If the debt ceiling is not raised by [Oct 17], the Treasury estimates it will be left with about only $30 billion in cash, which would be used up in a matter of days.
As a result, economists and investors have quietly begun to explore the options the White House might have in the event Congress fails to act.
The most widely discussed strategy would be for President Obama to invoke authority under the 14th Amendment and essentially order the federal government to keep borrowing, an option that was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton during an earlier debt standoff in 2011.
And in recent days, prominent Democrats like Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, have urged the White House to seriously consider such a route, even if it might provoke a threat of impeachment from House Republicans and ultimately require the Supreme Court to rule on its legitimacy.
Other potential October surprises range from the logistically forbidding, like prioritizing payments, issuing i.o.u.s or selling off gold and other assets, to more fanciful ideas, like minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin.
The trillion dollar coin idea, reminiscent of Mr. Burns, is based on a law that says that the US can mint a coin of pure platinum in any denomination, essentially giving us $1T extra to use in case of a looming default.
If the effects of a debt default would be so grievous to the economy, would Obama see it necessary to use his authority to raise the debt ceiling himself?
And where would it go from there?