The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion What’s at stake in real money if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling

Photograph of the U.S. Capitol building.
The U.S. Capitol on May 10. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
1 min

Now that we’re getting close to June 1, the earliest estimated date when Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen says the full faith and credit of the United States will get obliterated if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, it’s time we talk real money.

The latest analysis from the Bipartisan Policy Center vividly shows what’s at stake if Congress fails to raise the legal limit on federal borrowing. And it’s most stark when you look at cash-on-hand vs. bills due on a particular day. Mind you, all of this is fluid because daily tax revenue is as predictable as a George Santos biography.

In the first two days of June, $47 billion of Medicare payments and $25 billion of Social Security payments will be due. Each day the debt ceiling isn’t raised, unpaid expenses grow — and so does the gap between revenue and expenses. When you look at what those bills are for, it’s hard not to see the real lives that would be upended by their nonpayment. And it’s even more difficult to understand why anyone would flirt with such disaster.