When other nations manage their finances irresponsibly, or get caught shorthanded by a change in economic conditions, markets shut them out and a debt crisis ensues. Sometimes that ends in default, sometimes in a restructuring of their debts, almost always with substantial economic damage.
With D-day approaching in Washington, there's no sense that world markets or organizations such as the International Monetary Fund could or would put the same binders on the United States that they did on Greece during the recent euro crisis, or on the dozens of other nations that have defaulted on bonds or been forced to restructure.
Some analysts have even conjectured that the United States could actually skip its bond payments for a while and not suffer a serious rise in interest rates or lose the ability to sell new bonds needed to finance government budget deficits.
U.S. bonds "are reliable securities, and we do not plan any serious changes" in Russia's holdings of U.S. government investments, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said last week. "At this point, there is no need to adjust."
Officials from other nations, speaking in numerous television, news service and other interviews, have in recent days said roughly the same — evidence there is no pending rush to the exits.
There are plenty of nations that would have liked the same sort of slack from global markets or from the United States itself.
Run down the list of government financial crises from recent decades, and the United States is often an important arbiter of the resolution — working either bilaterally or through its influence as the chief shareholder of the IMF to shape the requirements of bailout loans, and sometimes resisting any financial rescue unless its conditions are met.
The United States and IMF never came to terms with Argentina in 2001, and a default ensued that is still being worked out. The United States pushed demands for the end of "crony capitalism" in Indonesia; sold tough love to the South Koreans; and leaned heavily on Europe over the past three years to come to grips with the fact that Greece was insolvent.