There’s no shortage of Republican lawmakers taking reckless and irresponsible lines on the debt ceiling, but for quite a while, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wasn’t one of them. But just as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has abandoned his sensible approach, so too has the right-wing Wisconsinite.

Earlier this year, Ryan agreed that failure on this issue wasn’t an option. “[Y]ou can’t not raise the debt ceiling,” he said in January. “Default is the unworkable solution.”

That was then. Here’s Ryan’s new line:

“If a bondholder misses a payment for a day or two or three or four — what is more important is you are putting the government in a materially better position to better pay its bills going forward.”

It’s important to understand how crazy this is. Two of the biggest ratings agencies, including Standard & Poor’s, recently said they would downgrade the United States’ credit if the government missed even one debt-service payment. Paul Ryan seems to think a brief default wouldn’t carry consequences, but he’s wrong.

Last week, Moody’s Investors Service went further, saying the nation’s AAA U.S. credit rating is at risk of being downgraded by mid-July — before default — if it looks like failure is even a possibility. In other words, the United States would suffer if it looks like the country might miss a payment on its debt obligations.

What’s more, after the “day or two or three or four” that Ryan envisions, there is no quick recovery. Another leading credit rating agency explained that it’s “unlikely” the United States would gain its AAA rating back if it defaults on purpose.

Republicans are playing with fire, Paul Ryan, we’ve been led to believe, is one of the sane GOP players in this game, but as of this week, he looks more like an arsonist.

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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.