The Washington Post

The debt ceiling and a family’s bottom line

The news that congressional leaders Sunday evening reached a deal on the debt ceiling was good news to those of us families who live paycheck-to-paycheck. Still, the agreement is not yet a sure thing, meaning it’s too soon for many families to be sure that next bit of salary, or subsidy, will arrive on time.


The main point of confusion is that the U.S. Treasury Department has said the government might not have enough money on hand to pay all of its bills beginning Tuesday, but it hasn’t said exactly which bills will not be paid.

The Post yesterday published a good primer on who might be affected first if an agreement is not reached: Families who rely on the government, either for assistance or for a paycheck, are most vulnerable.

Military families, too, have good reason to be concerned. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta released a statement to defense personnel Friday reminding them to come to work this week no matter what happens in Congress. The statement was pointedly silent on the question of whether pay would be disrupted.

Meanwhile, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fielded questions from troops in Afghanistan about pay this weekend. When asked if the military would continue to get paid in the absence of a deal, Mullen said, according to MSNBC, “I honestly can’t answer that question.”, has an analysis of how it all might shake out. It concludes with a wonderfully practical bit of advice on the subject for military families that any family should consider.

“Chances are, all this worrying will come to nothing, but there are no guarantees. As our country struggles with continuously mounting financial challenges, military pay will probably continue to [be] threatened. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Take a little time today to set up an offensive strategy so a delayed paycheck won’t become a personal disaster.”



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