There’s a controversy between comedian Jon Stewart and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Hot-headed Krugman and the funny Daily Show host went back and forth about a proposed trillion-dollar coin minted from platinum.  The US Government has a wee bit of trouble making ends meet these days. One way of dealing with the Debt Ceiling issue, Krugman proposes, is ignoring the ceiling and paying US debt by minting a trillion-dollar coin.
Sounds easy? Just print money. The ultimate stimulus! Weimar Germany did something like that once, and it worked wonders for its paper and ink industries. Makers of wheelbarrows prospered as folks needed them just to go to the grocery store with enough currency that depreciated by the second.
Jon Stewart said Krugman has “a stupid f*cking idea”. Jon, yes, technically, you’re right. A trillion-dollar coin to sneak around the Debt Ceiling is a gimmick, an extra-legal, unconstitutional Banana Republic workaround. But, stupid f*cking ideas circulating Washington have a way of becoming law.
Anticipating the US Mint’s fresh platinum coin, I publicly announce I volunteer to try the first one. No need for focus groups or expensive market studies. For the good of my country, count me in now!
Being a planner, I’m contemplating how to spend the trillion-dollar coin. It’s trickier than it sounds. My first thought was a nice dinner. I’d nonchalantly slip the trillion-dollar coin with the bill. But how would the restaurant break the change? Would they have to give we a check, net of tip, for $999,999,999,820? Are they good for that large a check? I’d hate for that to bounce. Think of the overdraft fee…
I could buy a car, but even a luxury Maybach barely scratches the surface of that trillion-dollar coin. I can’t find any vending machines that take a trillion-dollar coin. Ditto with car washes and laundromats. Not even the always increasing Chicago Transit Authority’s fare boxes take a trillion.
I might pay off my mortgage but my bank is so electronic. I don’t think the ATM will accept it. If I find a teller, will they count my change back in the annoying way cashiers do, grabbing each crisp bill and pulling it to make sure they don’t slip me an extra George Washington? I might be stuck there forever waiting for change.
I could ask the bank to send me a cashier’s check for the trillion. But is a bank check good? After what happened a few years ago? The FDIC insurance only covers $100,000, right? Bad idea.
It’s so confusing, perhaps I should be charitable with it? I could donate the platinum coin to the US Treasury. “Here, Jack Lew, guy with the squiggly signature, pay this coin down against the US debt.”
But, why bother? The debt is over $16 trillion and rises over $1 trillion a year. My trillion-dollar coin doesn’t make a dent, and worst of all, the Feds show no signs they’ve learned any lessons. If I paid the coin to Washington, cutting the debt from $16 Trillion to $15 Trillion, does anyone really believe we won’t see President Obama under camera lights, standing before an US flag at a podium, asking for another few trillion bucks of Debt Ceiling increase in a few months? That lucky Obama! When I was a kid, I got in trouble asking for a few bucks from my parents, but he gets to ask for twelve-figure allowances!
Of course we will. Therefore, I’ll keep the coin. And I wait for a helpful reader tip on how best to spend it. Please comment below!
Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.