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National Govt & Politics
Federal deficit grows amid 'surprisingly weak tax collections' in 2017
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Federal deficit grows amid 'surprisingly weak tax collections' in 2017

Federal deficit grows amid 'surprisingly weak tax collections' in 2017
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Federal deficit grows amid 'surprisingly weak tax collections' in 2017

It didn't get much attention in the midst of the all-out fight on Capitol Hill over efforts to overhaul the Obama health law, but a Congressional Budget Office report this week again signaled that something odd is going on with tax revenues coming into Uncle Sam so far this year, as they remain well below anticipated levels, leading to a spike in the federal deficit.

The headline on the CBO's regular June budget update was bad enough, as it forecast a $134 billion jump in the deficit in 2017, up to $693 billion, which would be the highest yearly deficit since 2012.

The reason for that forecast was mainly because of something that had been noticed earlier in the year, that tax collections at the federal level are down - the CBO estimates they are $89 billion below what had been expected.

"Surprisingly weak tax collections since then have led the agency to lower its projection of revenues by $89 billion," the CBO reported.

The rest of the deficit increase comes from increases that CBO says are taking place in loan and loan guarantee programs which are already on the books - to the tune of $45 billion.

Why are tax revenues slowing? The CBO really didn't have an answer, as it projected that revenues from "individual income taxes are expected to fall by 0.2 percentage points of GDP."

Often something like that would be an indicator of a lack of economic growth, but some have argued this may be related to more wealthy taxpayers not making large estimated tax payments, hoping that major tax cuts are approved this year by the Congress. There is no hard evidence to back up that assertion.

As for the level of the deficit, $693 billion would be a big jump from the $585 billion deficit in 2016 - a 23% increase.

Here is what the federal deficit has done in the last 10 years:

2007 - $161 billion

2008 - $459 billion

2009 - $1.413 trillion

2010 - $1.294 trillion

2011 - $1.300 trillion

2012 - $1.087 trillion

2013 - $679 billion

2014 - $485 billion

2015 - $438 billion

2016 - $585 billion

Like 2016, the 2017 deficit seems to be going in the wrong direction.

The 2007 deficit under President George W. Bush was the lowest deficit since the budget was balanced for several years during the Clinton Administration, in the late 1990's.

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News

  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news The report was released around 11 a.m., weeks after Mueller completed his investigation. President Donald Trump hailed the report as a victory over his critics. >> Mueller Report: Read the report Barr just released Update 12:35 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said Trump attempted to influence the investigation into Russian election meddling. Mueller said his efforts “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede his request.” Mueller’s report details instances by several officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, ignoring or refusing Trump’s requests to interfere in the investigation. Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 18: When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump in May 2017 that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian election meddling, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).' Trump blamed Sessions for the appointment, according to Mueller. 'Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,' Trump said, according to the report released Thursday. 'It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.' Speaking Thursday at an event at the White House, Trump said, “this should never happen to another president again.” Update 11:45 a.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team considered Trump’s written responses to questions in the Russia probe to be inadequate, but they decided against subpoenaing the president because of the delay such a move would cause to the investigation. Other revelations from the report include: Mueller said Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. Trump previously denounced reports of the call as “fake news.”  Members of Trump’s staff might have saved him from more dire legal consequences by refusing to carry out orders they thought were legally risky, according to The Washington Post.  Mueller made clear in the report that “Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take” the help, the Post reported. However, investigators were unable to establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In his report, Mueller shared the reasoning behind his decision not to answer the question of whether the might have president obstructed justice. Mueller’s team scrutinized 10 episodes in which Trump sought to seize control of the Russia probe, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate. The president’s lawyers have said Trump’s conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller’s team deemed the episodes were deserving of scrutiny to determine whether crimes were committed. Update 11:25 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was “having a good day” following the release of the Mueller report. “This should’ve never happened,” Trump told a crowd gathered at a Wounded Warriors event at the White House, according to CNN. “I say this in front of my friends — this should never happen to another president again. This hoax — it should never happen again.' Trump’s attorneys hailed the report as “a total victory for the president” in a statement released to CNN. “The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning - there was no collusion - there was no obstruction,” the statement said. “This vindication of the President is an important step forward for the country and a strong reminder that this type of abuse must never be permitted to occur again.” >> The Mueller report: What is in it, when will it be released, what will happen next? Update 11 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr has released a redacted version of the Mueller report, which is 448 pages long. >> Mueller report: Read the transcript of William Barr's remarks Update 10:55 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump was expected to deliver remarks Thursday morning at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride as lawmakers and the public await the release of Mueller’s report. However, by 10:55 a.m., Trump had yet to appear for the event. Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In a letter sent Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to testify before the panel no later than May 23. Nadler released his letter to Mueller minutes after Barr spoke with reporters about the report, which is expected to be released Thursday. Barr told reporters he had “no objection to Bob Mueller testifying.” “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said. Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr said he plans to release a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report to several congressional committees on Thursday “in an effort to accommodate congressional requests” for Mueller’s full report. “These members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted materials for themselves -- with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared,” Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference. “I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the special counsel’s investigation.”    Update 10:05 a.m. EDT April 18: At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said it will be important to view President Donald Trump’s actions in context. “President Trump faced an unprecedented situation,” Barr said. “As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.” Barr said the Office of the White House Counsel has reviewed the redacted version of Mueller’s report but that Trump declined to assert privilege over it. Trump took to Twitter after Barr spoke to highlight that there was 'No collusion. No obstruction.' Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report details two main efforts sponsored by Russian government officials to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference ahead of the report’s release. The report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Russian government, to “sow social discord among American votes through disinformation and social media operations,” Barr said. It also details efforts by Russian military officials connected to the GRU, “to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party.” “The special counsel found no evidence that any Americans -- including anyone associated with the Trump campaign -- conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme,” Barr said. Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump called the Mueller investigation 'The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!' in a series of tweets posted Thursday ahead of the release of the report. >> Mueller report: Trump tweets 'presidential harassment' ahead of redacted report's release “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he wrote in a subsequent tweet. Trump has frequently criticized the Mueller investigation, framing the probe as a political “witch hunt” aimed at harming his presidency. Original report: Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon Thursday before sharing the report on the special counsel’s website, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Battle lines clear as D.C. awaits redacted Mueller report Mueller completed his investigation late last month, 22 months after he launched his probe at the direction of the Justice Department. The investigation was frequently lambasted by President Donald Trump as a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his presidency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A woman was arrested Saturday after telling police methamphetamine in her purse were “healing crystals,” investigators said. >> Read more trending news  Cactus Naomi Calderas, 43, was pulled over for not using a turn signal and appeared to be very nervous as police approached, KHOU reported. Police said she consented to a search of her vehicle, KHOU reported. During a pat down, an officer found four butane lighters and a pipe used for smoking meth in Calderas’ pocket. The meth was found in her purse. Calderas was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, KHOU reported.
  • Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Mueller investigation: Attorney General Barr to speak before releasing report The release of the report came nearly two years after Mueller was appointed by acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate any connection between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. >> Muller report: Will Trump claim executive privilege? What is that? In a press conference Thursday prior to the release, Barr responded to reports that he shared the investigation’s findings with the White House to determine if the president’s attorneys planned to exert executive privilege over any part of the report. A claim of executive privilege would keep parts of the 400-page report private. Trump did not exert executive privilege, Barr said.
  • Attorney General William Barr delivered remarks on the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  >> Read more trending news  The full transcript of Barr’s remarks, transcribed from the U.S. Department of Justice, is below: “Good Morning. Thank you all for being here today. “On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation of matters related to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and submitted his confidential report to me pursuant to Department of Justice regulations.  “As I said during my Senate confirmation hearing and since, I am committed to ensuring the greatest possible degree of transparency concerning the Special Counsel’s investigation, consistent with the law. “At 11:00 this morning, I will transmit copies of a public version of the Special Counsel’s report to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The Department of Justice will also make the report available to the American public by posting it on the Department’s website after it has been delivered to Congress. “I would like to offer a few comments today on the report.  “But before I do that, I want to thank Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for joining me here today and for his assistance and counsel throughout this process. Rod has served the Department of Justice for many years with dedication and distinction, and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to work with him since my confirmation. He had well-deserved plans to step back from public service that I interrupted by asking him to help in my transition. Rod has been an invaluable partner, and I am grateful that he was willing to help me and has been able to see the Special Counsel’s investigation to its conclusion. Thank you, Rod. “I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia’s attempts to interfere in our electoral process.  “As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel’s investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Volume I of the Special Counsel’s report describes the results of that investigation. As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”  “I am sure that all Americans share my concerns about the efforts of the Russian government to interfere in our presidential election. As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election. But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter. That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed.  “The Special Counsel’s report outlines two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election: “First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations. Following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme. Those charges remain pending, and the individual defendants remain at large. “But the Special Counsel found no evidence that any Americans – including anyone associated with the Trump campaign – conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme. Indeed, as the report states, “[t]he investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.” Put another way, the Special Counsel found no “collusion” by any Americans in the IRA’s illegal activity. “Second, the report details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the purpose of eventually publicizing those emails. Obtaining such unauthorized access into computers is a federal crime. Following a thorough investigation of these hacking operations, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking activities. Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large. “But again, the Special Counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations. In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with the Russian government’s hacking.  “The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet. The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication. Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps. The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts. Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials. “Finally, the Special Counsel investigated a number of “links” or “contacts” between Trump Campaign officials and individuals connected with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign. After reviewing those contacts, the Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate U.S. law involving Russia-linked persons and any persons associated with the Trump campaign. So that is the bottom line. After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.  “After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation. As I addressed in my March 24th letter, the Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation. Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.  “After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.  “Although the Deputy Attorney General and I disagreed with some of the Special Counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision. Instead, we accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the Special Counsel in reaching our conclusion.  “In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation. “Now, before I take questions, I want to address a few aspects of the process for producing the public report that I am releasing today. As I said several times, the report contains limited redactions relating to four categories of information. To ensure as much transparency as possible, these redactions have been clearly labelled and color-coded so that readers can tell which redactions correspond to which categories. “As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case. “These redactions were applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases. The redactions are their work product.  “Consistent with long-standing Executive Branch practice, the decision whether to assert Executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the President of the United States. Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the President could have asserted privilege. And he would have been well within his rights to do so. Following my March 29th letter, the Office of the White House Counsel requested the opportunity to review the redacted version of the report in order to advise the President on the potential invocation of privilege, which is consistent with long-standing practice. Following that review, the President confirmed that, in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people, he would not assert privilege over the Special Counsel’s report. Accordingly, the public report I am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that I previously outlined, and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege.  “In addition, earlier this week, the President’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released. That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication. “The President’s personal lawyers were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions.  “In addition to making the redacted report public, we are also committed to working with Congress to accommodate their legitimate oversight interests with respect to the Special Counsel’s investigation. We have been consulting with Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler throughout this process, and we will continue to do so.  “Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation. Nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information. Thus, these members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted material for themselves – with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared.  “I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation. “Once again, I would like to thank you all for being here today. I now have a few minutes for questions.”
  • A 7-year-old boy was fatally hit by a van Wednesday moments after getting off a school bus. >> Read more trending news  Cameron Brown and his sister had gotten off their bus from P.S. 43 around 3 p.m. when he was crossing behind it and was hit by a red van from God’s Pentecostal Church, WCBS reported.  “I’m heartbroken by this tragic loss of one of our children, and share my condolences with the family and school community,” Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said in a statement. “We will have crisis counseling available to students and staff for as long as it is needed.” Video shows the bus pull up, with the red van behind it, WCBS reported. The 22-year-old van driver thought he was braking and accidentally drove forward, hitting the boy, WABC reported.  Both drivers remained at the scene. It is unclear if the van driver will face charges.  Brown was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, WCBS reported.  Cameron Brown’s father, Joseph Brown, 66, criticized school bus staff, who, he said, should have made sure his son safely got off the bus and into the van, the New York Daily News reported.  “They were supposed to protect him,' Joseph Brown told the Daily News. 'There should have been someone to transfer him from the bus to the van.” Cameron Brown was the youngest of four and was affectionately called “Nino” by his family, the Daily News reported. 'Nino was so smart,” his oldest sister, Fantasia Brown, 19, told the Daily News. “He wanted to know everything. He was spelling from the moment he could talk. I already knew who was the man of the family. He was good at math. He was on the honor roll. He was on top of everything.”
  • Jason Momoa has shaved his beard for the first time in seven years for a good cause. E! News reported that the “Game of Thrones” and “Aquaman” actor shared a video of him letting go of his facial hair on his YouTube page. >> Read more trending news  “I think 2012 is the last time I shaved,” he said in the video, titled, “Goodbye Drogo...I SHAVED!” In the clip, Momoa walks out into a desert with wireless clippers. As he shaves off pieces of facial hair, he says goodbye to his characters -- Drogo, Aquaman -- who had his iconic beard. “Most importantly, I just want to do this to bring awareness that plastics are killing our planet,” he said. “And if we have a solution, I don’t want to (expletive) about it. There’s only one thing that can really help our planet and save our planet as long as we recycle -- and that's aluminum.” Momoa announced he is launching a line of water that comes in an aluminum can. “I hate going to the airport or going to the airport with a water bottle this big when it can be an aluminum one,” he said. “They have aluminum sodas and it’s fully recyclable.” The actor said he’s not only releasing a line of canned water -- available in still, sparkling, alkaline and spring -- for himself, but for future generations. “There’s a change coming, and it’s aluminum. We’ve got to get rid of these plastic water bottles,” he said. “Aquaman is trying to do the best he can -- for my kids, for your kids, for the world. Clean up the oceans, clean up the land.”