DEADBEAT PAST: Despite claims that the United States has never defaulted, the record's not that clean. America has stiffed creditors on at least two occasions.
WAR AND PAPERWORK: Once, the young nation had a dramatic excuse: The Treasury was empty, the White House and Capitol were charred ruins, even the troops fighting the War of 1812 weren't getting paid. A second time, in 1979, was a back-office glitch that ended up costing taxpayers billions of dollars. 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.
FORGOTTEN SLIPS: These lapses, little noted outside financial circles in their day, are nearly forgotten now.