Deficit Jumps in Trump’s First Fiscal Year

iStockphoto
By Michael Rainey

The federal budget deficit rose by 16 percent in the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, which began last October. The shortfall came to $607 billion, compared to $523 billion in the same period the year before, according to a U.S. Treasury report released Thursday and reported by Bloomberg. Both revenue and spending rose, but spending rose faster. Revenues came to $2.54 trillion, up 1.3 percent from the same nine-month period in 2017, while spending came to $3.15 trillion, up 3.9 percent.

Where’s the Obamacare Navigator Funding for 2019, PA Insurance Commissioner Asks

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner sent a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma requesting that they “immediately release the funding details for the Navigator program for the upcoming open enrollment period for 2019.” Navigators are the state and local groups that help people sign up for Affordable Care Act plans.

“In years past, grant applications and new funding opportunities were released by CMS in April, CMS required Navigator organizations to apply by June and approved applications and new funding by late August,” Pennsylvania’s Jessica Altman wrote. “The current lack of guidance has put Navigator organizations – and states - far behind in their planning and creates an inability for the Navigator organizations to design a successful plan for helping people enroll during the 2019 open enrollment period.”

Chart of the Day: Why US Fertility Rates Are Falling

9) Babysit
iStockphoto
By The Fiscal Times Staff

U.S. fertility rates have fallen to record lows for two straight years. “Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children,” Claire Cain Miller explains at The New York Times’ Upshot. “So we asked them.”

Here are some results of the Times’ survey, conducted with Morning Consult. Read the full Times story for more details.

A Record Low 47% of US Adults Say They're 'Extremely Proud' to Be American

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Gallup says that, for the first time in the 18 years it’s been asking U.S. adults how proud they are to be Americans, fewer than half say they are "extremely proud." Just 47 percent now say they’re extremely proud, down from 70 percent in 2003.

Another 25 percent say they’re “very proud” — but the combined 72 percent who say they’re extremely or very proud is also the lowest Gallup has recorded. Pride levels among liberals and Democrats have plunged since 2017. Overall, 74 percent of Republicans and just 32 percent of Democrats call themselves “extremely proud” to be American.

Pfizer Has Raised Prices on 100 of Its Products

FILE PHOTO: The Pfizer logo is seen at their world headquarters in New York, U.S. April 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
Andrew Kelly
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Weeks after President Trump said that drugmakers were about to implement “voluntary massive drops in prices” — reductions that have yet to materialize — Pfizer has raised prices on 100 of its products, The Financial Times’s David Crow reports:

“The increases were effective as of July 1 and in most cases were more than 9 per cent — well above the rate of inflation in the US, which is running at about 2 per cent. … Pfizer, the largest standalone drugmaker in the US, did decrease the prices of five products by between 16 per cent and 44 per cent, according to the figures.”

Crow notes that Pfizer also raised prices on many of its medicines in January, meaning that some prices have been hiked by nearly 20 percent this year. The drugmaker said that it was only changing prices on 10 percent of its medicines and that list prices did not reflect what most patients or insurers actually paid. The net price increase after rebates and discounts was expected to be in the “low single digits,” the company told the FT.

Chart of the Day: Pass-Through Tax Deductions Made Easy

iStockphoto
By Michael Rainey

The Republican tax overhaul was supposed to simplify the tax code, but most experts say it fell well short of the goal. Martin Sullivan, chief economist at Tax Analysts, tweeted out a chart of the analysis required to determine whether income qualifies for the passthrough tax deduction of 20 percent, and as you’ll see, it’s anything but simple. 

A Conservative Bashes GOP Dysfunction on Spending Cuts

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, offers a blistering critique of congressional Republican’s problems cutting spending:

Since the Republicans took the House in 2011, nearly every annual budget blueprint has promised to balance the budget within a decade with anywhere from $5 trillion to $8 trillion in spending cuts. And yet, you may have noticed, the budget has not moved towards balance. This is because the budget merely sets a broad fiscal goal. To actually cut spending, Congress must follow up with specific legislation to reform Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other targeted programs. In reality, most lawmakers who pass these budgets have no intention whatsoever of cutting this spending. As soon as the budget is passed, the targets are forgotten. The spending-cut legislation is never even drafted, much less voted on.

The annual budget exercise is thus a cynical exercise in symbolism. Congress calculates how much spending must be cut over ten years to balance the budget. Then they pass legislation setting a goal of cutting that amount. Then they move on to other business. It’s like a baseball team announcing that they voted to win the next World Series, and then not showing up to play the season.

Read the full piece at National Review.

GOP Tax Cuts Getting Less Popular, Poll Finds

A congressional aide places a placard on a podium for the House Republican's legislation to overhaul the tax code on Capitol Hill in Washington
JOSHUA ROBERTS/Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Friday marked the six-month anniversary of President Trump’s signing the Republican tax overhaul into law, and public opinion of the law is moving in the wrong direction for the GOP. A Monmouth University survey conducted earlier this month found that 34 percent of the public approves of the tax reform passed by Republicans late last year, while 41 percent disapprove. Approval has fallen by 6 points since late April and disapproval has slipped 3 points. The percentage of people who aren’t sure how they feel about the plan has risen from 16 percent in April to 24 percent this month.

Other findings from the poll of 806 U.S. adults:

  • 19 percent approve of the job Congress is doing; 67 percent disapprove
  • 40 percent say the country is heading in the right direction, up from 33 percent in April
  • Democrats hold a 7-point edge in a generic House ballot

Special Tax Break Zones Defined for All 50 States

Workers guide steel beams into place at a construction site in San Francisco, California September 1, 2011.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
© Robert Galbraith / Reuters
By Michael Rainey

The U.S. Treasury has approved the final group of opportunity zones, which offer tax incentives for investments made in low-income areas. The zones were created by the tax law signed in December.

Bill Lucia of Route Fifty has some details: “Treasury says that nearly 35 million people live in the designated zones and that census tracts in the zones have an average poverty rate of about 32 percent based on figures from 2011 to 2015, compared to a rate of 17 percent for the average U.S. census tract.”

Click here to explore the dynamic map of the zones on the U.S. Treasury website. 

Map of the Day: Affordable Care Act Premiums Since 2014

FILE PHOTO: A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro
MIKE BLAKE
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Axios breaks down how monthly premiums on benchmark Affordable Care Act policies have risen state by state since 2014. The average increase: $481.

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