On Monday, May 16, the US government officially exceeded the national debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion. Nothing much happened, of course, because Treasury Secretary Geithner had already announced that the Treasury Department could implement various emergency measures to fund the government and avoid default until around August 2.
Since most Americans have no idea what these emergency measures are, I thought it might be interesting to briefly discuss them. Basically these emergency measures include robbing cash from various government trust and pension funds to keep the US from defaulting on its debts and day-to-day obligations. You may be surprised at the many ways Treasury Secretary Geithner has to keep the government running until the debt ceiling is raised.
On the subject of raising the debt ceiling, the battle lines have clearly been drawn among Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama. Republicans vow that there must be at least $2 trillion in spending cuts in order to raise the debt ceiling from $14.3 trillion to $16.5 trillion. Democrats, on the other hand, want to raise taxes on the “rich” and on the five largest oil companies.A huge fight lies ahead between now and August 2.
Finally, both houses of Congress are quietly planning to vote on a straight-up bill to raise the debt ceiling without any spending cuts and without any tax increases. Both houses expect the "clean" debt ceiling vote to fail unanimously with no "yes" votes on either side. They all want to tell their constituents back home that they voted "no" on raising the debt ceiling. In their minds, this will pave the way politically for both sides to compromise. How dumb do they think we are?
Before getting into the debt ceiling saga, let's first turn to the latest economic reports which continue to show that the recovery is slowing down.