Congressman Moves to Ban $1 Trillion Platinum Coin

Platinum bars
Oliver Cleve | Getty Images
Platinum bars

Even though a lot of people treat the idea of minting a $1 trillion coin to avoid a debt-ceiling induced default as some kind of joke, the idea is certainly catching attention.

Paul Krugman on Monday said that the president should "absolutely" mint the coin. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who happens to be the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, endorsed it last week. Bloomberg's Josh Barro has been all over this. And its biggest proponent has been Joe Weisenthal, the deputy editor of Business Insider.

(For background on this, here's my post explaining the basics of how this would work. And here I cast doubt on the constitutionality of the law that would make it possible.)

Perhaps the biggest sign that #mintthecoin is an idea whose time has arrived, however, is that it has garnered official opposition. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, a member of the House Republican leadership, announced plans Monday to introduce a bill to ban the use of a high value platinum coin to pay the government's bills.

"Some people are in denial about the need to reduce spending and balance the budget. This scheme to mint trillion dollar platinum coins is absurd and dangerous, and would be laughable if the proponents weren't so serious about it as a solution. I'm introducing a bill to stop it in its tracks," Walden said in a press release.

Walden's complaint about the coin hinges on the now standard Republican talking point that the government should run its finances the way households and small businesses do.

"My wife and I have owned and operated a small business since 1986. When it came time to pay the bills, we couldn't just mint a coin to create more money out of thin air. We sat down and figured out how to balance the books. That's what Washington needs to do as well. My bill will take the coin scheme off the table by disallowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins as a way to pay down the debt. We must reduce spending and get our fiscal house in order," Walden's statement says.

Of course, small businesses also cannot collect taxes and call them revenue—unless your small business is a protection racket. They do not get to set interest rates on their own borrowing through the operation of a central bank. And their managers have actual ownership stakes in the operation rather than temporary control and an incentive to exploit the operation for immediate gain rather than short-term gain. So businesses aren't run like government's at all.

In any case, the old saying goes: "First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you." We're definitely on to stage three now.

Follow me on Twitter @Carney