So, now we see the Treasury's dilemma: It could go back to borrowing at its January rate, but then it would run out of legal borrowing authority in a matter of weeks. Or it could continue to spend down its cash reserves at February's rate, but then it would run out of cash in a matter of weeks.
Either way, in a matter of weeks, the federal government's broke.
What's a $3.819-trillion-per-year federal behemoth to do in such a situation?
One solution would be to have Congress and President Barack Obama enact a new law upping the limit on the amount of money the Treasury can borrow.
But that would be very politically inconvenient. Right now, you see, Congress and the president are trying to finally work out legislation to fund the government for fiscal year 2011 -- which started five months ago on Oct. 1, 2010.
At this moment, Congress is prepared to send the president a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded for two weeks past March 4, when the current continuing resolution funding the government expires.
House Republicans say this two-week continuing resolution will cut $4 billion from this year's budget -- that is $4 billion from a $3.819 trillion budget that is projected to run a $1.645 trillion deficit.
The $4 billion the proposed two-week continuing resolution would cut is about one-fortieth of the $158.5 billion shortfall the government needed to drain last month from its cash reserve. In other words, it equals less than one day's worth of federal overspending.
As of Feb. 25, according to the Treasury's Department's Bureau of the Public Debt, the total federal debt equaled $14.195 trillion ($14,194,764,339,462.64). There are 112,611,029 households in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. That means the federal government already owes $126,051 for every household in the country.
It will be more next month, the month after that and the month after that, and next year -- no matter which party wins the debate over the latest continuing resolution.
Neither President Obama nor Senate Democrats nor House Republicans have presented a plan that would produce a federal surplus and actually reduce our national debt. They are only debating who is more likely to marginally delay the inevitable day of reckoning.
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