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ND professor talks numbers in debt debate

Businessmen say uncertainty stymies investors

by Kevin Allen
Publication: South Bend Tribune

July 27, 2011


Washington’s debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling includes some gigantic numbers.

The U.S. government is on track to spend $1.4 trillion more than it collects in taxes this budget year. The national debt is $14.3 trillion, or about $46,000 per person.

Perhaps the smallest number involved in the wrangling is six - that’s how many days Congress and President Barack Obama have before the federal government hits the current limit on how much it’s allowed to borrow.

Without raising the debt ceiling, the government won’t be able to sell more bonds for the money it needs to continue paying all of its bills beyond Tuesday.

A default could mean a partial government shutdown and suspend payments in programs such as Medicare and Social Security. It also could lead credit-rating agencies to downgrade the nation’s top-level AAA rating, causing interest rates to rise for everything from credit cards to car and home loans.

Tom Cosimano, an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame, said government still would collect taxes, but that revenue falls short of obligations by about 37 percent, or about $100 billion per month.

“What they’d have to do is decide, of all their expenses, which ones they aren’t going to pay,” Cosimano said.

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