WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the 1964 movie, a "fail-safe" point is where you sent fighter aircraft to meet a potential threat and await further instructions, before firing.

In 2011, in real life, it's a point where you send the country's economy, before it self-destructs. It's a lid on the amount of borrowing the federal government can undertake. President Obama calls it the "debt fail-safe."

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