President Barack Obama and Congress face a mess if the federal government hits the debt ceiling Aug. 2. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, projects that the government will receive $172 billion in revenues between Aug. 3 and Aug. 31, but it is on the hook to spend $306 billion, leaving a shortfall of $134 billion.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama told Scott Pelley of CBS News that “there may simply not be the money in the coffers” to issue Social Security, veterans and disability checks after Aug. 3.

Not so. The $172 billion in revenues collected over the rest of the month can pay the $29 billion interest charges on the national debt, Social Security benefits ($49 billion), Medicaid and Medicare ($50 billion), active duty military pay ($2.9 billion), Department of Defense vendors ($31.7 billion), IRS refunds ($3.9 billion), and about a quarter of the $12.8 billion in unemployment checks due that month.

There will, however, be no cash for highway construction, no checks for federal workers or retirees, no agriculture payments, no open national parks. Interest rates are also likely to rise if U.S. debt is downgraded, adding massively to the deficit and further damaging the economy. This would be a disaster with no political winners.

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