The Trillion Dollar Coins That Could Save America

Looking across the vast debt ceiling hellscape today, it appears that Speaker John Boehner will finally, finally get House Republicans to pass his two-tiered debt limit hike by tossing in modest balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. Let's just say that that doesn't improve the chances of getting out of this pickle with a bipartisan solution, with only four days remaining. What is to be done, instead? Just have Timmy Geithner mint a trillion dollar coin, obviously.

A new contingency plan for paying the bills absent an increase in the debt ceiling has been gaining steam in the last few days — meaning, a few bloggers think it sounds nifty. Yale law professor Jack Balkin explains:

Sovereign governments such as the United States can print new money. However, there's a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency that can be in circulation at any one time.

Ironically, there's no similar limit on the amount of coinage. A little-known statute gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to issue platinum coins in any denomination. So some commentators have suggested that the Treasury create two $1 trillion coins, deposit them in its account in the Federal Reserve and write checks on the proceeds.

Sure, do it. I mean, it would set horrible new precedents for the way the government operates, but since it doesn't really "operate" anyway, then who gives a shit?

A couple of other positive aspects of the Trillion Dollar Coin option:

  • The two coins could become national heroes. We could name them! One's "Sparky," the other's... something else. "Wendell." Sparky and Wendell, America's Romulus and Remus for a new era of exhaustion.
  • It would prevent the global economy from immediate total collapse.

It's worth considering. Another option is to just pass by voice vote a one-line piece of legislation raising the debt ceiling.

[Background image via Shutterstock; Timmy Geithner heads via AP]