Debt clock ticking

This morning the’s debt countdown clock reads 5 days and 13 hours until a government default. The news media and politicians are wading into the murky water of what could happen if Congress cannot agree on a plan and the federal government runs out of money come next Tuesday.

A prevailing opinion is that the government will not actually default on its debt obligations, but instead prioritize those payments over its other bills, giving the Treasury a kind of Congressional power by forcing it to choose who gets paid. But it comes with disastrous side effects, among them a downgraded credit rating and global economic destabilization.

Which bills get paid is the big question under this scenario. Bloomberg has an interactive feature that allows you to put yourself in the Treasury’s shoes and decide who gets paid and who doesn’t. The New York Times highlights the potential effects of default on states, particularly Maryland and Virginia, whose economies depend heavily on the federal government.

The Treasury notes that it cannot legally pick and choose bill payments based on moral, political, or even economic grounds. Rather, it may need to pay bills according to when they come due. Complicating matters are the automation systems the Treasury has in place that would need to be reprogrammed in a hurry. The Wall Street Journal reports that a more detailed plan could be released in the next few days.

Closer to home, Mayor Thomas Menino warned of the “catastrophe” Boston would suffer should debt talks fail, while admitting that the city doesn’t have a contingency plan in place. State Treasurer Steve Grossman said yesterday that the state has enough cash on hand to make up for the federal government’s missing payments until September, and that officials are preparing emergency plans.

                                                                                                                                    –CHRISTINA PRIGNANO


The Massachusetts House approves a sales tax holiday for Aug. 13 and 14. The Eagle-Tribune reports the bill is likely to become law by the end of the week.

Maurice Cunningham, in a column for CommonWealth, praises William Bulger and dismisses his critics.

The Patriot Ledger writes in favor of legislation that would allow parents of children with behavioral problems to seek out mental health and other services without getting a court order.


A Saugus library assistant is being investigated in connection with “financial irregularities.” The Item reports the woman was convicted of insurance fraud in 1993.

The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, expresses amazement that Lawrence officials couldn’t find qualified contractors able to finish work on a school before school-year starts.  Meanwhile, a plea for good candidates to apply for the job of CFO for the city comes in novel form: an op-ed in the Globe by Lawrence City Councilor Daniel Rivera. In another Globe op-ed, Harvard economist Ed Glaeser says improved schools are the key to the comeback of mid-sized Massachusetts cities like Lawrence, not “expensive infrastructure schemes, like new commuter rail lines.”

A Gloucester Times editorial takes the developer of Gloucester Crossing to task for breaking his promise that he wouldn’t bring in chain stores that would compete with local businesses. Olympia Sports and Petco violate the pledge, the paper says.

The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department is asking residents to register their cell phone numbers and email addresses with the county’s emergency alert system, the Patriot Ledger reports.

The Brockton Enterprise argues that family connections in city departments are corrupting the city. A spokesperson for Brockton mayor Linda Balzotti would not comment because the mayor did not read the Enterprise’s investigation into nepotism at the water department, in part because it wasn’t readily available online.


The National Journal’s Major Garrett offers five keys to a debt deal. Time reports a compromise is brewing behind the scenes. Here’s Jim Braude’s take. The Springfield Republican says that Washington needs somebody like Robert Kraft to take charge. House Speaker John Boehner spent yesterday promoting his own plan (which isn’t all that different than that bit of socialism Harry Reid is pushing) and putting down an insurrection in his ranks. Meanwhile, the president is left standing on the sidelines.

The Globe looks at Scott Brown’s strategy of laying low on contentious issues and not taking a firm stand until late in the game.

Detroit adopts a radical plan to provide city services based on the health of a neighborhood: More stable areas would get a full array of public services, blighted neighborhoods fewer.

The FBI has some eyebrow-raising titles on its reading list for new agents.

The New Bedford Standard-Times publishes a letter from New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang to the president and members of the Massachusetts delegation regarding the debt ceiling. Lang is president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association.


Princeton professor Cornel West and TV talk show host Travis Smiley plan a “poverty tour” to critique what they view as President Obama’s lack of attention to those struggling the most.

Big dogs contribute to Setti Warren’s US Senate campaign despite signs that the campaign is sputtering.

David Bernstein examines Elizabeth Warren’s almost-maybe-campaign. Meanwhile, there’s another possible superstar outsider candidate hovering over the Senate race: Former John Hancock CEO David D’Alessandro.


A labor shortage is holding back growth in the state’s technology sector, the Globe reports.


The Peabody School Department ends its fiscal year $202,000 in the red, the Salem News reports.

Radio Boston discusses the MCAS science test, which 731 students failed to pass this year. Secretary of Education Paul Reville and two local academics join the discussion.

Cleanup of contamination at Westport Middle School may cause displacement of current students if the work is not completed by early September, the Fall River Herald News reports.  The cleanup project also comes with a $1 million price tag.


Doctors at Boston Medical Center say they are seeing an increase in hungry children.


Delaware North bids $75 million for the MBTA’s North Station garage, giving the financially troubled transit authority a lift, CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow reports.

Work on the Pittsfield airport expansion could come to a grinding halt if Congress doesn’t get its act together and pass a bill renewing the Federal Aviation Administration’s operating authority.

Nine automakers sign on to a plan to raise vehicles’ average fuel efficiency to 55 miles per gallon by 2025.


There used to be shouting and fighting at public meetings about the cleanup of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, but there was nary a whisper at the latest meeting.

Western Massachusetts residents find out that Tuesday’s storm was not quite a tornado, but not just your regular thunderstorm either.

State officials will investigate claims that wind turbines can cause nausea and vertigo.


Too much sharing about your work or your boss on social networking sites can lead to a courtroom fight, NECN reports.

Time compiles the top 30 all-time best music videos, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller is No. 2, not No. 1.

Fox comes up with a way to entice viewers to pay to watch shows like Glee or The Simpsons online.