Smacking Into the Debt Ceiling: the Day-by-Day Consequences

BY Paul Solman  July 12, 2011 at 10:20 AM EDT

Daily U.S. Government Income and Expenditures: Use the slide bar to see how Treasury’s cash deficit is projected to grow if the debt ceiling is reached, starting with Aug. 3. Mouse over the red points to see the running deficit for that day. Mouse over the red Out box to see a list of what might still be funded and how much it might cost. Click on ‘Running cash deficit’ or ‘daily cash flow’ to remove that information from the chart.

Funding scenarios: Roll over each color box to see what programs might — and might not — be funded based on two debt-breach scenarios. Click on the buttons to compare.

So what exactly happens if Congress and the White House don’t raise the debt ceiling by early next month? The Bipartisan Policy Center has generated a blow-by-blow, day-by-day account of the fallout. In the spirit of NewsHour even-handedness, it outlines the consequences without rhetoric or exclamation marks.

Making Sense

We’ve reformulated much of their data as an interactive graphic. However, if and when a deal is struck in Washington, you can scan it nostalgically in the spirit of “Remember when the United States was so politically paralyzed that it risked its credit rating and international credibility by refusing to hike the debt ceiling?” If a deal is not reached, you might bookmark the report and our graphic to consult once the deadline passes.

What do I think? That if a deal isn’t reached, the United States will continue paying interest on the national debt, thus avoiding anything that would constitute official default. Why do I think this?

Because, to take the August numbers, the United States is slated to take in about $200 billion in revenues and owe only $30 billion or so in interest payments.

But then will come the cuts. Our graphic lets you see the options, but my guess is that once the cleaver hits the meat, howls will be heard and a deal quickly struck. It’s just a guess though. As you may have tired of reading here, it’s a probabilistic universe. Moreover, why believe in my accuracy in making the odds? Even I don’t.

Interactive graphics by Justin Myers based on data from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._