George Constanza Budgeting
You remember "Seinfeld," the hit NBC show that proudly was about nothing?
If the show was still on the air doing original programs (It's obviously still on the air everywhere all the time in reruns), two federal budget-related events from yesterday no doubt would have inspired the writers and been the fodder for future episodes.
The first was the consideration and passage in the House of what was called the "Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012." The fact that the bill was adopted by the House means...wait for it...absolutely nothing because it has no chance whatsoever of being enacted. And in spite of its name, it's not a reconciliation bill and even if it were enacted it wouldn't completely replace the spending cut -- the sequester -- that is scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013.
Other than that it's very meaningful.
For the record, the vote was 218-199 and all of the ayes were Republicans. The no votes included 16 Republicans and 183 Democrats.
Yesterday's second nothing budget event was the surprise announcement by the Treasury that the United States recorded a more than $59 billion surplus in April.
On the one hand, not only was the surplus larger than expected, it was also the mirror image of last April's more than $40 billion deficit so the results could be an indication that the budget situation is changing for the better. This was, after all, the first monthly surplus since September 2008, that is, in close to four years. So even if April used to always be a surplus month, the fact that it was again in 2012 is as noteworthy as when it didn't happen 2009, 2010 or 2011.
On the other hand, a one-time one-month surplus cannot be assumed to be the start of a trend. It may be, but at this point anyone who says that is doing more wishing and hoping than solid analysis.
More important, even after the April surplus the overall fiscal 2012 deficit is projected to be close to $1 trillion and, therefore, is still a political problem.
In other words, it actually changes nothing.