WHILE THE BUDGET EQUIVALENT OF MELROSE PLACE reached a climax this week, a new installment in the spin-off drama, Default Lane, began filming. For those who hate suspense, here's a preview of the final scene: there's no chance the U.S. government will default on its debt, now or ever.

In our last episode, you'll recall, there was a tremendous wringing of hands when Congress refused in mid-November to extend the official $4.9 trillion debt limit, a tactic designed to force the President to approve its budget. Yet markets remained unruffled, knowing that Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin had internal bookkeeping changes up...

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