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Originally published October 4, 2013 at 4:05 PM | Page modified October 4, 2013 at 5:22 PM

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Editorial: A U.S. default on its debt would be disastrous

A debt-ceiling crisis would be a constitutional disaster. Congress must act.

Seattle Times Editorial

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A government shutdown is a pain, a mess-up, an embarrassment and a disgusting political strategy. A default on U.S. government obligations would be a disaster.

Any member of Congress who champions such a crisis should be publicly shamed and defeated at the next election.

House Republicans are angry that the Affordable Care Act was a partisan bill passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote. So it was. They have repeatedly voted to defund or delay it. They can even create a short-term government shutdown, though it is reckless and likely to backfire on them.

But do not create a constitutional crisis.

In that crisis, Congress would be forbidding the government to raise the money it has instructed the government to spend. And according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, that crisis automatically happens if the current deadlock extends past Oct. 17. At that point, the government cannot pay its bills.

Then the choice is which creditors, bondholders and beneficiaries to pay and which ones to stiff. Or President Obama could order the Treasury to borrow money not authorized by Congress.

Don’t go there. The American people will not appreciate it.

None of this is to minimize the problem of the debt. At more than $16 trillion it is too high and has been growing at more than a trillion a year.

Congress has control of that, too. It can cut spending, starting with the military, farm subsidies and grants to state governments. It can tighten up social benefits and trim public employment and future pension benefits. It can do a lot of things.

Making such choices is Congress’ job, and running the government over a cliff is no way to do it.

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