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What happens if Congress doesn't rein in national debt?

With the national debt at 90% of gross domestic product, the US could face a crisis if creditors raise interest rates, experts say.

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The Senate Budget Committee hears testimony from the cochairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former Sen. Alan Simpson, right, and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, left, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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What happens if Congress does not rein in the record $14.2 trillion national debt?

A “crash landing,” cautions one business think tank. “If the US does not put its fiscal house in order, the reckoning will be sure and the devastation severe," said Eriskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, cochairs of the president's deficit commission at a Senate Budget Committee hearing Tuesday. The country is "headed for the cliff," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D) of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee at the hearing.

The budget panel's top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, speaks with equal urgency. The debt problem "runs the risk of a cataclysmic event, and it can happen very quickly,... just like it did in Greece."

What's a 'cataclysmic event' look like?

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