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If the elected officials of the federal government of the United States of America abide by their oaths to uphold the Constitution, the USA cannot default on its debt. The Secretary of the Treasury can take some short-term measures (PDF) to avoid letting lawfully authorized expenditures hit the "debt ceiling,"* and upon reaching the "ceiling" the President can shut down some or most of the federal government's functions so as to avoid incurring new debt, but he and the Secretary of the Treasury cannot so much as threaten to direct the federal government not to pay its debt obligations.
The thing is, if you read the press, you'd think the USA is at risk of defaulting. And the last time around, the President did not help in that regard.
This whole "debt ceiling" and "fiscal cliff" "crisis" is a ruse, played by the politicians and the corporatized press upon all of us. It is a prod to stampede the public into accepting something that we otherwise wouldn't.
Is there anything we can do to stop it?
* Expenditures and revenues passed by Congress and signed by the President directly conflict with the previously passed "debt limit." When laws with equal basis in authority conflict, the newer one is supposed to supersede the old one. Otherwise no old law could ever be changed. So, the "debt ceiling" is void anyway.