For months now, August 2 has loomed as the scariest date on the calendar (apart from June 26, which heralded the return of The Marriage Ref. Shudder.) This was the day that, unless the debt ceiling was raised, the federal government would have to stop honoring some of its obligations — debt interest, Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, veterans' benefits, and so on.
Nobody wants that to happen. Sane people don't want that to happen, so Congress and President Obama have been trying to reach a deal before that date. But, as it turns out, the Treasury Department checked its couch cushions, rolled all of its loose change, and got its roommate to hand over his share of the rent a few weeks early, and they found enough dough to last a bit longer:
As lawmakers and President Obama rush to craft an agreement to increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the Treasury Department is standing by its estimate that the government will need to borrow more money after Aug. 2 to pay for all its obligations.
But several new reports — from UBS, Barclays and Wells Fargo — have cast doubt on that estimate. Analysts have said that daily tax receipts have been higher than anticipated and that the Treasury has quite a bit of cash on hand ...
UBS estimates that the government will run out of money to pay all bills starting no sooner than Aug. 8. Barclays suggests Aug. 10. Wells Fargo Securities said the government might have to cut back on some spending but could pay most of its bill through August.
This means a few things:
Congress will have some more breathing room to hammer out a deal. That's good.
Congress will still probably wait until the last possible moment to reach an agreement anyway, which means we, the people, may be forced to endure this soul-deadening display of knee-jerk partisanship and political theatrics for a week longer than we had hoped. That's bad.
Old people concerned about their Social Security checks have more time to write angry letters to their representatives in Congress. That's good for them, because it gives them something to do.