A number of newspapers claim that the US federal government has never defaulted on its loans (though I noted that it did restructure them in 1930).
In particular, the Economist states in the article “The Debt Ceiling and Default”, Jan 13th 2011, that the US has never defaulted:
I have yet to find a similar ranking for the federal government. This should not be surprising; the United States has never defaulted. There is the fourteenth amendment to the constitution which says: “The validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.” The purpose of this section was to forbid the United States from honouring Confederate debts. The Supreme Court has apparently ruled that it also bars Congress from voiding a government bond, although not from abrogating the gold clause as it did in 1934.
In contrast, Kenneth Rogoff states that the USA has defaulted before:
“We went off the gold standard,” he observes, and the price of gold, which used to be $20 an ounce, suddenly jumped to $35 an ounce.
“That was a default on domestic debt,” Rogoff observes. “You would be amazed at how many countries have amnesia with respect to their default(s).”
Both are references from eminent professionals, so I'm left wondering which is correct.
Why's there a disagreement between what Kenneth Rogoff states and what the Economist states – is it just a matter of semantics?
Are there indisputable examples of where the US federal government has defaulted?