President Obama, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have described the consequences of the U.S. defaulting in the wake of a congressional refusal to authorize a hike in the debt ceiling as “catastrophic.”

The scenario these worthies paint certainly looks catastrophic: Wall Street collapses, world markets are crippled, U.S. prestige abroad suffers irreparable damage and the American economy plunges into a repeat of the Great Recession of 2008.

Nobody in their right mind wants to go there. Ergo, Obama, Lew, Reid and Pelosi argue that House Republicans are irresponsible to attach conditions — lower federal spending, Obamacare individual mandate delay, etc. — on the debt ceiling hike that must be approved no later than Oct. 17.

Along came Moody’s

Then, out of nowhere, a memorandum by Moody’s, one of the three leading credit rating agencies, became public Wednesday, saying (according to the Washington Post):

“We believe the government would continue to pay interest and principal on its debt even in the event that the debt limit is not raised, leaving its creditworthiness intact.

“The debt limit restricts government expenditures to the amount of its incoming revenues; it does not prohibit the government from servicing its debt. There is no direct connection between the debt limit (actually the exhaustion of the Treasury’s extraordinary measures to raise funds) and a default."

In other words, if Moody’s is to be believed, rather than the catastrophe predicted by the politicos, failing to raise the debt limit would be more akin to an accounting inconvenience for the green-eyeshades in the bowels of the Treasury Department.

So, what now?

Sen. Tom Coburn even went so far as to point out that, as a practical matter, the debt ceiling crisis is essentially a useful fiction employed by Washington politicians to avoid taking the painful steps necessary to control their spending.

“The debt ceiling has never not been raised, so there is no debt ceiling,” the Oklahoma Republican said on CNN. “And by having a debt ceiling and then raising it every time, it allows the politicians off the hook for making the hard choices.”

The Moody’s memo marks the third time Obama’s warnings of impending fiscal doom have proven empty. First, it was sequestration that would allegedly put the economy into a tailspin. That didn’t happen, but White House public tours were cancelled.

Then it was a government shutdown that would summon the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Yet somehow, 83 percent of the government remains open. Now Moody’s debunks the debt-ceiling catastrophe.

Stripped of pretense

Obama meets with 18 congressional Republicans Thursday, a gathering he will enter bereft of his main leverage tool, thanks to Moody’s.

Similarly, the GOPers are clearly desperate to grasp something, anything, to justify caving, so their leverage, in their own minds at least, is also fading rapidly.

Perhaps now, having been stripped of all pretense, these 19 worthies will get real, start bargaining sensibly, and emerge with some sort of agreement. Don’t get your hopes up.

From today’s Washington Examiner:

Editorial: Shutdown shows federal government is too big to manage.

Cal Thomas: Those who lost their fear of flying yesterday are crashing hard today.

Gregory Kane: No, it's not always about racism and racist Republicans.

Byron York: New GOP strategy is to deal on debt limit but keep shutdown in place.

Susan Ferrechio: GOP shifts focus from Obamacare defunding to winning spending reforms.

Michael Barone: The Civil War is now truly behind us.

In other news

The New York Times: Business interests worry they are losing control over the GOP.

The Washington Post: IT experts say Obamacare problems stem from federal policies.

Chicago Tribune: Smartphone users oblivious to man with gun who killed college student.

USA Today: Shutdown costing national parks $76 million per day.

The Los Angeles Times: Private charity to restore death benefits for U.S. military families.

Lefty Playbook

Talking Points Memo: Polls shows Lee popularity suffers back home in wake of defunding role.

Huffington Post: Huffpo opens new digital frontier with Huffington Post Deutschland.

Rolling Stone: Inside the Republican suicide machine.

Righty Playbook

The Weekly Standard: HUD's power grab in local housing.

National Review Online: America becoming more conservative, less Republican.

Carolina Journal Online: New student group combats ‘voter suppression.’