System Makes It Hard To Prioritize U.S. Bill Payments

I hope that the President does not have to make these choices. It would be difficult to determine who gets paid and when. I will just be glad when all of this is over and we can began to concentrate on job growth.

It's not yet clear if the U.S. Treasury has the ability to pick and choose who gets paid and who gets stiffed if the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling isn't raised and the Treasury runs out of cash.

The government doesn't have flexibility like the average household might, says Jay Powell, a former Treasury undersecretary under President George H.W. Bush and a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

"What the United States government spends its money on is the safety net, which is largely health care and Social Security, plus an army," he says. "That's not like a household; a household may be able to stop going out to meals or to movies — things like that. You can't really do that at the federal level."

Furthermore, Powell says it isn't clear the Treasury Department can fine-tune its systems to prioritize the 80 million payments it makes every month.

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