We saw the new record in the press this week, and it had nothing to do with Billie Eilish. (Note our pop culture reference!) The government of the United States pulled in a record amount of tax collections in the first three months of the fiscal year.
The fiscal year starts in October. So in October, November, December--basically football season--the United States collected:
$1,051,873,000,000. Give or take a billion.
That sets a record for any three-month period. Before this fiscal year, the most the government had ever collected in taxes in any three-month period was just under $1 trillion, back in 2016. And from last year to this year, collections are up $191 billion.
Still, in those three months the government reported a deficit. Of $377.7 billion.
The press is full of stories about how that deficit isn't as bad as it has been. It's down from last year. And economists tell the papers that with stimulus and pandemic spending winding down, deficits may drop even lower. That's good news, we suppose.
But can anybody be forgiven for thinking this isn't necessarily good news, just not the worst news? That is, the government has taken in a record amount of money recently, yet still the deficit is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Imagine a household that's maxed out on its credit cards and spends more than the parents make at both their jobs. Still, they go out and buy new cars. And feel good about it. After all, they're not buying as many new cars this year as they did last!
The national debt is creeping toward $30 trillion, with a T. The last word was it stood at $29.8 trillion. And these multi-hundred-billion deficits, while perhaps not as big as last year's, keep adding to it.
You would think that breaking records for tax collections would once in a while give the nation a budget surplus, and trim a little off the top of that debt.
You would think. But then you wouldn't be thinking like the government.