1. Archive


I would like a straightforward explanation as to why it would be detrimental for our country to go into a default.

Most everyone agrees that the United States defaulting on its debt would be a bad thing. The Treasury Department recently issued this warning that, should the government default on its debt obligations, the economic impact could be widespread:

"Credit markets could freeze. The value of the dollar could plummet. Interest rates could skyrocket. And there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse," the statement read.

Among other problems a default could cause:

- A loss of confidence in the United States by foreign governments, both as a world leader and as a country that pays its debts.

- A lower credit rating, which increases the costs of borrowing.

- The possibility of an interruption or suspension of payments by the government on such things as Social Security, interest owed to bondholders, payments to contractors, payments to states, and so on.

- A plunge in the stock market, erasing wealth for millions.

There would be more consequences, but you get the idea.

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Tea party service

I'm just seeing a report that death benefits to families of Americans killed in action are in limbo due to the tea party-led government shutdown. How many members of the total in the congressional tea party caucus (House and Senate) have served in the military?

The congressional tea party caucus, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, has 49 members: 44 representatives and five senators. All are Republicans.

Ten have spent time in the military, according to their bios: Rep. Howard Coble, North Carolina (Coast Guard); Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana (Navy); Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas (Army); Rep. Gary Miller, California (Army); Rep. Richard Nugent, Florida's 11th District (Air National Guard); Rep. Steve Palazzo, Mississippi (Marines, National Guard); Rep. Steve Pearce, New Mexico (Air Force); Rep. Ted Poe, Texas (Air Force Reserves); Rep. Phil Roe, Tennessee (Army Medical Corps); and Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina (Army Reserve, Air National Guard).

Looking at Congress, 106 of the 541 members (voting and nonvoting) have served or are serving in the military. That's 19.6 percent. In 1971-72, 73 percent of the members of Congress had military experience. In 1981-82 it was 64 percent.

Neither President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden spent time in the military. Three members of the Cabinet have: Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki (Army), Secretary of State John Kerry (Navy) and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (Army).

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email