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Obama targets youth, tech crowd at Facebook town hall

By Mark Milian, CNN
President Obama answers questions selected by Facebook reps. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will moderate the event.
President Obama answers questions selected by Facebook reps. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will moderate the event.
  • President Barack Obama takes questions on economy, deficit-reduction plan
  • "Town hall" event starts at 4:45 p.m. ET Wednesday and will be streamed live on Facebook
  • Obama praised Facebook in his State of the Union speech in January

Editor's note: This event can be viewed on Facebook Live or

Palo Alto, California (CNN) -- President Barack Obama wasn't just in the news Wednesday. He's also in your news feed.

The White House held a "town hall" at Facebook's headquarters, where the president answered questions before a small audience about the economy and the federal deficit. The event was broadcast live, available to Facebook's more than 500 million users.

Facebook representatives chose questions from among the queries submitted in advance by audience members and by people tuning in on the Web. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg moderated.

After some palling around between the president and the 26-year-old computer whiz, Zuckerberg offered questions submitted online that gelled with Obama's key talking points and victories, such as health care and education. Facebook employees, who made up the majority of the audience, were chosen to ask several questions.

During Wednesday's Facebook visit, Obama at times related his answers to the young and technology-savvy crowds most passionate about Facebook. Obama pleaded that they "don't get frustrated and cynical about our democracy," he said. "If you don't give the system a push, it's just not going to change. And you're going to be the ones who suffer the consequences."

This event marks the second of three "town hall" events Obama has scheduled this week to take questions on the economy and White House deficit-reduction proposals.

During a similar event Tuesday in Virginia, Obama delivered campaign-style messages that emphasized what he called his balanced approach to reducing federal deficits and lowering the national debt. He's also scheduled to appear Thursday at a town-hall meeting in Reno, Nevada.

"The president is looking forward to visiting Facebook and speaking directly to the American people about his plan for responsibly bringing down the deficit and continuing on the path to economic recovery," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement before the event. "This is a part of our effort to hear from the American people."

The president's blitz comes as Congress faces two major fiscal issues in coming months: passing a budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins October 1, and raising the federal debt ceiling so the government can continue meeting its obligations.

"There are things that we do that we can afford not to do," Obama said Wednesday, citing cutbacks on government spending, especially in the Pentagon. "We made cuts in every area."

Obama's plan, which is at odds with proposals by congressional Republicans, calls for an end to tax cuts for the rich, further reforms to Medicare and Medicaid and a reduction in military spending.

Republicans are demanding significant fiscal reforms, such as a balanced budget amendment and mandatory spending caps.

Discussing his tax-reform proposal onstage, Obama ribbed Zuckerberg, pointing out that the Facebook founder would have to pay more. Zuckerberg is estimated to be worth $13.5 billion, according to data from Forbes.

By letting Facebook choose the questions for Obama at its town hall, the White House elected not to use a technology -- created by Facebook's rival, Google -- it has employed online in the past by letting citizens vote on each other's questions. With that system, questions sometimes strayed from key talking points and to tangential topics such as marijuana legalization.

Obama didn't mention Google, but he did praise Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates's foundation for work in education, as well as Intel in a question about immigration. "We don't want them starting Intel in China, or starting Intel in France. We want them here," he said.

The CNN Wire and's Brandon Griggs also contributed to this report.