Chart Shows U.S. Running Out of Cash As Soon As Oct. 18


With so much focus in the US on Syria, where even President Barack Obama says there is no immediate threat to American interests, it might be worth re-focusing for a moment on this chart from the Bipartisan Policy Center. It shows the government’s supply of cash running out sometime between October 18 and November 5—a serious threat not just to the US but also to the global economy:

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 3.21.10 PM

The US reached its public debt limit on May 19 after Congress reinstated it following a brief suspension. The ceiling is now $16.669 trillion, though only a little more than $10 trillion of that debt is held by the public. To help keep the free cash flowing, the Treasury has adopted “extraordinary measures,” which mainly consist of holding off on the reinvestment of certain government funds in Treasury securities so that it can continue offering them to the public. Those measures only created limited space for new borrowing, though. While the expanding economy has increased tax revenue, government obligations scheduled for October, including the accrual of military benefits and public pension payments, will likely leave the US without cash, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s analysis.

In that case, either Congress raises the legal borrowing limit in time for a refinancing, the US defaults on its debt with disastrous consequences, or things get entirely weird. One thing’s for sure: An uncertain process around lifting the ceiling will upset markets.

The good news is that US borrowing this fiscal year is set to be $400 billion lower than last year, and next year will be even lower, around 3.4% of GDP, putting the US on a path to reduce its publicly-held debt over the next decade. That should be a good incentive for an agreement to raise the debt limit (why sabotage the government over debt when debt is already going down?). But political conflicts mean that any agreement will be accompanied by sturm und drang.

(Image via Shai_Halud/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.