NPR logo Debt-Limit Tools Prove Challenge To US Paying August Bills With Just Cash

Debt-Limit Tools Prove Challenge To US Paying August Bills With Just Cash

Anyone who believes that the federal government can easily pay its most essential bills even if the U.S. debt ceiling isn't raised by Aug. 2 should try the interactive tools several news outlets recently created.

Based on numbers-crunching by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the tools effectively drive home the sobering point that doing what some conservatives have argued, that is, just paying the interest on the debt and a few chosen programs, would create terrible dilemmas for policymakers.

In short, it would require the wisdom of Solomon to make it work and even then, it likely wouldn't work well.

Bloomberg's @BGov, the Washington Post and PBS all offer tools which represent the choices in different ways. The PBS tool includes a slider that let's you see the daily inflows and outflows during the month of August.

But they all make the same point in different ways. If you only made interest payments on the U.S. Treasuries, entitlements, military pay and Veterans Affairs, federal salaries and nutritional assistance programs, you would pretty much burn through virtually all the $172.4 billion the federal government estimates it will take in from Aug. 3 to Aug. 31.

The problem is the bills due for the month total $306.7 billion. What wouldn't you pay, the $31.7 billion owed to Defense Department vendors or the $1.4 billion the Justice Department needs to run its myriad programs?

Try them and see if you don't quickly come up against some difficult, headache-inducing choices.