Can it happen...again? Most likely. The government has defaulted before, and guess what...nothing horrible happened.
The US government defaulted in 1933, on refusing to honor gold bonds, and FDR confiscated all privately held gold.
It did it again in 1968, when refusing to honor silver bonds (remember those silver certificates?), and instead, they became worthless paper. Well not worthless, as they are collectibles.
In 1973, Richard Nixon defaulted on gold debts to other nations, with its gold obligations.
Did you realize that 2 trillion of this debt is owed by the Federal Government...to itself? Yep, the Fed has that owed. You know, the people that print the money, etc. The *unconstitutional* and *inflationary* and *devaluing the dollar* Fed.
“Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value… zero.” -VOLTAIRE (1694-1778)
Using the government's own calculator, for what $1 in 1913 (earliest year possible) compared to today's dollar - you will spend $22.80.
I wonder about 1980 price change from $20, as I could get 4 paper sacks of groceries at that price, compared to today's prices - $54.79
And I was buying basics. Soup, stripped chicken for soup, etc.
Compared to today's usual grocery trip for me, I spend around $125 to $150 (this includes cat food, dog food, cat litter, etc) I come up with $5.48 in 1913 dollars.
In 1969, Cornflakes:  12 oz, 29 cents. In 2011, 12 oz. costs $3.79.
I just found an interesting book on Google Books: Cost of Living and Prices of Food, GPO, 1904. It's free, and you can browse through it on your computer. I find it quite interesting. I seem to collect *more* reading :)
Enjoy your day, I will certainly be reading old statistics today. I've found that statistics and economics are INTERESTING! Who'da thunk it? Someone that used to sleep as much as possible during classes in high school (I was reminded last year at the class reunion by the guy I used to sit behind, to "hide me so I can sleep' in Russian History. I'm skeered to actually look at my HS transcript, it might be pretty darn poor!
10 months ago