On Tuesday, President-elect Obama sought to reassure those understandably uneasy about the prospect of a ballooning federal budget deficit. He must tread a narrow line. The weakened economy makes necessary the planned $775 billion economic stimulus package. At the same time, Obama has the task of signaling that eventually a sufficient measure of fiscal discipline will be applied.

Thus, the president-elect highlighted his willingness ''to make some very difficult choices in how we get a handle'' on the deficit. ...

The timing couldn't be worse, the country facing a string of deficits after the Bush White House presided over a doubling of the national debt and with retiring baby boomers now beginning to draw on programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid ... The analysts at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities note that rising health-care costs will be the ''single largest cause'' of increased federal spending.

Thus, the ''very difficult'' course for the new president: He rightly wants to achieve universal coverage. He also must find ways to restrain health-care spending ...

Yes, pump ample and immediate money into the economy. In doing so, don't lose sight of the need for an exit strategy from the torrent of red ink.