The federal government posts a surprise record budget surplus

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter Briefing of story ideas on coronavirus and other hot topics for journalists, written by Senior Professor Al Tompkins. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

You may need to read the title again. The federal government of the United States had a Budget surplus of $308 billion in April.

Compare that to a $226 billion deficit for April 2021. That’s rare, good federal budget news even as the stock market struggles, and Wall Street continues to whisper the word “recession”, or at least “market bullish”.

It is not uncommon for the country to take in more than it spends in April, which is the tax due month. But $226 billion is a record single-month surplus. And sometimes April ends in the red like in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2020 and 2021. But the magnitude of the surplus from windfall business revenues has surprised government economists.

Compare this year with the river of red ink in 2020 and 2021 when the government was writing checks for stimulus programs.

(Congressional Budget Office)

So where does that put us for the year? Roll Call broke it down like this:

The result is a fiscal year-to-date deficit of just $360 billion, compared to more than $1.9 trillion at this point in fiscal 2021.

Nonpartisan CBO analysts note that the “trajectory of monthly deficits” so far this fiscal year is similar to that of fiscal year 2019, the last full pre-pandemic fiscal year. In the first seven months of that year, deficits totaled $530 billion, en route to a full year total of $984 billion.

These numbers suggest a deficit of less than $1 trillion for the current fiscal year, which is significantly lower than previous forecasts by the CBO and the White House Budget Office. Wrightson ICAP, an investment advisory firm that closely tracks federal government funding, now estimates the deficit for fiscal year 2022 could fall to between $600 billion and $700 billion, the lowest in five years.

Travel, including airline tickets and hotels, are major contributors to inflation

Deep in the Consumer Price Index figures this week you’ll find the data showing you that air fares and hotels are one of the drivers fueling the 8.3% year-over-year inflation rate. The Department of Labor said:

The airfare index has risen 33.3% over the past year, the biggest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1980.

The out-of-home accommodation index continued to rise, rising 1.7% in April after rising 3.3% in March.

Reasons for the increase include increased demand, including summer business and leisure travel – and airlines paying higher wages and fuel costs.

Recently, the American Hotel and Lodging Association said while leisure travel is increasing, business travel is still significantly lower than before the pandemic. The report said:

U.S. hotel business travel revenue is expected to be 23% below pre-pandemic levels in 2022, ending the year down more than $20 billion from 2019. This comes after hotels lost business travel revenue is estimated at $108 billion in 2020 and 2021 combined.

I was struck by how different news outlets look at the Consumer Price Index numbers and come to a range of conclusions about them. Here are a few examples I captured a few minutes apart.

FoxNews:

Washington Post:

New York Times:

pain:

CNBC:

NC:

Drudge again:

NBC4 New York reports:

After a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overrule Roe v Wade has been disclosed to the public, online searches for vasectomies have increased.

Daily searches for vasectomies have increased by 99% since the draft advisory was published early last week, according to an analysis of Google Trends and search volumes by Research inside the bodya home health product research company.

The same analysis conducted by Innerbody Research found that online searches for “is a vasectomy reversible” and “how much does a vasectomy cost” increased by 250%. (Yes, and there’s a huge range, from around $300 to $3,000, and of course it depends on your insurance.)

Jezebel said:

It’s no coincidence that the states with the most popular searches for “vasectomy near me” were Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida. Almost all these states have pre-Roe abortion bans, “trigger bans” that would automatically ban abortion if Roe no longer applies, or other strict abortion bans and restrictions already in place.

If nothing else, it’s clear from research trends that cis men are beginning to realize that their reproductive destinies are deeply intertwined with those of pregnant women. We saw a similar trend last December when a doctor at the Austin Urology Institute in Texas said his practice had seen “about a 15% increase in scheduled vasectomies” since the state almost total ban on abortion took effect in September. The doctor told the Washington Post that patients who called him told him they were “here because some of these changes that [Texas Gov. Greg] Abbott and our legislature have been passed have a real impact on our family planning decision-making,” and “for the first time, patients are citing a state law as a motivating factor.

After resolving inflation, political division, Russian aggression and public distrust, Congress will hold a hearing on UFOs on Tuesday.

It should be fun. Vice explains why this is a new topic of interest:

After the New York Times published an article About the existence of a Pentagon UFO project called Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) in 2017, government revelations about UFOs have been repeated. Last year the Pentagon published a report about his UFO program which detailed 143 sightings of aerial objects that could not be explained between the years 2004 and 2021. This report was considered quite disappointing because much of the information had already been leaked, and much of the report was simply seeking additional funding for the Pentagon. But one classified version of this report was obtained earlier this year by government transparency organization The Black Vault, which appears to have far more interesting details about the potential nature of UFOs.

Since, Motherboard and other outlets have obtained hundreds of pages of reports and research on futuristic technology funded by the government through AATIP and a related program called the Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Application Program. Barack Obama’s presidential library also said it had thousands of pages of UFO documents.

Gallup pollsters occasionally ask the public about UFOs and found last year:

While Americans are still inclined to think UFOs aren’t extraterrestrial spacecraft, nearly half believe extraterrestrial lifeforms exist beyond Earth. A June 2019 poll found that 49% of Americans believe that there are “people much like us” living on other planets. A much higher percentage, 75%, said “life in some form” exists elsewhere in the universe.

(Galup July 2021)

As you watch the skies, on Sunday and Monday those of you with clear skies should see a treat. NatGeo explains that a full moon will be totally eclipsed by Earth, which will turn the moon’s surface a dark red color, called a blood moon. And it will be a real treat as it will last longer than any such event in a decade.

This eclipse will also appear a little grander than usual. The moon will be near its perigee, or closest point to Earth, which will make it appear a bit larger in the sky, a phenomenon known as a supermoon.

Also, the May full moon is sometimes known as moonflower in the northern hemisphere, a tribute to the colorful flowers that appear in early spring. Thus, the May 15 eclipse can be called a super flowery blood moon.

The whole phase of totality will be visible throughout South America and most of North America.

Go here, Enter your location and this interactive map will tell you what you’ll see and when you’ll see it. For example, this is when I’m in Tampa Bay.

(timeanddate.com)

We take Friday off, so we’ll be back on Monday with a new edition of Covering COVID-19. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here to receive it straight to your inbox.

Comments are closed.