It started on Wednesday with the shutdown of the Federal Trade Commission and the talk of cutbacks in the food stamp program.
Today, the administration's new pay and price advisory committees, the keystone of its voluntary wage-price program, began running out of operating money.
Pretty soon, the Internal Revenue Service won't have enough in its kitty to provide taxpayers with refunds for the solar and wind energy tax credits they're claiming.
After that, the Secret Service will have to trim back its protection of foreign embassies. And disaster-relief loans for small businesses will begin drying up.
This is the hard, sometimes poignant story of the day-to-day hardships that come when Uncle Sam misses a paycheck.
Because inflation has pushed federal outlays over expected targets, spending levels have bumped up against the fiscal 1980 congressional budget ceiling.
Congress can't appropriate any more money for government agencies and programs until it changes this ceiling. But it's all being delayed in floor fights.
As a result, there now are some $6.9 billion in so-called "supplemental" fiscal 1980 appropriations bills that are bogged down indefinitely. No passage, no money.
But like everyone else, Uncle Sam is in debt up to his ears, and there aren't any credit card companies that readily accept governments. The result: The agencies are having to tighten their belts and in some cases shut down entirely.
Like most crash austerity efforts, this one isn't hitting very logically.
The pay and price committees, for example, are being caught by an accident of timing. Carter established them last August, too late for regular appropriations bills.
While waiting for Congress to pass a supplemental, the administration financed the panels from the budget of the Council on Wage and Price Stability.
Now, the government's chief wage and price advisers are about to be forced to set a real example: The bite will affect both travel expenses and commissioners' pay.
The shortfall in the Secret Service's wallet came because more candidates started running for president earlier than officials had anticipated.
And then there's the problem with savings bond redemptions. With other investments so much more attractive, people have begun cashing in their savings bonds in droves. The government is running out of money to pay agents' fees.
It's also $300 million short in the space-shuttle program. If the money doesn't arrive from somewhere soon, some skilled technicians will have to be fired.
As for Congress, there's something the bureaucrats would like the lawmakers to remember: It isn't easy for anyone to get by these days when the payroll department messes up.