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If Biden’s Economic Plan Is ‘Working,’ Why Are Tax Revenues Plunging?

And why are so many analysts 'mystified'?


President Joe Biden loves to brag about the masterful job he’s doing managing the nation’s economy, as he did on Tuesday when cheering the latest inflation news – which saw food prices up almost 7% from last year – and “our historic economic progress.”

The day before that, the Treasury Department released its monthly financial statement, which shows that the federal deficit for this fiscal year has already topped $1 trillion and that’s a big factor behind this is a sharp reduction in federal tax revenues from last year.

Wait, you say. If the economy is “strong” and “historic” as Biden claims, why are revenues cratering and deficits exploding?

Or, as the Washington Times put it: “Uncle Sam’s income has plummeted this year, sending the federal deficit spiraling deeper into the red than analysts had predicted and leaving officials grasping for answers.”

Here’s what the “Monthly Treasury Statement” shows:

By the end of May, cumulative deficits for fiscal year 2023 (which started last October) hit $1.165 trillion. The projected deficit for the entire year is now close to $1.6 trillion, which is almost $300 billion higher than Treasury projected at the start of this fiscal year.

But here’s the real kicker: Revenues in the first eight months of this fiscal year are down $380 billion compared with the same period last year.

And most of that shortfall happened just in the past two months. April revenues were 25% below last year’s, and May’s came in 20% shy.

It was this sharp drop in tax revenues that forced Biden to open negotiations with Republicans over the debt ceiling, because Treasury realized it was fast running out of wiggle room when it came to paying its bills.

What’s more, the revenue shortfall is the result of a steep decline in individual income taxes. So far, these have brought in $1.5 trillion, compared with $1.9 trillion over the same period last year.

How can that be when Biden keeps telling us how the job market is going gangbusters?

Corporate income tax receipts, meanwhile, are flat compared with last year, which also doesn’t make sense in a “strong” economy – particularly after Biden imposed a 15% corporate minimum tax that was supposed to squeeze more dollars out of big companies.

“The revenue numbers mystify analysts, who had not figured that tax payments would drop off so quickly,” reports the Washington Times.

The most likely reason why “analysts” are puzzled is that they are too busy parroting White House talking points to pay attention to the real world.

Here’s one example: Along with federal tax revenues, recreational vehicle sales have plunged. What does one have to do with the other?

Nothing really, except that RV sales have been a remarkably accurate predictor of recessions. And year-over-year RV sales fallen in the first quarter of this year by roughly 50%.

The Financial Times – in an article headlined “Is the U.S. Economy Finally Starting to Crack?” – notes that because RVs are a discretionary item usually paid for with borrowed money, “demand for RVs is acutely sensitive to business cycles, meaning that more often than not a cooling off typically augurs a weaker economic backdrop.”

There are other warning signs, such as the spike in delinquency rates on loans and the unemployment picture in several states.

“Across the country, well over a dozen states are flashing warning signals, triggering the so-called Sahm rule, which links the start of a recession to when the three-month moving average of the unemployment rate rises at least half a percentage point above its low over the past 12 months,” the FT reports.

We don’t know what all this means, and doubt anyone does. But what we can say for certain is that the only thing “historic” about the current economy is how delusional the president and the media are about what is actually going on.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board