Sweet baby Jesus and the grown one too, that’s rich. The American people. Sure, Kevin. The people are clamouring for you to derail what to this point has been a remarkably robust recovery from the economic havoc wrought by COVID. That’s what the good folk want. That’s all that motivates your pure heart, the interests of the American people, for whom you’re a tireless champion. No political games for you, nossir! God grant me strength.
If this keeps up, I don’t care any more how oddball, gimmicky, and impossible it seems: I want them to mint the frickin’ coin.
Yes that’s right. The trillion dollar coin. Don’t stick to a measly trillion, either. Make it 25 trillion, and send an armed Marine to take it over to the Fed, with instructions to tell them that if they please, they can accept it as lawful coin of the realm, as indeed it would be, or in the alternative, if they please, they can be put to the sword.
There. Debt ceiling dealt with.
I’m not kidding any more. It sounds insane, but the law is perfectly clear on this. From Wikipedia:
The concept of striking a trillion-dollar coin that would generate one trillion dollars in seigniorage, which would be off-budget, or numismatic profit, which would be on-budget, and be transferred to the Treasury, is based on the authority granted by Section 31 U.S.C. § 5112 of the United States Code for the Treasury Department to “mint and issue platinum bullion coins” in any denominations the Secretary of the Treasury may choose. Thus, if the Treasury were to mint one-trillion dollar coins, it could deposit such coins at the Federal Reserve’s Treasury account instead of issuing new debt.
31 U.S.C. 5112(k) as originally enacted by Public Law 104-208 in 1996:
The Secretary may mint and issue bullion and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.
People who know whereof they speak have vouched for the feasibility of this apparently nutty idea. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, writing in the NY Times, has said it would work, and for various technical reasons wouldn’t even be inflationary. Renowned Harvard constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe has opined that not only would it be absolutely legal, it couldn’t even be challenged in court, because nobody would have standing. Yes, it’s a cunning exploitation of an unanticipated legal loophole. Yes, it would amount to an expression of utter contempt for Congress. And yes, the frigging Republicans would howl.
Let them. They deserve the contempt. Richly.
Look, the GOP threat to refuse to lift the debt ceiling unless they get what they want – and in their present, nut-bar iteration they can’t even say what that is, this time around, though it’s likely the savaging of Social Security and Medicare if they had the guts to say so – is nothing but nihilistic extortion. Pure and simple. And they keep doing it. They flirted wth it just last year. They wound up shutting down the government back in 1995, before the mess got resolved. Most famously, they pulled the same old stunt back in 2011, forcing budget concessions from Obama, and now, predictably, they want to pull it again. Why not? It works! Well, then, it’s time to draw a line. Until the ridiculous anachronism of the debt ceiling can be repealed and banished forever from U.S. law, the GOP needs to be shown that there will be no further give and take on the matter, no more bargaining with a gun to our heads. Of course this needs to be done in a way that doesn’t risk tanking the global economy, which rules out the usual game of chicken, so fine, I don’t give a raggedy rat’s ass how gimmicky and goofy it sounds, mint the platinum coin and teach the Republicans a lesson which they, like all cruel bullies, need desperately to be taught: no negotiation with terrorists.
Let’s just get a couple of things straight. First, this isn’t about the approval of the federal budget, a process which, in the normal course, does and should result in fierce negotiations between the parties before a final authorization can be passed into law. That weasel McCarthy wants to conflate the two, but that is pure bullshit. When it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, an insane limit on borrowing that only a system as stupidly hamstrung as the American form of government could ever impose upon itself (and I don’t give a damn about the historic reasons for it, it’s ridiculous and must be expunged), the budget has already been passed. The negotiations are over. The spending has become law. In executing what Congress has already made law, debt has to be incurred, and such periodically requires an increase in the absurd borrowing limit, by which time Congress doesn’t actually have a legal choice any more. It’s already law that the debt be incurred. Moreover, the Constitution itself, in the 14th Amendment, mandates that America’s debts must be honoured. Threatening to default is thus not only morally bankrupt and legally offside, it’s unconstitutional.
Second, and everybody knows this already, so I know you know it too, dear hypothetical reader, the GOP never cares a whit about incurring huge debts and then raising the ceiling to pay them, so long as a Republican is in the White House. When it’s their debts, usually vastly increased by tax cuts on the wealthy, they’re just fine with it. They raised the ceiling three times when Trump was in the Oval, and never skipped a beat, while their Orange Overlord, eagerly promoting the tax-slashing that the GOP always craves, found himself bereft of revenue just when the COVID crisis hit, and wound up adding nearly eight trillion bucks to the accumulated debt. Eight trillion. That’s fully 1/4 of the entire national debt incurred since the country gained its independence from the British Crown. Did anybody in the GOP raise any objections? Was any note of caution sounded? Not a one. They didn’t care. Nope, it was all whoopee, spend spend spend, and let the kids pay for it down the road, the suckers. It’s only when the Democrats regain power, fix the tax mess, start cutting the deficit (as is almost invariably the case), and then confront all the debt that Congress has already authorized, that the Republicans dig in their heels and start pretending to care about deficits. All of a sudden the deficit hawks crawl back out from under their rocks, blink in the unfamiliar sunlight, and commence bleating about the need to bring the horrible nasty debt under control. It’s sickening, really. It’s pure, unadulterated, opportunistic hypocrisy of the ugliest kind (which is to say, it’s like pretty much everything else on the Republican agenda), and it must be stopped. It is absolutely vital that the GOP gets crushed on this issue, now and for all time.
If Biden doesn’t want to mint a bunch of bizarre platinum coins, then he should just borrow in contravention of the debt ceiling, and argue that he has to, because of the 14th Amendment’s constitutional mandate. Given contradictory instructions, he’s obliged to pick the one that isn’t unconstitutional, right? His hands are tied by the Founders, are they not? Sounds good to me. If he prefers, he can argue that Congress has already authorized an increase in the borrowing limit, by requiring more deficit spending in the first place, how about that? Whatever his rationale, he should do it and let the Republicans engage in a years-long legal struggle to forbid it. Let them take the fait accompli all the way to their stinking corrupt SCOTUS, the Hell with it, I bet even they won’t take the Republican’s side on this, and in the mean time, retake Congress and figure out a means to do away with the debt ceiling permanently. While they’re at it, they should pass a non-binding resolution declaring that all elected officials who had anything to do with creating this monstrous legal tar pit should be consigned to the deepest, most scorching pits of Hell.
Enough of this shit.