The U.S. hits the debt ceiling and begins the process of defaulting on its debt on February 15, 2013, a day known as the "X date".
This whole debate over whether or not the debt ceiling debate and subsequent collision should be averted with the use of a workaround requires context to demonstrate how profoundly bad this debate could be without one.
As of today — Thursday, January 10, 2013 — we are just over five weeks to Friday, February 15.
Speaker of the House John Boehner refuses to negotiate directly with the President, and President Obama has indicated that he doesn't even have the intention to negotiate with the GOP over raising the debt ceiling at all.
So far, markets don't seem worried even slightly.
But just for the sake of history, here's a look at how markets behaved before and right after the last crisis.
On the following charts, each of the X Dates is zero. That means that zero on the 2011 line is August 2, 2011 and zero on the 2013 line is February 2, 2013.
These charts look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average 41 weekdays before the X Date and 14 weekdays after.
In this chart, we are t-minus 27 weekdays — that's 36 days when weekends are included —from hitting the debt ceiling:
Now, here's another look. The 2011 debate over the debt ceiling slammed markets for weeks after the fact as it called into question the ability of the United States government to pay its bills.
Here's what the next several weeks look like if the DJIA does the exact same thing it did last time around. There's no reason to think it will. It's just about putting things in perspective.
Nothing has changed between 2011 and 2013 that bolsters confidence in the ability of the United States Congress to behave differently.
Also recall that 2011 was an arguably "successful" negotiation.
As it stands, the leaders of the parties refuse to talk and there does not seem to be a majority in the House of Representatives to get a unilateral raise of the debt ceiling through.
Even more, we're learning more and more about the catastrophe that could happen after an unsuccessful negotiation. Instantly, programs become unfunded and a governmental shutdown begins. Given that it's the full faith and credit of the United States Federal Government in play, there could bean additional round of credit downgrades.
That's why some unconventional ideas are gaining credibility and attracting attention. They seek to avoid the no-win scenario, and circumvent a showdown that will only leave the nation and the economy demonstrably weaker by the end of next month.
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