A Brighter Outlook

For the Budget Deficit

Higher-than-expected tax receipts and the steadily growing economy have combined to produce an improved picture for the federal budget deficit, congressional analysts say.

The deficit for the current budget year, which runs through Sept. 30, should be "significantly less than $350 billion, perhaps below $325 billion," according to the Congressional Budget Office. The agency produces nonpartisan estimates for Congress, and it is to put out a full update Aug. 15.

Yesterday's new figures come as the White House is to release its midyear budget review July 13. Administration figures are also expected to show significant improvement from the $427 billion current-year deficit it predicted in January.

Last year's $412 billion deficit was a record in dollar terms, but economists say the more significant measure is against the size of the economy. In those terms, the current deficit picture -- a $350 billion deficit for this year would equal 2.9 percent of gross domestic product -- is significantly better than deficits witnessed in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. Then, deficits of 4 to 6 percent of GDP were common.

The biggest factors for the improving deficit picture are higher corporate and individual tax receipts. The economy is performing slightly above the administration's earlier expectations.

Cheney to Get

Pacemaker Checked

Vice President Dick Cheney will undergo a routine exam today to check the condition of a high-tech pacemaker that was placed in his chest in June 2001.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said the tests at George Washington University Medical Center would include a physical exam, an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram and a stress test. The vice president planned to be back at work later in the day, she said.

"It's a routine physical," McBride said. She said the vice president will have a colonoscopy later this month.

Cheney has had four heart attacks, though none as vice president. His last checkup was in May 2004. It determined that his pacemaker, called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, was working fine and had never had to be activated.

AFL-CIO May Back

Pro-Labor Republicans

Organized labor should help politicians who will advance labor's cause rather than simply supporting Democrats, says a union leader pushing for changes in the AFL-CIO.

"We can't just elect Democratic politicians and try to take back the House and take back the Senate and think that's going to change workers' lives," said Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.

During a briefing yesterday, Stern said politics is only part of labor's strategy. He said "electing Democrats and taking back the House or getting rid of [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay" are not enough to answer workers' problems.

Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, countered, "We are committed to standing with and supporting elected leaders or candidates who will stand with working people." That means the AFL-CIO sometimes does not support Democrats and sometimes supports Republican candidates who back labor rights, she said.

-- From News Services