on by uncertainty over the "fiscal cliff" and other political disputes.
The White House and Congress forestalled the fiscal cliff -- a series of automatic tax hikes and budget cuts -- with a New Year's Day agreement that raised income tax rates on households that make more than $450,000 per year. The deal also deferred automatic spending cuts for two months, to the start of March.
In his CBS interview in the Blue Room at the White House, Obama urged Congress to avoid those automatic spending cuts by coming up with a new debt reduction plan.
As for his own plan, Obama said the issue now is not tax rates, but eliminating loopholes and deductions that favor only special interests. "There is no doubt we need additional revenue, coupled with smart spending reductions, in order to bring down our deficit," he said.
If the economy is to pick up, Obama said, "we can't have Washington dysfunction get in the way."
On other issues, Obama said:
He hopes the Boy Scouts of America follow through on a proposal to lift a ban on gays. The president says gays and lesbians "should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does."
He has no qualms about ordering women into combat, pursuant to a recent Pentagon directive, because they are already in combat "as a practical matter." Women "have carried out their jobs with extraordinary patriotism and distinction," he said.
He loves football, but organizers at all levels need to do what is necessary to make the game safer. While professional football players are adults who have union protection, Obama said he is more concerned with safety in youth, high school, and college football leagues. "I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to make the sport safe," Obama said.
If he had a son, Obama said he'd "have to think" about whether to allow him to play football.
The president was not asked -- and did not offer -- a prediction on the Sunday evening game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. "I've got some wings waiting for me upstairs," he said.
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