More praise for the magical coin: Will Obama mint a $1 trillion platinum coin? We’ll guess that’s extremely unlikely.
Should Obama mint such a coin? Yesterday, in another blog post, Paul Krugman kept saying yes. In our view, Krugman’s assessment of this matter is remarkably limited:
KRUGMAN (1/9/13): I feel comfortable in my understanding of the economics of the platinum coin, but don’t claim any legal expertise. However, Laurence Tribe knows whereof he speaks—and he says that it’s quite legal. And so there you have it: if we have a crisis over the debt ceiling, it will be only because the Treasury department would rather see economic devastation than look silly for a couple of minutes.Laurence Tribe says the coin would be legal. (To read Tribe’s e-mail, click here.) In Krugman’s view, that pretty much closes the deal.
The coin is legal, and it would let Obama keep paying the nation’s bills. “And so there you have it,” Krugman concludes. If we have a crisis over the debt ceiling, it will only be because Obama doesn’t want to “look silly for a couple of minutes.”
That’s an astonishing piece of analysis. It represents a thoroughly blinkered approach to the affairs of the world.
What would happen if Obama minted this magical coin? Lacking a magical crystal ball, we can’t precisely tell you. But in Krugman’s analysis, this question barely exists:
Obama might look silly for a few minutes. That’s the worst thing Krugman imagines.
In his e-mail, Tribe offers a “bottom line” on this question. “This is a situation,” he says, “where the political and economic considerations, not the legal considerations, have to drive the decision-making.”
In that statement, Tribe acknowledges that political considerations come into play in this matter. Krugman seems to have little idea what that statement might mean.
In this morning’s New York Times, Edward Kleinbard rejects the trillion dollar coin as a “fantastical” notion. He then recommends “a plausible course of action:”
Obama should issue “IOUs” (“scrip”) to those he cannot pay!
“The strategy may sound far-fetched,” Kleinbard says, “but it has been used before: in fact, California relied on it as recently as 2009.”
Kleinbard goes on to describe this approach as performed in California. It represents a perfectly sensible type of Rube Goldberg machine—a sensible approach for a nation which can no longer function.
Whatever! In all these discussions, we continue to be struck by the dog that doesn’t yelp or howl. We see no one wondering how Obama might persuade the public that the debt limit has to be raised.
Could liberals actually go to the public and win a public debate? The possibility doesn’t seem to enter our liberal heads! In the current case, this is especially strange, since many major business interests, not being crazy, don’t want to go down the road of default or its’ like again.
Could Obama go to the public and win? We liberals don’t even seem to consider that possibility. It doesn’t seem to enter our heads that we could state a case in the public square and come away with a win.
Mitch McConnell hasn’t strapped his dog to the roof of a car! His wife doesn’t own dressage horses—and plus, she’s Asian-American! There’s no way we liberals can win a case when faced with those disadvantages.
For ourselves, we’d be inclined to offer an unflattering explanation for our tribe’s rather blinkered approach. It’s been a long time since the liberal world actually tried to talk to the public.
In all honesty, we have no pre-existing forums we could use in the current absurd situation. We have very little political capital on which we can hope to draw.
How do we liberals regard the public? In 2009, Rachel Maddow spent more than a week issuing nightly dick jokes at the public’s expense, while pretending to be embarrassed by this thing she found herself doing. Not much later, Keith Olbermann began inviting Janeane Garofalo to explain that the limbic brains of the public don’t seem to be working correctly.
Movements which think of the public that way—and we do—may find themselves in our current predicament. They may find themselves unable to argue and win, even when they get to argue the easiest case in the world.
They may find themselves reading posts by leaders who have an amazingly limited view of what goes on in the actual world.
We liberals are a helpless breed. We’re supremely dumb, and yet we insist that we’re the smart, nuanced, open-minded tribe of people. More on this self-portrait tomorrow—but for today, alas:
As history has shown us again and again, conservative leaders like Grover Norquist can argue The Crazy for decades and win. We can’t argue the easiest case in the world, even when we have the backing of powerful interests.
Will Obama mint the magical coin? Or should he simply issue that scrip?
We have no forums from which we can talk to the public. And so we ask questions like this.
Tomorrow: We return to our current award-winning series. Our text for tomorrow:
MOONEY (page 71): But within the conservative fold, there is one group that exhibits the traits just discussed—closed mindedness, low integrative complexity, very low Openness—to an extent that is hard to say anything good about: so-called authoritarians. They’re not all conservatives, but they’re surprisingly prevalent in the United States.You’re right—that last sentence is a bit hard to parse. Tomorrow, we’ll learn that “nearly half the public” seem to be “so-called authoritarians!”
Just a guess: People who toss off such claims in such casual ways will tend to end up just like us.