When Republicans and Democrats play chicken with the debt ceiling, some of the consequences are easy to predict: Wall Street will get skittish, voters will get annoyed, and the ratings companies will get a bit stern. What's harder to imagine, however, is that the day will come when a private company will have more economic freedom than the world's largest democracy.
But that's exactly what seems to be happening. As Matt Hartley reported Thursday in the Financial Post, the U.S. operating balance -- basically, the amount of money that the government has to play with before it hits the debt ceiling -- now stands at roughly $73.8 billion. While impressive-sounding, this princely sum is roughly $2 billion less than Apple's (AAPL) cash reserves of around $75.9 billion, suggesting that -- on paper, at least -- the technological behemoth is on a firmer financial footing than its home country.
Then again, once we factor in the more than $4 billion in taxes that Apple is currently trying to dodge, the balance sheet shifts back fractionally in favor of the U.S. government. In other words, maybe the tax loophole fight currently wending its way through Congress is more than just a political curiosity.
Until the debt fight is over and the loopholes get closed ... Brother Jobs, can you spare a dime?
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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