Once every twelve months, the rolling 12-month numbers are synchronized with the official "fiscal year" (October thru September). This is it, and it's a better-looking trend this month—largely because of the corrected timing issue that dragged $50 billion of September's social security spending into August's numbers.
Unfortunately, the trends are pointing towards a May 2009 balanced budget. The reason that's unfortunate is because May 2009 is seven months too late to keep the politicians on both sides from demagoguing "the deficit" during the presidential campaign. [I have given up on the hope that someone will ask the candidates "What's wrong with a deficit that doesn't increase the debt burden?" I have therefore fallen back on the hope that the budget will come into balance before fall 2008, because that would induce cognitive dissonance in every candidate fond of using "fixing the deficit" to justify whatever fiscal agenda they've already staked out.]
My dream scenario, still, is to see tax-hiking politicians—on national television—stuttering like Porky Pig as they try to explain why we need tax hikes when we're already running a surplus. (No doubt their justification would quickly and subtly shift to "the grim reaper just around the corner"—but at least "today's deficit" would no longer be a plausible scapegoat.) However, my dream scenario cannot happen if the budget doesn't come into balance by fall '08. May '09 would be too late to improve the election debate; worse, it would be just in time for the next president to take undeserved credit for "balancing the budget, at last." How disgusting that would be.
Anyway, here's the latest balanced-budget-trend chart; click to enlarge.
Two of the biggest contributors to tax receipts are individual income taxes and corporate income taxes, shown below. The slowdown in corporate taxes is not encouraging; a pickup in the economy's performance would help move the overall trend in the correct direction.
Lastly, regarding the social security spending blip we saw last month: The other shoe has dropped. Several people had pointed out that a large portion of September's social security checks were cut in August; they were right, and it all leveled out in September. This chart illustrates the net (neutral) effect of the timing blip: