If you’ve been following U.S. news lately, you’ve likely heard about a looming debt crisis.
You might have even heard Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warn that we might default on our debt as soon as June 1. But where did she get that date from? As it turns out, most of the information about this important issue comes from just one economic policy wonk.
As with most federal government bureaucrats, Dave Lebryk isn’t a household name. But his position as fiscal assistant secretary at the Treasury Department is particularly important as America approaches a fiscal cliff.
Ordinarily, Lebryk is responsible for providing Yellen with quarterly reports about how much money the federal government has. With the debt creeping closer and closer to its limit, however, he’s in daily contact with the Treasury secretary.
Here’s a sampling of what kind of insight he provides:
- How close the U.S. is exceeding its current debt limit
- How much cash the Treasury needs to borrow to pay its debts
- How the government can forestall a default in the meantime.
He has an important job even in normal economic times. These days, he says his team takes the responsibility “enormously seriously.”
How we got here
In a nutshell, the Biden administration and congressional Republicans are at odds over how to raise the nation’s debt limit, which could result in a disastrous default. Negotiations are ongoing, but as of this writing, it’s unclear whether a deal will be reached before the scheduled default date.
Behind the scenes, Lebryk is working hard to do whatever he can to avoid catastrophe. Former Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur described Lebryk’s role like this: “He runs the nation’s checkbook. He is not quite the CFO of the country, but he is pretty close.”