After taking office, he worked to revive a free-trade deal with Colombia that had been negotiated by his Republican predecessor but left to languish without congressional approval, and sought similar progress with South Korean and Panamanian free-trade pacts. The president held off on submitting the three deals to Congress as his administration tried to negotiate more palatable terms to Democrats. He finally submitted them in 2011 and Congress approved them in the fall.
OBAMA: "We were told that it was OK to put two wars on the nation's credit card; that tax cuts would create enough growth to pay for themselves. ... The failure to pay for the tax cuts and the wars took us from record surpluses under President Bill Clinton to record deficits. And it left us unprepared to deal with the retirement of an aging population that's placing a greater strain on programs like Medicare and Social Security."
THE FACTS: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, begun by Bush, helped push the nation's fiscal picture into deficit. The Bush tax cuts lowered revenues, contributing to early deficits as well, and those revenues stayed below the rate of economic growth in subsequent years.
Meanwhile, the wars kept taking their toll on spending, ultimately driving the deficit to a historic high of $1.4 trillion in the 2009 budget year. That deficit also was driven by the recession, which was already well under way.
After Obama took office, he also paid for the wars by borrowing. What's more, the recession has increased deficit spending on programs that automatically ramp up during an economic downturn, such as food stamps and Medicaid. Borrowing also was required for the stimulus package.
As he winds down the wars, Obama is not exactly cutting up the credit card. In his State of the Union speech, he proposed using half of the money that would have gone to pay for the wars on a massive infrastructure plan.
Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.