April 23, 2008

For Uncle Sam, Most of the Big Money Is In; The Deficit Will Balloon

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:19 am

Uncle Sam’s Monthly Treasury Statement for March came in a bit better than I expected a few weeks ago:


Receipts were higher, but not by a lot in the grand scheme. Spending was lower, but still is running unacceptably, and unsustainably, ahead of last year.

To guard against being unduly pessimistic, I held off posting on this until a lot of the receipts relating to the April 15 tax-filing deadline came in. April is typically the government’s biggest collections month; all taxpayers are supposed to settle up with Uncle Sam for the previous year, and those who make quarterly estimated tax payments have to send in their first installment.

Well, the key numbers for April are, surprisingly (to me), looking good in comparison to last April’s record-shattering, supply-side tax-cut vindicating $383.6 billion (related Daily Treasury Statement links — April 21, 2008; April 20, 2007; through 15 business days in each month):


Perhaps this is one last hurrah of supply-side vindication.

Contrary to what you might expect, at least if this year follows last, big payments of individual taxes will continue to come in each day until the end of the month. So it’s conceivable, though I believe unlikely, that April 2008 will set a new record for tax collections.

The full year outlook for the deficit still does not look good.

Even if April is great, receipts are only a couple of points ahead of last year. The stimulus checks start going out in May. Spending isn’t under control. The deficit will be very, very big — much, much higher than last year’s $162 billion.

At the moment, I blame Bush, and I blame the current Congress. The former gets about half, the other two get the other half. But investor expectations that Congress will do nothing, and thereby allow huge tax increases to take effect beginning next year — increases that will change the tax system that has been in effect since 2003 for the worse, and will slow down an already-mediocre economy — tilt the blame meter more towards the Pelosi-Reid bunch with each passing day.

UPDATE: Holy moly, the April 22 Daily Treasury Statement (just posted by Treasury) shows another $46.6 billion in individual non-withheld tax collections. There wasn’t a day like that in the final 8 business days of last year. $400 billion, anyone?

UPDATE 2: The first update also raises this question — If things are so bad, how come individuals and businesses have been generating so much income that they have to pay tax on? This may be a small clue that first-quarter growth really wasn’t negative.

More on Oklahoma’s Employment Situation: A Graphic I Wanted to Steal ….

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:02 am

…. but I resisted. So go there and see it. I’ll link to it in a couple of paragraphs.

It supports my post yesterday on Oklahoma’s vastly improved employment situation, and the possibility that its enforcement-based immigration reform law contributed to it.

The graphic is from Tim Iacono at his “The Mess That Greenspan Made” blog. It shows the 12-month unemployment-rate changes in each state, with different-colored ranges, for each month starting in March 2007 (i.e., March 2007 v. March 2006) and ending in March 2008.

Commenter Bill from Maryland tipped me to the graphic, and said:

Watch the state of OKLAHOMA light up like an island of salvation in the darkness at the end of this sequence of 13 panels showing changes in unemployment for March 2007 through March 2008.

Indeed. Oklahoma is the only state in the union where February and March 2008 unemployment was over a point lower than 12 months earlier.

Positivity: The housewife explorers who climbed the Himalayas

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:50 am

From England:

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 21/04/2008

What possessed three 1950s housewives to defy convention and set off together for the forbidden reaches of the Himalayas? And what did they find when they got there? Sally Williams talks to the women today.


Fifty years ago three English housewives set off on a remarkable adventure. Anne Davies, 35, Eve Sims, 25, and Antonia Deacock, 26, who had no previous experience of overland expeditions, embarked on a journey everyone said could not be done by women: a 16,000-mile drive to India and back, and a 300-mile trek on foot into Zanskar, the remote Tibetan Buddhist kingdom.

They were the first European women to venture into Zanskar, where foreigners were forbidden to travel for political reasons. Probably the first European women to cross Afghanistan unescorted, they even climbed a virgin peak and named it Biri Giri (Wives’ Peak). Yet the trip was the antithesis of professional exploration today. The women packed plimsolls, umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, and skipping-ropes to maintain fitness. They dressed in their husbands’ long johns, drank pints of Brooke Bond tea (Eve, by mistake, ordered enough ‘to keep a family going for 150 years’), and insisted their two Ladakhi guides have jam as part of a proper balanced diet. Moreover, at the planning stage, neither Sims nor Deacock could drive. (Both passed their tests just before departure.)

On 5 May 1958 the three women climbed into their long-wheelbase Land-Rover in London, and drove through ten countries in six weeks, then walked for 21 days to Padam, the capital of Zanskar, in the highest inhabited region in the world.

The women were subjected to great scrutiny. So were their zips. ‘They had never seen such a thing,’ wrote Antonia Deacock in No Purdah in Padam, her 1960 book about the expedition. ‘They pulled them to and fro, hissing amazement.’

Five months later the women returned to England and resumed their lives as diligent wives. They packed their adventure away, along with the maps, and these intrepid explorers were largely forgotten. There is no mention of them in the 1979 book Zanskar, the Hidden Kingdom, by the French explorer Michel Peissel, nor in many later books on the area.

Now, to mark the expedition’s 50th anniversary, the women are appearing in a short film. Made by the photographer Martin Salter, it draws on their own cine footage – the only visual record of Zanskar before 1975. One of the trip’s sponsors, Ovaltine, had given the women a cine camera to film an advertisement, but the result was too dark for commercial use. When Salter tracked down the women he found the film in a box on top of Davies’s wardrobe and persuaded them to bring their story up to date.