U.S. has defaulted at least twice

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from USAToday,

President Obama and members of Congress say the nation faces the prospect of a first-ever debt default later this week, but that’s not exactly true.

As the Associated Press notes, the government has defaulted at least twice before — once because of a 19th century war and once because of a 20th century paperwork problem.

During the War of 1812, the British invaded Washington and burned down the White House; an empty U.S. Treasury could not even afford to pay American troops.

A second default in 1979 flowed from “a back-office glitch that ended up costing taxpayers billions of dollars,” the AP reported. “The Treasury Department blamed it on a crush of paperwork partly caused by lawmakers who — this will sound familiar — bickered too long before raising the nation’s debt limit.”

Members of both parties will try to avoid a similar fate this week by raising the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling ahead of Thursday’s vote.

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