More Government Shutdown Hype

Courtesy of Mish.

The AP comments How budget showdowns could squeeze the US economy. The story is nearly all hype. Let’s take a look.

Q. What exactly will happen within the next days and weeks?

A. The most urgent deadline is for Congress and the White House to agree to keep funding the government after the current budget year ends Monday. Otherwise, some of the government would have to shut down. The House and Senate are considering bills to fund the government past the deadline. But House Republicans want to cut off funding for President Barack Obama’s health care law as a condition of passing the spending measure. Senate Democrats and the White House have balked. Unless one side essentially blinks, a partial shutdown of the government will occur.

Mish: That is accurate so far.

Q. What about the federal borrowing cap? First of all, what is it?

A. It’s a legal limit on how much debt the government can pile up. The government accumulates debt two ways: It borrows money from investors by issuing Treasurys. And it borrows from itself, mostly from Social Security revenue.

Mish: It’s important to note there is no social security fund whatsoever. Every penny and then some has been borrowed and spent. Here comes the hype.

Q. What if Congress can’t agree to raise the cap in time?

A. It could be disastrous. No longer authorized to borrow, the government would have to pay its bills only out of the revenue it gets from taxes and fees. This would force the government to immediately slash spending by 32 percent, the Bipartisan Policy Center estimates. Most analysts think the government would delay paying each day’s bills until it had accumulated enough money to pay them all.

Even worse, the government could miss interest payments on Treasurys, triggering a first-ever default by the U.S. government. U.S. Treasurys are held by banks, governments and individuals worldwide. Ultimately, a prolonged default could lead to a global financial crisis.

At the same time, Social Security and other benefit payments would be delayed. Government contractors might not be paid and would likely lay off workers. Paychecks for military personnel could be delayed.

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