Five Reasons to Hope for a U.S. Default

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Even the impending debt apocalypse has its upsides.

So, it’s come to this: after weeks of work, congressional Democrats and Republicans have failed to reach a debt-ceiling compromise. The event that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner called “unthinkable” last week — a U.S. default on its debt obligations — has started to look pretty thinkable. In other news, the House spent Thursday afternoon renaming post offices. (Sources close to Speaker John Boehner explained that the Titanic deck chairs were not available on short notice.)

Sound bleak? Buck up; here are five reasons why a U.S. default might not be the worst thing in the whole world. They’re not entirely serious, but, hey, neither is Congress.


1. Say hello to the Workers’ Paradise.

Marxists know that there’s only one way to build a communist world: we need a proletarian revolution to overthrow capitalism and usher in the start of the socialist era. (If this idea makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably because you own the means of production.) A U.S. default and the economic shockwaves it produces could be just the jolt that the working class needs to finally start that revolution it’s always talking about. To arms, my brothers!

2. It’s better than the alternative, according to some Austrians. 

Ron Paul, the chief gnome (excuse me, angry Ron Paul supporters: Dr. Gnome) of the Austrian school of economic theory, wrote an editorial last week explaining how a debt default now is better than a larger disaster later. Raising the debt ceiling now, he claims, would mean continuing monetary looseness, uncontrollable inflation, and an even bigger bust in the future. Dead Austrian Eugen Ritter von Böhm-Bawerk agrees. (Most other economists don’t.)

3. We’ll get to see John Boehner’s biggest cry yet.

If you thought Boehner’s tearful meeting with Republican lawmakers on Wednesday was exciting, just wait for the waterworks that would accompany a default. Boehner’s marketed himself and his Republican House to the American people on the strength of his folksy charm, and if there’s one thing folks do when the government fails to fulfill its basic economic obligations, it’s cry. And cry. And invoke small-business owners. And cry some more.

4. Members of Congress will finally get back to the important work of doing nothing.

Time was when a big day for a member of Congress meant showing up for roll call and maybe getting a few thousand dollars for your district’s maritime mammal museum. But this debt-ceiling fight has meant that politicians have had to work for literally hours at a time. For a body which meets barely 150 days a year and whose most powerful strategic move, the filibuster, is based on making sure that nothing happens, this is unacceptable. I appreciate President Obama’s insistence that members of Congress meet on the weekends to solve the crisis, but I think we all know that the men and women of Washington simply aren’t cut out for this kind of pressure.

5. My personal financial troubles look tame by comparison.

Remember the semester in 11th grade when you got a C- in Biology but your parents didn’t get mad at you because your sister brought home a D in Conduct? A debt default is like that, for the whole nation. If the United States fails to make a payment on its “national credit card,” as Obama is fond of calling it, can Capital One really complain when I fail to make a payment on mine? Poll numbers are already showing that neither Obama nor Congressional Republicans look good in this fight, and if the government defaults they won’t be able to hold a candle to me — a responsible, reasonable, non-global-economic-catastrophe-causing American. It’s been said that citizens of a democracy get the government they deserve. Maybe this embarrassing fiasco will finally convince us that we deserve better.