Not to make too much of a fable of a complex subject, but assume that a group of small boys finally manages to climb to the roof of the family garage.
After first doing what comes naturally -- throwing stuff off the roof -- the boys move on to what comes second: What would happen to someone who jumped off the roof? All this, mind you, is not punitive, but by way of scientific exploration. A kid could be a hero or a kid could have a broken arm or worse; inquiring minds want to know.
And this brings us to the House Republicans and the issue of raising the debt ceiling so the United States can continue to borrow money and pay its bills.
Disregarding the proverbial neighbor lady's warning, "You'll break your necks," some younger, adventure-minded Republicans -- including Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Daniel Webster of Florida -- are toying with the idea, all in the interest of science, of course, of not increasing the borrowing limit: "Let Uncle Sam default. It might be kind of fun to see what happens."
Many people -- the Treasury Department, Wall Street, the major corporations, the rest of the world -- think this is a terrible idea. We are, after all, messing with the full faith and credit of the United States.
One sure indication that defaulting on our debt is a bad idea is that Donald Trump thinks it's a good one. Trump lectured Republicans: "For the good of the country, they need to hold firm for the big deal. If they don't, the country will go to hell."
Another reason, apart from the appealing lunacy of the idea, according to one strategist, is that it will reassure the Republican base that the party is serious about cutting spending.
I'm sure the rest of us won't mind being impoverished and the butt of world ridicule if it will reassure the Republican base. I'm sure the rest of us will happily allay GOP fears, even as we can't get mortgages and car loans and our neighbors who work for the government can't get paid, that their leaders aren't doing something really stupid.
Some of the Republicans who are curious about what would happen if the U.S. went into default think absolutely nothing would happen.
The rest of us might feel the same if our salaries, medical care and retirement were safe from experimenting with default.
Toomey, of Pennsylvania, whose state capital, if you are looking for ominous omens, is bankrupt, told Politico, "No Treasury secretary or president would actually default on the debt, even if they couldn't borrow more money," which actually sounds to me like a pretty good definition of "default."
The next step would be a televised nationwide address in which the president asks all Americans with unused gift cards to mail them to the Treasury because we have a $1 billion payment coming due on a T-bill held by the Chinese.
Even in default there would be some money coming into the Treasury from the dwindling band of solvent taxpayers, those that hold jobs that don't depend on the government paying its bills.
Some Republicans are introducing bills that would prioritize those token payments. Deciding who gets paid and who gets stiffed should make for some interesting politics. One Republican made it clear that a priority would be paying the active-duty military first. Of course, they have guns.
One Democrat typically proposed that we simply ignore the debt ceiling and keep on spending as if it didn't exist. Those Democrats! Always full of good ideas. Funny money! Who would have thought of it. Foreigners will never recognize Jefferson Davis' picture on the $40 bill.
What we really need is a grown-up with a drill sergeant's voice to say, "Hey, you kids? Get off that roof. Don't make me come up there after you."
(Dale McFeatters is a columnist of Scripps Howard News Service.)