Over the Limit

CBSNews.com reports that, at least by some measures, the U.S. has exceeded the legally authorized debt limit, but this doesn’t mean the government is about to shut down or stop spending money — at least not yet.

The ceiling was set at $12.104 trillion dollars. The latest posting by Treasury shows the National Debt at nearly $12.135 trillion.

A senior Treasury official told CBS News that the department has some “extraordinary accounting tools” it can use to give the government breathing room in the range of $150-billion when the Debt exceeds the Debt Ceiling.

Were it not for those “tools,” the U.S. Government would not have the statutory authority to borrow any more money. It might block issuance of Social Security checks and require a shutdown of some parts of the federal government.

Congress is expected to increase the debt limit by $290 billion, if not more, in coming weeks.

UPDATE: The end of the story has a qualification I omitted: “Technically, not all of the National Debt is subject to the Debt Limit – a small percentage is exempt.”  The number cited in the story is the National Debt, not the Public Debt Subject to Limit, so as a legal matter we may not be “over the limit.”  However, as this graph shows, only a very small percentage of the National Debt is excluded.