You may have just a few weeks left to enjoy the privilege of lending money directly to Uncle Sam for almost nothing in return.
You do, that is, unless Congress acts this summer to raise the nation's borrowing limit.
The Treasury will auction $72 billion in new debt next week, it said Wednesday. That will be its last quarterly auction until Congress raises the debt limit. The $14.3 trillion limit is expected to be hit May 16, though higher tax revenue and accounting maneuvers will let the government pay its bills until Aug. 2, the Treasury says.
Once the borrowing limit is reached, the government must halt auctions of new debt.
Many lawmakers have refused to raise the borrowing authority unless Congress also agrees to reduce the nation's long-term debt. Optimism is rising that a bipartisan group of senators can push through a plan to both raise the debt limit and shrink borrowing by up to $4 trillion within a decade.
Until then, the government is interested in borrowing from you. But be forewarned: It doesn't want to pay you much. When the government auctions 3-year, 10-year and 30-year Treasurys next week, you can expect roughly these annual yields for your money:
_ For the 3-year Treasury note: 1 percent, or less.
_ The 10-year note: Roughly 3.25 percent.
_ The 30-year bond: Roughly 4.35 percent.
The government needs to borrow to finance its operations; it borrows about 40 cents out of each dollar it spends. It then adds about $125 billion in new debt each month to finance annual deficits. Since 2009, those deficits have been running above $1 trillion.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned Congress that a failure to raise the debt limit would have a catastrophic impact: a default in which the government would renege on its obligations to finance the debt. He has said that interest payments for both the government and consumers and businesses would soar.
Geithner said this week that higher-than-expected tax receipts and bookkeeping maneuvers would give Congress until Aug. 2 to reach a deal to raise the debt limit. That was about a month later than a previous estimate he had made about when the government would run out of time.