Impending U.S. Government Default Raises Concerns for Average Americans


As the U.S. government approaches a critical deadline that could lead to defaulting on its financial obligations, discussions and negotiations among President Joe Biden and congressional leaders have intensified. However, there is no immediate resolution in sight. The potential consequences of a government default are already beginning to manifest, with borrowing costs for the U.S. government soaring and interest rates rising. This article explores the potential implications for average Americans if the government defaults on its financial obligations.

Escalating Borrowing Costs and Rising Interest Rates:

Following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s recent announcement regarding the limited time left to pay bills, borrowing costs for the U.S. government have surged to over 5% for June. This increase in borrowing costs was anticipated, as history has shown that a previous accidental default in 1979 resulted in a permanent rise in borrowing costs for the U.S. If the U.S. were to default again, it would likely lead to a similar outcome, resulting in higher interest rates across various consumer financial products such as credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages. The rapid increase in interest rates would accelerate the trend towards higher borrowing costs, which is already underway due to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to curb inflation.

Negative Impacts on Businesses and Hiring:

The repercussions of a government default would also extend to businesses, making it more challenging for them to secure loans and hinder their ability to hire additional workers. The collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank have already contributed to increased commercial interest rates. A default would further exacerbate these challenges, leading to limited access to credit for businesses, hampering their growth and hiring prospects.

Prioritization of Payments and Disruption of Federal Services:

In the event of a default, the Biden administration would face the difficult task of prioritizing payments and allocating available funds to fulfill financial obligations. This would require making decisions regarding the payment of bondholders versus disbursing funds for critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare. The repercussions of these choices would have far-reaching consequences. However, the precise impact of a default is uncertain, as there is no established playbook for handling such a scenario. Treasury Secretary Yellen has cautioned that reprogramming the government’s payment systems to prioritize certain payments over others is not a straightforward task.

The Uncertainty and Potential Severity of the Fallout:

Economic analysts remain pessimistic about the prospects of a swift resolution to the impasse. Even if a payment prioritization plan were implemented, it would be experimental and fraught with legal, technical, economic, and political challenges, as highlighted by Wells Fargo economists. The economic impact of a default is uncertain, given that it has never occurred before. However, economic modeling suggests that the fallout could be severe. With no clear resolution in sight, experts suggest that it may take significant signs of stress, potentially involving stock market volatility, to compel lawmakers into action.


As the deadline for potential default looms closer, the implications for average Americans become increasingly concerning. A government default would likely lead to higher borrowing costs, rising interest rates, limited access to credit for businesses, and potential disruptions to federal services. The precise consequences of default are uncertain, as there is no previous experience to draw upon. The ongoing impasse highlights the urgent need for a resolution to avoid the potential economic turmoil and adverse impacts on the lives of everyday Americans.