May 15, 2012

Press Doesn’t Notice $110 Billion April Rise in National Debt Despite $59 Billion Surplus

Here’s a word which the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger only used once in his coverage last Thursday of Uncle Sam’s April 2012 Treasury Statement: “debt.” And when he did, he was quoted someone about Europe’s situation.

To his credit, the AP reporter wasn’t particularly impressed with the fact that the government was able to run a single-month surplus of $59 billion in April. To his detriment, he didn’t note that somehow, the national debt also went up by $110 billion:

NationalDebtChangeApril2012

The interactive model used to get the above information is here.

That’s a $169 billion difference which requires an explanation; but a totally incurious press isn’t supplying one. Even if one ignores intergovernmental holdings (which in my opinion one shouldn’t), the $69 billion increase in “debt held by the public” (which is really “debt held by anyone who isn’t part of the federal government”) is a $128 billion swing from the reported surplus.

If the national debt is increasing for “off-budget” reasons, what are they, and will such differentials continue? Because if they do, the nation, which was about $700 billion away from its $16.394 trillion debt ceiling on April 30, is going to hit the limit before Election Day, no matter what kind of evasive maneuvers Tim Geithner might deploy in the meantime (if he even really wants to, of which we can’t be sure; a pre-election “crisis” might come in handy for his boss’s reelection chances). The additions the the national debt caused by monthly “budget” deficits alone (in quotes because the government hasn’t had a real budget for three years and counting) will probably add at the very least another $300 billion. Today’s statement by House Speaker John Boehner about his posture in future debt-ceiling negotiations, which otherwise seemed to come out of nowhere, may be rooted in the belief that the administration is evaluating hitting the limit before Election Day as a campaign strategy.

Crutsinger also didn’t provide readers with the two key components of the Treasury Statement. Receipts were $319 billion, the highest in four years, but more than 20% below the $404 billion officially collected in April 2008 (you remember, during that absolutely awful Bush economy). Outlays were a ridiculously low $260 billion, about $110 billion less than March. If we’re to believe that spending is coming down to the level consistently for the foreseeable future, it might be cause for celebration. Dream on.

Crutsinger was far from alone in ignoring the large April debt increase. So did Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Wall Street Journal in their related reports.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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