May 17, 2018

AP’s Coverage of April Budget Surplus Ignores Record Collections

In its April 2018 Month Treasury Statement, the federal government reported that it ran an all-time single-month record $214 billion surplus, primarily because it took in $510 billion in receipts, also a record. Josh Boak at the Associated Press ignored the collections record, presented a different and far smaller out-of-context collections figure, and falsely claimed that the increase in fiscal 2018′s seven-month budget deficit compared to last year is due to the Republican Congress’s tax cuts — even though they were passed in December, and even though federal spending has skyrocketed.

Federal tax collections are highest every April because final payments of prior-year income taxes and current-year first-quarter estimated payments are due from entrepreneurs, business owners, and investors who otherwise don’t have taxes withheld.

The previous single-month collections record was $471.8 billion in April 2015. The $510.4 billion collected last month smashes that previous high by over 8 percent, and is 12 percent greater than the $455.6 billion collected in April 2017.

April’s record collections figure was also far higher than the Congressional Budget Office anticipated a month ago, as it admitted on May 7:

Receipts collected in April were $30 billion to $40 billion larger than CBO expected when it prepared the estimates reported in The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028, which it issued on April 9.

The AP’s Boak pretended in his May 10 story that the only April collections-related figure worth mentioning was one representing about 60 percent of April’s grand total:

APonAprilSurplus051018

If he were interested in a genuine comparison, Boak would have noted that April’s $314 billion in income-tax collections was a stunning 26 percent higher than the $249 billion collected in April 2017.

AP recognized the Obama era’s April 2015 record, even in shorter blurbs like this one seen at the New York Times:

APinNYTon0415Burplus051315

Boak’s attempt to blame the tax cuts for this year’s deficit increase is especially risible:

  • The government’s fiscal year runs from October to September. Tax cuts which became law in late December and took effect in January obviously had little impact on fiscal 2018′s first quarter.
  • Total collections through this year’s first seven months are $79 billion (4.1 percent) higher than last year’s comparable figure.
  • The problem is spending, which through seven months is up by $120 billion (5.2 percent) over last year.

In a May 10 editorial, Investor’s Business Daily cited April’s collections as evidence that “those of us who predicted the pro-growth tax cuts would at least partially pay for themselves through increased economic growth were correct.”

Less widely distributed Reuters and Bloomberg dispatches cited April’s $510 billion in collections. Yet the AP’s Boak didn’t, likely because disclosing it would have discredited his inane “blame the tax cuts” claim.

On Monday, thanks at least partially to the misleading cover provided by AP, Politico columnist Brian Faler claimed that “GOP tax cut not why economy is booming.”

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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