The federal government ran a deficit for the 40th straight month in January, according to the latest estimate from Congress' scorekeeper, continuing a record streak that dates back to the end of the George W. Bush administration and covers every month President Obama has been in office.
The Congressional Budget Office said the government ran a deficit of about $27 billion in January — but that actually represents some good news. It is the second-lowest monthly deficit in Mr. Obama's three years in office.
The CBO said tax revenues were up compared with last year, and, more important, spending was down $13 billion in January compared with the same month in 2011, chiefly because of lower spending on the federal student loan program.
Social Security spending saw a jump, however, thanks to a 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment that beneficiaries got starting last month.
The fiscal year began Oct. 1, and through the first four months the deficit has reached $349 billion. That's an improvement over last year, when the government ran up $419 billion in the red during the similar time period.
Tax revenues are $33 billion higher, and spending is $37 billion lower — though when payment times are adjusted, spending would be about flat, CBO analysts said.
The last time the government ran a monthly surplus was September 2008, just before the Wall Street collapse that spawned Mr. Bush's bailout and then Mr. Obama's stimulus spending.
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