Wires Downplay or Fail to Mention Feb. Month-to-Date and Year-to-Date Federal Spending

There's a reason why Media Research Center sister site CNS News had to put out a story about how much the government has spent so far this year -- $1.505 tillion -- after Wednesday's release of the February Monthly Treasury Statement: Two of the three major wire services failed to report that obviously important number, and the third saved it for their writeup's final sentence.

What follows are excerpts from the respective Wednesday reports at Bloomberg, Reuters and the Associated Press.


At Bloomberg, both the headline ("Budget Deficit in U.S. Narrows After Payroll Taxes Rise") and the content delivered by Meera Louis & Kasia Klimasinska seemd to have a weird sense of optimism. At least they disclosed February spending, but perhaps only because its amount was a bit smaller than last year (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Budget Deficit in U.S. Narrows After Payroll Taxes Rise

The U.S. budget deficit narrowed 12 percent last month from a year earlier as Congress and President Barack Obama allowed payroll taxes to increase and individual refunds fell.

Outlays exceeded receipts by $203.5 billion, compared with a $231.7 billion deficit in February 2012, according to Treasury Department data issued today in Washington. Economists projected a $205 billion shortfall, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

... “We’re having revenue improving mostly because of the higher taxes that started at the beginning of the year but also because of the fact that the economy is on a better footing,” Millan Mulraine, director of U.S. research and strategy at TD Securities in New York, said in an interview. “We’re likely to see further improvement.”

Today’s report showed revenue rose 18.8 percent to $122.8 billion in February from the same month a year earlier. Spending decreased 2.6 percent to $326.4 billion, it showed.

Well, there has been some improvement in collections this year, but the improvement stopped in February. Last month's receipts rose primarily because the IRS was behind by about $20 billion in issuing refunds due to delays caused by the early-January passage of fiscal cliff-related legislation. In fact, if those refunds had been issued on a timely basis, this year's reported February income tax collections of $31.2 billion would have been about $12 billion, about $9 billion less than the $21.5 billion collected in February 2012.

At Reuters, Anna Yukhananov waited until the final two paragraphs of her 13-paragraph report to tell us the following:

Government spending was $326 billion in February, just below the year-ago level of $335 billion, though defense spending fell by 16 percent compared to last February. Receipts were $123 billion last month, 19 percent higher than receipts in February 2012.

For the past five months as a whole, government receipts have risen 13 percent to $1.011 trillion, compared to the same period in fiscal 2012. Spending has grown 2 percent to $1.5 trillion, the Treasury Department said.

Predictably Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, failed to reveal both the February and year-to-date spending numbers.

Why are the wires dowmplaying or avoiding any mention total year-to-date spending? It's reasoable to believe that it's because the number -- $1.505 trillion through five months, an average of $301 billion per month, which if continued would lead to an all-time record of $3.61 trillion by the end of the fiscal year -- makes those who are claiming that the government is going through some kind of serious "austerity," including many of their colleagues, look completely foolish.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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