Uncle Sam, robot 

Here's a new wrinkle in the debt-limit debate: it turns out that the feds may not be able to turn off the spigot even if the deadline passes and they're legally required to. Reuters reports that:

"If Treasury were to decide to delay payments, it would need to re-program government computers that generate automatic payments as they fall due -- a massive and difficult undertaking."

Felix Salmon comments: "it’s far from clear that it’s even possible to stop making the 3 million payments that Treasury makes automatically every day." The reprogramming almost certainly "could not be implemented overnight — and for political reasons nobody is going to get started on such an effort until after all hope is lost for a deal in Congress."

It's quite a picture: we've got liberty-threatening legislation signed by presidential Autopen, an illegal war fought by remote-controlled robot assassins, and out-of-control spending on autopilot. If only FedGov followed the First Law of Robotics.

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Gene Healy

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