Minting a Trillion

The Debt Solution: #MintInterest

We can avoid a catastrophic US debt default by minting a trillion-dollar coin. While a debt default likely violates the 14th Amendment, by the time that cycles through the courts, it will be too late to save the full faith and credit of the United States.

We can mint the interest on the debt, and it doesn’t affect how Congress spends. It’s just a Federal Reserve balance sheet adjustment and a different way to increase the money supply.

What kind of person, company, or country doesn’t honor its debts? Not one you want to associate with for very long, but we don’t have a choice. We live here.

A Trillion Dollar
Coin, Really?

The constitutional basis for the Treasury’s seignorage power to mint coins stems from Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power:

“To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”

This clause provides the legal foundation for Congress to delegate authority to the U.S. Treasury to mint and print money.

Unlike the useless penny, or nickel for that matter, the trillion dollar coin is a very useful way to fix the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

The coin isn’t worth a trillion dollars in metal, just like a paper dollar isn’t worth one dollar of paper.

Only Congress can spend money. The Federal Reserve is where dollars are born, like when banks make loans, and where dollars die when you pay your taxes.

Thirteen Keystrokes

If the Treasury deposited a trillion dollar coin ($1,000,000,000,000) at the Fed, then thirteen keystrokes would be made on a computer, and the Fed could continue paying the county’s bills and interest to the bondholders.

With fourteen keystrokes, the Fed could buy back all the debt and save on the interest payments if it so chose. But that would likely be unwise as our trading partners need to park their dollars somewhere.

The World Yawned

What kind of crisis is caused by people fighting over 13 keystrokes on a computer?

When the US went off the gold standard in 1971, the world basically yawned. Why would this similar solution be any different?

Keep in mind we have the world’s largest military, and most nations want to stay on our good side.

Is there a
Debt Crisis?

The average US household has a net worth of $750,000. The average household debt is $100,000. So that’s a $100,000 / $750,000 or 13% debt to net worth.

The US total net worth is $150T. The debt is $33T, but $7T is intergovernmental, so $25T is owed to others. So, that’s $25T/$150T or 17% debt to net worth. 

Does this sound like an emergency so dire as to risk the full faith and credit of the United States of America and risk the dollar losing world currency status?

The Option is
a Depression

To pay down the debt, the US has to run surpluses.

The only problem is US government surpluses cause depressions.

Why? A public surplus is a private sector deficit. Meaning a smaller pie to fight over. Some people won’t get a slice.

In 1817, 1852, 1867, 1880, 1893, 1920, 1928, 1998-2001, the US government briefly ran rare budget surpluses, which were followed in short order by major economic crises – the Panics of 1819, 1857, 1873, 1893, and the Depressions of 1921 and 1929, and the Great Recession of 2008 (delayed by the sub-prime lending fiasco). The Great Recession was technically a Depression with 15% U-6 unemployment.

Causation or Correlation?

The various schools of economics will likely not agree on whether the rare surpluses caused the rare depressions, but come on, eight times in a row, and over 200 years, really?

What would likely happen if the US had a debt default?

A US debt default would probably lead to:

A. Spiking interest rates as US Treasuries lose their reputation as one of the world’s safest assets. This would increase costs for mortgages, car loans, business borrowing, and more. (High-interest rates are welfare for the rich.)

B. Stock market crashes and financial turmoil as investor confidence plummets in the stability of US markets. Retirement accounts would be hit hard.

C. Downgrade of US credit rating making future borrowing for both public and private institutions much harder. 

D. Collapse of the US dollar as the global reserve currency, disrupting global trade.

E. Potential banking crises and runs on banks as faith in the financial system evaporates. This happened partially in the 2011 downgrade.

F. Reduced economic growth from higher costs of capital and low business/consumer confidence. Could cause a deep recession or even depression. It usually takes 5 – 10 years for the middle class to recover.

G. Problems paying government obligations like Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, and more if enough funds can’t be raised.

H. Significant inflation, like when the Fed closed the discount window and drove interest rates over 20%.

I. Higher unemployment from reduced economic activity.

J. Global financial contagion as effects spread abroad to economies linked with the US.

In essence, a loss of full faith and trust in US debt and the dollar could create enormous financial turmoil and economic damage. The impacts would likely be severe and widespread.

How about if the
Government shutdown?

K. Disruption of Social Security payments and services. Delays accessing earned benefits. 

L. Interruption of Medicare claims processing and coverage. Seniors may lose access to covered care.

M. Suspension of Medicaid, CHIP, and ACA exchange funding. Low-income residents lose health coverage. 

N. Cuts to federal food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC. Reduced support for disadvantaged families.

O. Loss of federal education funds for local public school districts. Harms programs aiding poor students.

P. Stoppage of federal highway funding to states. Major infrastructure projects halted. Democrats and Republicans both hate potholes.

Q. Interruption of federal law enforcement grant programs. Hurts local police and safety initiatives. 

R. Closure of national parks, monuments, and public lands to visitors. 

S. Backlogs processing passports, visas, and travel documentation through the State Dept.

T. Suspension of CDC and FDA routine health monitoring and consumer protection activities.

Four Ways to Engage
PolicyKeys

Here’s the PLAN: For you People-people, you can enjoy real-life political role-playing at PolicyKeys.com. Sit awhile in each role’s chair and decide whether a majority of people in that role would be for or against the solution. Empathy is power. Excellent for classroom engagement.

For you Letter-people, we publish daily on this Super Nonpartisan Public Policy Blog. It’s like the color commentary on the big game. Or a juicy menu to order up your favorite solutions. Check out the US Public Policy Leaderboard (US-PPL) update every ‘Us People’ Sunday.

For you Abstract-people, we’ve invented a nonpartisan scoring system to include 128 roles, four laws of public policy formation, two levels of pattern-seeking AI, forecasting science, and a treasure hunt for the highest-rated solution to every public policy puzzle. We are open to public and/or private sector solutions.

Four you Numbers-people, all our solutions add up in the POL-ICYMI Key for last week’s puzzle. What stats are to baseball, PolicyKeys is to Public Policy.

Expanded
Reason Key

For you avid role-players, here’s more information for each of the Key YES and NO reasons from this week’s puzzle on PolicyKeys.com.

Key Reasons to Say ‘NO’
“Step Away From the Computer”


2. Might destabilize $ on foreign markets
The value of the dollar might decrease, causing trade uncertainties.

4. May cause trade wars
The trillion-dollar coin risks sparking trade conflicts with economic competitors.

6. May cause real wars over resources
The new financial muscle might provoke resource-based confrontations with other nations.

8. May increase inflation
An influx of cash into the economy could fuel inflation, eroding consumer purchasing power.

10. Minting risks world reserve currency status
Such a bold move endangers the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency, inviting international skepticism.

12. Other countries might follow suit
If the U.S. proceeds, other nations might adopt similar fiscal measures.

14. Speeds obsolescence
The surge in innovation could accelerate the phase-out of older technologies and jobs.

16. Greening America causes inflation
Investing heavily in green tech may drive up costs, stoking inflation.

MORE KEY ‘NO’ REASONS

18. Funny money risks the world order
The coin gambit could disrupt the existing global financial structure, leading to instability.

20. Yuan or Euro could dethrone the $
Alternative currencies like the Euro or Yuan could capitalize on the uncertainty, challenging the dollar’s dominance.

22. Debt default is a useful tactic
Some argue that the threat of default serves as a useful negotiation chip, albeit a risky one.

24. Controversy breeds profits
Certain businesses benefit from uncertainty and controversy.

26. The debt is worrisome
Despite the immediate fix, the national debt remains a looming concern.

28. Countries cornering commodity markets
The move may lead to nations manipulating commodity markets, causing trade instability.

30. May need more immigrants
This strategy could increase the demand for labor, requiring more immigrants, which carries its own set of issues.

32. May increase government interventions
The trillion-dollar coin could lead to increased government interventions in various sectors, for better or worse.

Key Reasons to Say ‘YES’
“Money is Just Keystrokes”

1. $ value might increase on foreign markets
A book entry at the Fed will alarm our trading partners less than a debt default.

3. With our armed forces, we do as we please
Armed with a strengthened economy, America’s military might will gain even more leverage.

5. Congress still controls spending
Lawmakers maintain their gatekeeper role, keeping a check on how the tranche is spent or saved.

7. Keeps taxes low
This maneuver could keep taxes low, encouraging consumer spending and investment.

9. Defaulting risks reserve currency status
Avoiding default protects the dollar’s world reserve currency status, ensuring global financial stability.

11. Bakes a bigger apple pie to share
A more robust economy allows for more equitable wealth distribution, benefiting all citizens.

13. Will spur a wave of innovation
The infusion of capital could trigger groundbreaking innovation across various sectors.

15. A way to pay for the green revolution
The trillion-dollar coin offers a feasible way to fund urgent climate initiatives.

MORE KEY REASONS TO SAY ‘YES’

17. The last default threat cost the US $19B
The economy took a $19B hit the last time there was a default. It’s the antithesis of the job Congress is meant to do.

19. Could spur economic development zones
The additional capital could revitalize neglected regions, counties, cities, and towns.

21. More generous foreign aid
The newfound affluence could enable more generous foreign aid, enhancing America’s global standing.

23. Better STEM schools & pay for teachers
Increased funds could significantly improve STEM education and teacher salaries, ensuring future competitiveness.

25. China heavily supports its industries
The move levels the international playing field, especially against our biggest competitor.

27. Less crime because of more prosperity
A booming economy often correlates with lower crime rates, creating safer communities.

29. May need more immigrants
The ensuing economic growth may require a larger labor force and population growth that drives prosperity.

31. It’s just digits on a computer
Ultimately, the trillion-dollar coin is merely a digital book entry on a balance sheet.

You can Role-Play
the Puzzle at PolicyKeys.com

Fly
Higher

U.S. Code 5112 Denominations, specifications, and design of coins
Cornell Law School

Averting a Debt-Ceiling Disaster
Project Syndicate

Federal Net Interest Costs: A Primer
Congressional Budget Office

One Neat Trick to Raise the Debt Limit
Bloomberg

Trillion Dollar Coin Could Be the Least Bad Option
The Atlantic

The Fed Dismisses the Trillion Dollar Coin
WSJ

Pros and Cons of the Trillion Dollar Coin
The Week

A $1 trillion platinum coin could save the US
Business Insider

Trillion-dollar platinum coin could be minted at the last minute
Axios

The Hidden History of the Trillion-Dollar Coin
Reason

The Trillion-Dollar Coin Idea is Just Another Way to Rip Us Off
Mises Institute

Meet the Genius Behind the Trillion-Dollar Coin
Wired

US Dollar Index – 43-Year Historic Chart
Macrotrends

Methodology

Where can we Agree?
Finding out takes guts from all four sides of the political table.
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