AP Unbylined Report on CBO's Fiscal 2011 Deficit Estimate Avoids All the Big Messy Numbers

You would think that an Associated Press story about the Congressional Budget Office's preliminary estimate of the federal government's full fiscal year results would include things like total federal collections and total spending during the year and how they compared to the previous year.

Don't be silly. If the AP let numbers that big -- and their direction -- get into its report, readers and listeners might start thinking that spending is outrageously high, and that increasing taxes to try to cover today's ridiculous levels of spending would crucify the economy. We can't have that, not when President Obama and Democrats are desperately pushing for taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" who earn $250,000 or more per year. What follows are excerpts from the writeup, followed by important and obvious facts AP chose not to report:

CBO estimates $1.3 trillion deficit for 2011

A government report released on Friday predicts that the federal budget hit a near-record $1.3 trillion in the just-completed fiscal year.

The figure matches last year's deficit tally but shows slight improvement over a record set two years ago.

The Congressional Budget Office analysis is in line with previous estimates but offers yet another reminder of the government's precarious fiscal position - just as a congressional supercommittee is working to produce at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the coming decade.

The 2009 record deficit of $1.4 trillion was registered as the country struggled through a recession and was in the midst of the Wall St. bailout. Continuing weakness in the economy has kept tax revenues low. The revenue picture did improve in 2011 as individual income tax receipts rose 22 percent to $1.1 trillion, CBO estimated.

For the record, per the CBO:

  • Total collections for the year amounted to $2.303 trillion, a $141 billion (6.5%) increase over the previous fiscal year.
  • Total spending amounted to $3.600 trillion, a $144 billion (4.2%) increase over the previous fiscal year.

Thanks to the manipulation of reported losses in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the figures for total spending are questionable (discussed further here). But even taking them at face value, the takeaways from fiscal 2011 are that the government:

  • Kept spending more money, even though the end of the $800 billion, two-year stimulus program should have caused spending to decrease by about $400 million.
  • Still collected far less than it did in fiscal 2007 and 2008, when both years showed collection of over $2.5 trillion. Some "recovery."
  • Spent more than every extra dollar it collected.

The AP report also "forgot" to tell readers that the deficits of the past three years dwarf the deficits seen in previous years. Deficits in fiscal 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 combined totaled less just under $1.2 trillion -- not an acceptable result by any means, but less than each of the three fiscal years which have concluded during the Obama administration.

I also detect a bit of bar-lowering in this sentence:

It'll take major changes to the way the government does business - some combination of new revenues and major spending cuts - to get the deficit down to about 3 percent of GDP, the level that many analysts say is sustainable.

I'd like to meet the "analysts" who are saying this today.

Consistent, supposedly "sustainable" 3% deficits would still amount to $450 billion annually on a roughly $15 trillion gross domestic product. Perhaps that would be "sustainable" if the country were relatively debt-free and chose to go there every once in a long while. But that's not the situation. The government has run up $4 trillion in deficits during the past three fiscal years. Getting back to near breakeven -- and perhaps even getting into surplus -- is the kind of cure towards which the diseased patient known as the U.S. government needs to be striving.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.