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It is a measure of just how upside down our nation is when the Democrat in the White House is the fiscal conservative and the Republicans in Congress are the financial radicals. But that is the pass we have come to.

President Obama is nothing but correct when he points out that the reason the federal debt limit of $16.4 trillion is as high as it is, and needs to be higher, is that majorities in Congress — Republicans and Democrats — have already spent the money. And they spent the money without raising the taxes necessary to cover those costs.

Things like two wars we didn't pay for and a decade of tax cuts for the rich (and everyone else), which carry the fingerprints of both parties, are the cause of a national debt that is about to hit the ceiling. For Republicans such as Utah's Rep. Jason Chaffetz to even entertain the idea that the United States government should default on its debts goes beyond unreasonable into the realm of delusional.

The line being drawn by Republicans — especially the radical fringe that, thanks to gerrymandered districts in states across the country, holds a disproportionate amount of power — is that they won't vote to raise the debt limit unless Obama and his fellow Democrats agree to the very spending cuts that they would not agree to as the nation approached the so-called fiscal cliff last month.

But the negative ramifications of a federal default are potentially worse than any that would have resulted from going over that cliff. And worse than the occasional government shutdown that Republicans have threatened since the days of Speaker Newt Gingrich.

As has been argued elsewhere, the GOP threat to push the Treasury into default is a fiscal equivalent of a suicide bomb attack. It would do a lot of damage in an attempt to make a point and, if anything, succeed in making people dislike those making that point even more than they did before.

A federal default would play havoc with the nation's credit rating. It would hurt not only its ability to borrow money but the interest rates it would have to pay. And, as experts have made clear, the problem is not the size of the debt but the faith that it will be repaid as promised.

The interest rates now paid by the government are so low as to be unmeasurable, which means a high debt is not bothering the credit markets.

But a default would rattle them to their core. And, most likely, spur another recession.

The nation's debt limit should be raised, as soon as possible, before panic sets in.

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