Negotiators are working around the clock on Capitol Hill to hammer out a deal to raise the debt ceiling — but there isn’t a lot of optimism about an agreement.
In a conversation with WTOP anchor Mark Lewis on Thursday, CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger warned that a lack of a deal by the so-called X date could put billions of dollars in Social Security checks, military pay and retirement benefits in limbo for millions of Americans as soon as next week.
“You know what happens when you don’t pay your bills on time — your credit score goes down, and it costs you more to borrow, right? The same thing kind of works at the government level,” Schlesinger said. “When we see a downgrade, it makes it more expensive for the United States government to borrow and usually causes quite a bit of uncertainty in all financial markets.”
House Republicans are refusing to raise the debt limit unless President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats impose restrictions on future spending. A government default would be unprecedented and devastating to the nation’s economy. The president, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and economic experts have said default could prove disastrous in a way not seen since the Great Recession.
Lawmakers are tentatively not expected back at work until Tuesday, just two days from June 1, when Yellen has said the U.S. could start running out of cash to pay its bills and face a federal default.
There isn’t really a blueprint for what would happen, but it would have far-reaching effects down to the local level. Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman recently warned that a federal default would hobble the state’s economy and cause unemployment to skyrocket.
A downgrade of the government’s top-notch credit rating by Standard & Poor’s in 2011 devastated the stock market, Schlesinger explained, but subsequent deals and discussions in Congress ensured a recovery.
This time, the ripples of a worst-case scenario might not be so easy to spring back from.
For regular folks, Schlesinger said this is the sort of “break the glass” emergency that a rainy-day fund is meant to safeguard against. If you don’t have one, unfortunately, brace for a headache if push comes to shove.
“I think that if you are one of those folks who is not getting a check on which you rely next week, you immediately communicate to the people that you have to make payments to,” she said.
“Say: ‘Hey, utility company. Hey, cable company. Hey, landlord, the U.S. government just stiffed me. That’s why I’m stiffing you, not because I’m a bad person.'”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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