WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES…. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) was asked last week about the looming deadline on a government shutdown. The conservative senator said, “Nobody wants the government shutdown. That’s absurd.”

Shelby was on the Fox Business Network yesterday, and returned to the subject.

HOST: Would you be willing to risk a government shutdown in order to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised any?

SHELBY: I would certainly consider it.

Of course he would. The idea was absurd last week, but it’s open to consideration this week.

Shelby, of course, had no qualms about voting to raise the debt ceiling seven times in the eight years spanning the Bush/Cheney era, but after helping add trillions to the debt, the Alabama Republican is reevaluating the situation.

But it’s worth remembering that Republicans aren’t just “risking a government shutdown” when it comes to the debt ceiling. In fact, it’s just a small part of the problem.

Had the GOP shut down the government last week, it would have been awful for the economy. If the GOP blocks a debt-limit extension, a shutdown would be the least of our troubles.

As the NYT noted the other day, ” Once the limit is reached, the Treasury Department would not be able to borrow as it does routinely to finance federal operations and roll over existing debt; ultimately it would be unable to pay off maturing debt, putting the United States government — the global standard-setter for creditworthiness — into default. The repercussions in that event would be as much economic as political, rippling from the bond market into the lives of ordinary citizens through higher interest rates and financial uncertainty of the sort that the economy is only now overcoming.”

The likelihood of “provoking another credit crisis like that in 2008” is very real.

Lawmakers shouldn’t be asked about whether they’re willing to risk a government shutdown; they should be asked whether they’re willing to risk a global economic disaster.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.