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No Accounting for Government

The sharp-eyed fellows at the CNSNews.com site have noticed something peculiar among the veritable mountains of data that the federal government routinely generates. Apparently, the United State’s national debt has been precisely $16,699,396,000,000 for the past month.
This is hard to account for, as one would expect that a debt to go up or down by at least some miniscule amount over the course of 31 days, and in the case of a government that ran a $98 billion deficit during the same period of time it would be expected to go up by approximately $98 billion, but government accountants seem to have a knack for hard accounting. Their efforts have somehow kept the debt stuck just $25 million below the legal debt limit, conveniently preventing the government from being in violation of its own laws, and that is rather precise work. After all, $25 million is a just a tick or two on the national debt clock, a relatively piddling sum that the president can blow through in just a few vacation days, so they’re cutting it awfully close.
Such a neat trick is the result of “extraordinary measures,” according to a letter sent by Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew to Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, which is appended by several pages of jargon-laden prose explaining how the illusion is achieved. The Secretary further explained that the statutory debt limit has been suspended by yet another law, and that the measures his department is employing to keep the debt under control are not at all extraordinary, being “the same one that have been used in previous debt limit impasses,” so the public is advised not to worry about anything. Lew also added some pointed criticism of the House budget proposal, threw in a pitch for the president’s plan, and warned that any attempt to further limit the debt will endanger the full faith and credit of the country.
Some might doubt the veracity of CNSNews.com, as the “c” stands for conservative, and perhaps that explains the lack of coverage elsewhere. The story contains links to corroborating Treasury Department documents, however, and the “dot gov” on the web address should satisfy the skeptics. Reporter Terence P. Jeffrey seems to be imply that’s there something fishy about the methods that have kept national debt just below its legal limit, but we’re not such suspicious sorts and are willing to accept the possibility that the unchanging debt is just a happy coincidence of revenues and expenditures evening out to the exact penny for an entire month. An extraordinary coincidence, as the Treasury Secretary might say, but altogether innocent.

— Bud Norman

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