"The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns," - Ronald Reagan, urging a raise in the debt ceiling in 1983.
We have hit the debt ceiling. The Treasury is now essentially fudging it. They will soon run out of ways to fudge it. When they do, very bad things will happen.
The debt ceiling itself might seem nothing more than an opportunity for self-righteous circle-jerking every few years or so, but it's nevertheless a real catastrophe if not raised. Imagine the code that had to be entered on Lost to stop the island from blowing up*, except if everyone got on their high horses and ranted about fiscal responsibility before punching in the numbers. That is the debt ceiling, except it's the very real US and world economy and not an island on a TV show that would blow up.
Now imagine someone barricading themselves in that room and refusing to enter the code until their demands are met.
That is the situation that we find ourselves in today. Failure to raise the debt ceiling will result in an unmitigated economic disaster. Yet the Republicans have said, quite bluntly, that they will bring about that scenario should the Senate and President fail to capitulate to their demands--demands which mostly consist of cuts in liberal-favored expenditures that amount to a penny or two on the federal dollar.
Today's GOP is the waning empire's final paroxysm of denial--Nero not just fiddling as Rome burns, but demanding concessions before he gives permission to fetch water.
*Or whatever it was that would happen. I didn't actually watch the show, I just remember it being bad.