Of course the United States will pay its debts. No reasonable person should doubt that.
But the prospect of even a brief lapse in payments on the trillions of dollars in bonds that finance the national debt has prompted hand wringing among financial and government analysts throughout the world. They fear such an eventuality could trigger a global panic in financial markets, throwing many countries into a new recession.
In both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, near-frantic negotiations on measures to increase the national debt limit have been in progress for several days. Unless the ceiling is increased formally by Congress, the government will be unable to borrow any more money. Because of our $16.7 trillion national debt, Washington has to borrow money to make payments on loans it already has taken out.
Officially, the debt ceiling will be reached at midnight tonight. Undoubtedly, as some lawmakers have pointed out, President Barack Obama's administration could use what amounts to bookkeeping tactics to continue borrowing money for a few more days.
But the question is whether Obama would do that. Remember, this is the president who issued orders that bureaucrats make the ongoing government "shutdown" as painful as possible for the American people.
Is he so intent on scoring political points - on blaming conservatives for both genuine problems and ones he has created - to do the same thing about the debt ceiling? In other words, if midnight is reached without an agreement in Congress, will Obama do what is best for the nation - or allow a financial panic to occur so he can blame conservatives?
Let's hope we don't have to find out.