Consider the stakes on debt-ceiling negotiations officially raised. Standard & Poor’s, one of the two major credit-rating agencies, says that if the U.S. fails to make a scheduled debt payment on August 4, it will lower the country’s triple-A rating immediately—and not just a little bit, but all the way to D, the lowest notch on S&P’s scale, signifying default. That should put pressure on Congress, which is stalled in negotiations to raise the national debt ceiling, a crucial step toward making the payment.
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