The liberal world and the magical coin!


After that, Barack and the beanstalk: Should Barack Obama mint a $1 trillion platinum coin?

Kevin Drum keeps saying no, annoying some of his commenters. Paul Krugman, Atrios and Matt Yglesias have all said yes.

Would it be legal for Obama to mint such a magical coin? Drum says no; we can’t tell you. Here at THE HOWLER, we’re more struck by the fact that this bizarre discussion is even taking place.

Should Obama mint a $1 trillion coin? When leading liberals say he should, we’re acknowledging a basic fact: Public discourse has come to an end in this country. As liberals, we are completely unable to argue a case with the American people. Nor can we assume that some group of national elders will step in to derail the idea of going over the debt limit cliff.

(Although that may very well happen.)

One side wants to stop paying the nation’s bills. In response, the other side proposes minting a magical coin! In fact, our discourse has been insane for years, but it has been very hard for people to see this.

Even today, those liberals are making that suggestion without quite noting how insane this whole discussion is.

Two points:

We have always said that we’d like a president who can find sacks of money out in the woods, obviating the need for taxation. Finally, our idea has begun to catch on.


After Obama mints this coin, will he plant that magical beanstalk? Conservatives have talked like children for years. Our side has never known how to go to the public and explain this fact.

They’ve talked like children for many years. At long last, our leaders have joined them.


  1. Should Obama mint a $1 trillion coin? When leading liberals say he should, we’re acknowledging a basic fact: Public discourse has come to an end in this country. As liberals, we are completely unable to argue a case with the American people. Nor can we assume that some group of national elders will step in to derail the idea of going over the debt limit cliff.

    What's the point of arguing the case with the American people? We've been making the case to them for decades; most don't listen. They just vote in more lunatics anyway. That's why we are where we are.

    Yeah, the discussion sounds insane. When you have a dysfunctional government that is being forced to treat lunatics as sane people, you get that. If the Republicans keep threatening to collapse the economy if they don't get their way, call their bluff. Mint the coin.

    1. Arguing the case to the American people is what politics is all about, Anon, and it's a mistake to think that most people don't listen.

      I recommend you watch a segment (or read the transcript) of Bill Moyers's interview of Anthony Leiserowitz, a climate scientist who is figuring out how to engage the public on the issue.

      Leiserowitz says that only a small percentage (about 20%) probably won't be persuaded by the science. So, the task of the politics of climate change is to win over the group he calls "the cautious," the 25% who are unsure or are sitting on the fence.

      The point he makes is that only 8% take the view of Rush Limbaugh or Senator Inhofe and the other lunatics who think climate change is a hoax. Although this group is obviously the most vocal it is a mistake to think they are typical of the American voter.

      I'm fairly certain this is also the case with other issues, whether it's guns or social security.

  2. Bob,

    Many progressives who favor this solution, do so because they wish to use it to demonstrate that the nature of money has changed and that it can no longer be said of governments sovereign in their own currency (they have a currency which they alone control and all their debts are denominated in that same currency), that "they are out of money".

    They (and I count myself among them) then hope to use this change to increase social-domestic spending discussions of that spending proceed solely on the merits of whether such spending is truly a public benefit or not without the artificial constraint of counting out sufficient reserves to support it.

  3. the problem is that the way districts are currently drawn the only threat to the vast majority of GOP House members is a loss to a right wing nut in a primary. This leads to more and more lunatic ideas being considered normal. Finally both the debt ceiling and the coin are silly constructs the difference being that the first construct will cause the economy to implode while the second won't.

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  5. Hi Bob,

    I have a question for you. Let's assume that it is legal to mint this magical coin just as Professor Krugman says and the following scenario plays out:

    1) President Obama does not want to continue a precedent of negotiating the increase in the debt ceiling and refuses to make any concessions.

    2) Congress also does not want to make any concessions and we go past the current debt ceiling, risking default.

    The question is would you advise the president to mint the coin or not?

    Steve W

    1. It's a oft-repeated myth that going past the debt ceiling would necessarily cause a default. It would cause the government to cut planned spending. But, that cut need not come from interest on the national debt. It could come from military spending, from benefits to millionaire farmers, or from anywhere else.

    2. WRONG, David.

      It would not stop *planned* spending if we reach the debt ceiling.

      It would stop *paying* for spending that's already been authorized and for services that have already been rendered.

    3. Where are you getting this information, David? Please provide the link(s) because I think you've been misinformed by your sources.

  6. Minting a trillion dollar coin would be nuts. But, we're doing something similar right now. The Fed is creating money each month at a rate of about $1 trillion/year. In effect, the federal government is printing money to help the federal government pay its bills.

    That can't continue. Consider a thought experiment: Suppose the Fed started created $5 trillion/year. The extra $4 trillion would cover the entire federal spending, so taxes could be eliminated. Or, the federal government could create $20 trillion/year and give $30,000 to every American. Then nobody would have to work.

    So, what's wrong with creating an extra $1 trillion/year? What's wrong is that at some point, it will cause severe inflation. The prudent course it to eliminate the deficit, by some combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

    Defenders of unlimited borrowing have it backwards. It's short-sighted and irresponsible to keep borrowing at the current pace. Sooner or later, that will lead to disaster. The responsible people are those who demand that the government get its fiscal house in order.

    1. DavidInCA, wrong about the relation of inflation to money supply for years, why would anyone listen to your ravings today?

      But more to the point, it's irrelevant.

      The debt ceiling issue is not related to controlling deficit spending.

      The congress has *already* used its power of the purse to authorize any and all of the spending that will take us past the debt ceiling. That horse is long out of the barn.

      The executive (Obama) can't spend anything Congress hasn't authorized, and neither raising the ceiling, nor minting additional currency would change that.

      Your other, equally clownish, references to supposed "defenders of unlimited borrowing and to fantasies you've built of nobody having to work are as without merit as we've all come to expect from you.

      Thanks for not disappointing!

  7. Others saying "yes"? A former head of the US Mint:

    But Mr. Somerby says it's magical thinking, so...

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