Photo Credit: Tax CreditsYesterday’s report of a 0.1 percent GDP decline for the fourth quarter came as a surprise to most forecasters. But it actually masks considerable strength in the private economy. Namely, housing investment in the fourth quarter jumped 15.3 percent annually, business equipment and software spiked 12.4 percent, and real private final sales rose 2.6 percent. All in, the domestic private sector of the economy increased 3.4 percent annually — a very respectable gain.
And here’s one for the record books: Working ahead of year-end tax hikes, individuals shifted so much money to the fourth quarter at the 35 percent top rate that personal income grew by 7.9 percent annually — a huge number. And there’s more: In order to beat the taxman, dividend income rose 85.2 percent annually. You think tax incentives don’t matter? Guess again.
Now, all this private-sector strength occurred despite the fact that government spending — namely military spending — dropped 6.6 percent. Inventories also lost ground and the trade deficit widened.
But here’s a key point: Military spending has now fallen virtually to its lower sequester-spending-cut baseline. It did so in one quarter by about $40 billion. So the brunt of the impact over the coming years has already been felt. (Normally, as of recent years, military spending has been virtually flat.)
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