If you’re like most Americans outside the Washington beltway, the “shutdown” of the federal government has had little or no impact on your life thus far.

A group of Republicans are staging what amounts to another in a series of protest maneuvers designed to draw attention to their opposition to Obamacare.

They are making a lot of noise about this because they promised the people who elected them they would do that.

We have had government shutdowns before over budget issues; we just haven’t had one in 17 years.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and President Barack Obama are playing the roles Rep. Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton played the last time around.

Shutdowns can last hours, or they can last weeks. The longest one was 21 days in December and January of 1995 and 1996.

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There have been 17 shutdowns since 1977, according to Wikipedia. We survived those and we will survive this one.

Ironically, Obamacare isn’t shut down during the shutdown; it’s not part of the spending bill being held hostage.

This shutdown likely will be over by the end of week. That’s based on the fact that most previous shutdowns have lasted fewer than three days.

The event we really need to worry about will happen in three weeks.

The same tea party people in Congress will attempt to do something much more dangerous — put the nation’s financial reputation for soundness on the line by refusing to increase the debt limit.

They will threaten the very underpinnings of our economy in another attempt to either kill Obamacare or extract other cuts in government spending.

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Nations issue bonds, which are promises to repay borrowed money at some point in the future. Government debt is generally considered very safe, since in theory governments can always raise taxes or cut other spending.

As a result, stable nations can borrow at very low interest rates. The U.S. pays one of the lowest rates, yet we still attract people willing to lend us money from around the world.

That’s because of our strong economy and reputation for always paying our debts.

The U.S. has had a national debt, except for two years in the early 1800s, since the Revolutionary War.

And we have never, ever defaulted on that debt.

Here’s a sampler of nations that have defaulted: Algeria, Angola, Rwanda, Bolivia, Chile, Albania and Germany during and after World War II.

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The list of nations that have defaulted is long, and we, proudly, are not on it.

Nations default when they run out of money and cannot borrow. Our reason — a disagreement over an existing law — would be the stupidest, shoot-yourself-in-the-foot default ever.

While Obamacare is a big deal, defaulting on our debt — failing to pay our creditors — would be a disaster, most experts believe.

The people saying that it won’t be are politicians, not bankers or economists.

The unpleasant result would be higher interest rates on debt going forward, costing us, in the long run, billions of dollars we would otherwise not have to pay.

A default would freeze credit markets because it would take time to sort out which debt is in default and which is not.

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One economist compared the effect to pouring buckets of sand into the gears of a well-oiled machine.

Yes, we have a big and worrisome national debt and we have large annual deficits.

But little mentioned is that the budget deficit has been cut in half since the height of the last economic crisis.

As the economy improves, tax revenue always increases while the demand for public services, like food stamps and unemployment compensation, gradually declines.

The Congress and president do need to make gradual, long-term changes in entitlement programs.

But that is just one of many issues Congress and the president fail to address as they posture rather than govern.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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