I’d still like to know if Treasury thinks October 17 is the drop-dead day for hitting the debt ceiling. I’ve looked through the various numbers about federal income and outgo, and I accept that the government shutdown probably doesn’t affect spending all that much. But it does affect it some, and I’d like to know how much.
Here’s why. If October 17 rolls around and Jack Lew suddenly announces that, thanks to the shutdown, we have some extra time before the sky falls, it’s going to feed the shockingly common Republican belief that all the debt ceiling chatter is little more than liberal scaremongering. For the same reason, I’d like Treasury to tell us definitively if they can prioritize payments or not. Because if it turns out they can, and the worst effects of the debt ceiling can therefore be deferred, Republicans will take it as even further evidence of scaremongering.
I know Treasury is in a tough position. But it could be disastrous if they’ve been less than 100 percent forthright and pundits everywhere start claiming that the whole thing has been a cynical game and there was never any serious danger after all. It wouldn’t be true, but it would nonetheless make resolution of the debt ceiling crisis even harder than it seems now.