How a Debt Default Could Bring Down the Dollar

Illustration by George Wylesol Mr. Lofgren is a former staff member of the House and Senate budget committees.

Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 times to increase the statutory debt limit to avert a government default. Indeed, when I worked in Congress, from the mid-1980s to 2011, after a bit of posturing, Congress always increased the debt ceiling — and created the expectation that debt-limit fights were a seasonal Washington ritual, like the cherry blossoms or the Marine Corps marathon, of no existential importance.

But lifting the debt is no longer more or less routine, especially when Republicans control the House. […]

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