SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – $206B US DEFICIT IN MAY – HEADING TO $897B FOR YEAR , MAYBE OVER $ONE TRILLION NEXT YEAR ? – YEAH, RIGHT !!
There are about 250 persons working at the Congressional Budget Office, according to their website. Their budget, according to Wikipedia was $46.8M annually, as of 2011, probably higher now. Their projections are widely quoted, and presumably relied upon by policy makers in our administration. The CBO updates their projections on an irregular basis, sometimes several times per year, sometimes only once per year. The last update was 5/2/19, only about six weeks ago. Considering how far off their past projections have been, and the questionable assumptions within their analyses, it is a wonder that anyone takes these numbers seriously, and the latest installment provides a good example why not.
Six weeks ago, on 5/2, based on relatively firm numbers through March, and presumably pretty reliable indications through April, the CBO predicted that the US operating deficit through the current fiscal year, ending 9/30/19, would be $897 Billion. April and May results are now reported, and the table below shows the monthly numbers for the last two fiscal years.
You can see that last year’s total operating deficit was $779B, and the total debt went up by $1,271B (due to “off budget” items, the largest of which is the social security shortfall). The projection, six weeks ago, was for the current year’s deficit to be $897B, up 15.1% from fiscal ’18. The total debt is not projected, and you can see that number frozen the last few months since our administrators have already exceeded the formal debt “limit”.
The April result, with tax receipts was a surplus of $160B, which was dower than the $214B surplus a year earlier, so the cumulative deficit through April (shown at the extreme right of the table) was up 37.6%. They May results showed a $206B deficit, up from $147B, so the cumulative deficit is up 38.6% year to year. Last year, the monthly deficits from June through September totaled $246B. The current CBO projection of $897B for the ’19 year would allow for only $158B the rest of the year, down 36% from the last four months of fiscal ’18 – which is ridiculous.
We don’t have 250 professionals pushing numbers here but this year to date: December’s YTY deficit reduction was on an immaterially low base. March’s improvement was material, but March and April combined (tax season) showed a $13B surplus this year versus $5B in fiscal ’18, which is an immaterial change. May bounced back to a 40.1% increase YTY in the deficit. You can judge for yourself the likelihood that the last four months will give us a deficit 36% lower than last year.
Our projection, with 247 professionals fewer than the CBO is for the following: The last four months will provide a deficit about 40% higher than a year ago ($247B), which would provide for $346B on top of the current $739B, for a total of $1.08 Trillion. This is 20% higher than the $897B projection made by the CBO with only five months left in the fiscal year. We shouldn’t have to point out that: if the CBO is 20% off the mark with five months remaining, their projections ten years out don’t have a great deal of credibility.
Furthermore: the total debt, whether or not the debt ceiling has been formally raised, will have expanded by $1.3-$1.5 Trillion, bringing it close to $23 trillion.
This reality is unlikely to be comforting to the capital markets.