Barack Obama is scheduled to give a much-anticipated address this afternoon, where he'll explain exactly how he intends to reduce the deficit. According to an early statement made by the White House, Obama's plan will emphasize four pillars: "keeping domestic spending low, finding additional savings in our defense budget, reducing excess health care spending while strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, and tax reform that reduces spending in our tax code."

The Treasury Department reported on Wednesday that the U.S. deficit rose 15.7 percent in the first half of fiscal 2011. There were a lot of one-off reductions in expenditures last year, so that might be distorting the picture for fiscal 2011 somewhat--making the 15.7 percent deficit hike look bigger than it is. Theresa Chen at Barclays Capital Research has pointed out that taxable income and individual income taxes are both rising, trends she calls "consistent with general economic improvement."

Still, at least one group thinks the deficit is cause for concern: the International Monetary Fund, which issued a report this week saying that "a further delay of action" on debt reduction "could prove costly" for Americans. (Not that we're likely to see "action" any time soon, according to Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall St., who gloomily predicts that the short-sightedness of U.S. voters--the assumption that "their personal finances should not be hurt in the name of a slowing of the increase in American debt"--will prevent any real reduction work from getting done.)