- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2015

The federal government set a record tax haul in April, taking in nearly a half-trillion dollars in one month alone, according to Congressional Budget Office statistics released Thursday.

April is always a busy month with the tax deadline on April 15, but this year’s haul was historic, totaling $472 billion, far outstripping the previous monthly record, set last April, of $414 billion.

Spending, meanwhile, was a more modest $317 billion, leaving the government with a surplus for that one month of $155 billion — also a record.

Despite that good month, the government is likely to run a deficit when the entire fiscal year is taken into account. But it will probably be smaller than last year’s deficit, and will be the lowest since President Obama took office.

The good news surprised the budget counters at the CBO.

“Receipts for the first seven months of fiscal year 2015 totaled $1,892 billion, CBO estimates — $155 billion more than receipts in the same period last year. That increase is roughly $40 billion larger than what CBO expected when it published its March 2015 report,” the nonpartisan agency said in its report.

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The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Both taxes and spending are growing rapidly, at 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The CBO said the biggest spending increases are in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the big entitlement programs that are essentially on autopilot, with costs increasing as more poor, disabled and elderly people become eligible. Combined, they are up some $81 billion compared to the same time period from fiscal year 2014.

Defense spending is down, dropping by nearly 4 percent.

Those defense cuts worry many congressional Republicans, who say given the global dangers to the U.S., it’s the wrong time to be trimming security spending.

This week Congress cleared a GOP-written budget for 2016 that would boost defense spending, using a budget trick to get around limits imposed under the 2011 “sequester” deal. But Democrats, led by Mr. Obama, have insisted they won’t accept any increase in defense spending unless it’s coupled with domestic spending hikes. They don’t count entitlements in those calculations, since those programs are deemed “mandatory” spending, and are on autopilot.

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Social Security has risen 4 percent this year, and Medicare has risen 8 percent, after unanticipated spending increases in 2014 left the government with a big bill at the beginning of this fiscal year.

But the biggest leap has been in Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that provides health care to the poor, and which is up 22 percent, or $36 billion, over the previous year. CBO analysts said the increase was chiefly due to Obamacare, which has pushed millions of new customers into the program, drawing ever-more resources.

Overall, the government has taken in $1.89 trillion in revenue, and spent $2.18 trillion through the first seven months of the fiscal year.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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