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Issues & Insights

Revenues Are Up 6% After Trump Tax Cuts, So Why Is The Deficit Surging?

When Republicans passed the tax cut bill in 2017, Democrats charged that it would explode the deficit. And the latest Treasury monthly report on the government’s finances seems to verify that.

So far this fiscal year, which started last October, the federal government has racked up $531 billion in deficits. That compares with $385 billion over the same seven months the year before.

Worse, Treasury says the deficit is on track to top $1.1 trillion this year, up from $779 billion last year.

For the government to be running deficits this high — and climbing — while the economy is chugging along at a brisk pace and the country isn’t at war is virtually unprecedented.

Clearly, it must be the fault of those tax cuts.

Except it isn’t.

The federal government collected more than $2 trillion in the first seven months of this fiscal year, according to the latest monthly report from the Treasury Department.

That’s up almost 2 percent from the same time last year, and up 6 percent from fiscal 2017, which was before the Trump tax cuts went into effect.

This fiscal year, Treasury figures that federal revenues will top $3.4 trillion. That’s $100 billion more — a 3 percent gain — than last year.

It is true that corporate tax revenues have declined since the tax bill went into effect. They’re down almost 30 percent compared with the same months in fiscal 2017.

But individual income tax revenues — which account for far more revenues than corporate taxes — are running 12 percent higher this year than in 2017. Payroll taxes are up by nearly 8 percent.

What that suggests is that the Trump tax cuts are doing just what they’re supposed to do: boost growth, create more jobs, raise wages and, as a result, at least partially offset the “cost” of the tax cuts.

Lo and behold, since the tax cuts went into effect, the economy has consistently outperformed economists’ expectations. In fact, the year before the GOP tax cuts kicked in, the Congressional Budget Office was forecasting growth for 2018 would be a mere 2 percent, and just 1.7 percent for this year. It projected an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent for 2019, and climbing.

The actual result for 2018 was 2.9 percent GDP growth, and it was 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. Unemployment, meanwhile, is now down to 3.6 percent — and falling.

Yet every Democrat running for the White House is promising to repeal some, if not all, of the Trump tax cuts to finance a laundry list of massive new government entitlement programs.

What they aren’t explaining to voters, however, is that it’s out-of-control spending that’s driving the deficit upward today.

While federal revenues are $35 billion higher so far this year than last, spending is up by $181 billion.

And while revenues for the entire year will climb $109 billion, that won’t be nearly enough to keep pace with the $421 billion hike in spending, according to current Treasury forecasts.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the spending orgy. Politicians on both sides of the aisle like nothing more than boosting federal spending — particularly when it appears to come at no cost to taxpayers. That’s why talk of the Trump administration cutting a deal with Democrats on a $2 trillion infrastructure spending spree is so troubling.

The last thing we need is to add still more fuel to the spending fire. Particularly when it’s tax cuts that will take all the blame for the explosion in the deficit.


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John Merline

Veteran journalist John Merline was Deputy Editor of Commentary and Opinion at Investor's Business Daily. Before IBD, he launched and edited the Opinion section of AOL News, and was a member of the editorial board of USA Today, where he continues to be a regular contributor. He’s been published in the Washington Post, National Review, Detroit News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He is regular commentator on the One America News Network and on local talk radio. He got his start in journalism under the tutelage of M. Stanton Evans.

5 comments

  • We have completely forgotten Ronald Reagan’s dictum that for each additional dollar of federal revenue, the Congress spends $1.20 — which is why budget deficits never can be reduced by raising taxes (or any other means of increasing revenue). Reagan quipped that giving Congress money to remedy its spending excesses is like giving booze to a drunk to cure his alcoholism.

    Cheers!

  • Freeze the non-defense federal budget and freeze federal hiring to allow the agencies to shrink through attrition until the budget is balanced. If we just do this it will take four years for the budget to balance. If we kick it off with a one time 5% cut then it balances in about 2.5-3years.

  • And in a few years all of the tax revenue goes to pay interest on the madness. The govt can’t monetize out of this geometric piling on of debt and as this article demonstrates, there is no change in sight or even any well meaning intention. The point of no return happens when a hard recession hits and inflation (stagflation) begins in earnest. The finger pointing will be epic and poisonous. The scale of depredation to unfold will make any other recession and even depression seem quaint indeed. Lots of civil unrest and cops standing on the sidelines; political extremism; trade wars – you ain’t seen nothing yet. We are engaged in a relentless collapse of economic society in the name of infrastructure, security, justice, support, relief, entitlements – pick your favorite. This is not socialism, or capitalism; it’s an endgame for all the power.

  • We’re in an unCivil war between the globalists and the America firsters and the GOPe are on the globalists’ side. Just look at the obscene Omnibus bill of March 2018, if you want to see out of control spending. This was the first time there were more minority votes than majority in favor. The Congress waited until the day before the government shutdown to place this abomination on Trump’s desk. They had one vote shy of a veto override, with plenty of votes to spare if they needed them. It was a stark message to Trump. If you veto, we’ll allow the government to shutdown and wait for it to start hurting the American people, then blame you. Then we’ll pass it anyway. They had already used that on Trump during the last shutdown when they had the TSA union start calling in sick and then the air traffic controllers threaten to do the same. The globalists want to eliminate America as a nation state and they’re willing to do anything to make that possible.

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