How Mainstream Media Pretends U.S. Finances Are Improving

Consider the report from Associated Press:

The U.S. government is running a deficit that is 23.6 percent lower than in the same period a year ago through the first five months of this budget year, another sign of improvement in the nation’s finances.

In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Thursday that the deficit for February totaled $193.5 billion, the largest monthly imbalance in a year. The government traditionally runs large deficits in February, a month when it is sending out tax refund payments.

For the period from October through February, the deficit totals $377.4 billion, down from $493.95 billion a year ago.

Last week, President Barack Obama sent Congress a new budget which projects the deficit will fall to $649 billion this year, down from a $680 billion deficit last year.

So it is all nothing but good news. We have four paragraphs. The first tells us the deficit is lower, the second tells us that February is supposed to be a high-deficit month (so this makes the news extra good), the third paragraph tells us that that the deficit is lower this year, and the fourth paragraph tells us that Obama has told people the deficit will be lower this year.

I think they want us to believe that the deficit will be lower this year.

Now consider how CNS News presents a different interpretation of the facts.

Inflation-adjusted federal tax revenues hit a record $1,104,947,000,000 in the first five months of fiscal 2014, but the federal government still ran a $377,379,000,000 deficit during that time, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement for February.

Each month, the Treasury publishes the government’s “total receipts,” including all revenue from individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, social insurance and retirement taxes (including Social Security and Medicare taxes), unemployment insurance taxes, excise taxes, estate and gift taxes, customs duties, and “miscellaneous receipts.”

In constant 2014 dollars, the $1,104,947,000,000 that the federal government collected from October through February in fiscal 2014 was $90,193,750,000 more than the $1,014,753,250,000 it collected in October through February in fiscal 2013.

So yes the deficit is lower, but we hit record revenue collection and, despite all that new money plundered from the economy, we still spent far more than we took in.

And the Associated Press story admits this is true way down in the depths of the page:

Through the first five months of this budget year, which begins on Oct. 1, government receipts totaled $1.1 trillion, 9.3 percent higher than the same period a year ago.

AP claims that the deficit still fell by 1.5 percent, though it says nothing about adjusting numbers for inflation.

We have a spending problem; not a revenue-collection problem.

And Associated Press gloats that Republicans have given up fighting for fiscal sanity:

Obama’s budget, which proposes spending $3.9 trillion in the budget year that begins Oct. 1, included many spending and tax proposals he has put forward before. It was met with heavy Republican criticism for spending too much and failing to do enough to tackle the country’s long-term deficit problems.

However, the expectation is that the budget wars of the past three years may subside this year following an agreement reached last December on the broad outlines for spending for the next two years.

That will allow Washington to avoid the contentious showdowns that culminated in a 16-day partial government shutdown last October.

The cease-fire in the budget wars also includes legislation Obama signed into law last month that will suspend the government’s borrowing limit through March 15 of next year, putting off another battle over raising the debt limit until a new Congress is elected next November and takes office next January.

They call it a cease-fire, but they plainly mean a Republican surrender.