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The Platinum answer

Huffpost talks about how some are saying Obama could buy pass the debt ceiling using the platimum coin option.  What is the plantinum coin option?  Well…


The Treasury could legally mint a coin worth enough to cover debts for several years and deposit that coin with the Federal Reserve. The funds would not be used for spending that isn’t authorized and appropriated by Congress, but only to pay debts. The president, therefore, would not be ignoring the debt ceiling, because there would be no new debt subject to the limit.


Sound ridiculous, but some are making it sound like it is a viable option.  But it is messy as Paul Krugman has stated:


First, as a legal matter the Federal government can’t just print money to pay its bills, with one peculiar exception. Instead, money has to be created by the Federal Reserve, which then puts it into circulation by buying Federal debt. You may say that this is an artificial distinction, because the Fed is effectively part of the government; but legally, the distinction matters, and the debt bought by the Fed counts against the debt ceiling.

The peculiar exception is that clause allowing the Treasury to mint platinum coins in any denomination it chooses. Of course this was intended as a way to issue commemorative coins and stuff, not as a fiscal measure; but at least as I understand it, the letter of the law would allow Treasury to stamp out a platinum coin, say it’s worth a trillion dollars, and deposit it at the Fed — thereby avoiding the need to issue debt.


In reality, to pursue the thought further, the coin really would be as much a Federal debt as the T-bills the Fed owns, since eventually Treasury would want to buy it back. So this is all a gimmick — but since the debt ceiling itself is crazy, allowing Congress to tell the president to spend money then tell him that he can’t raise the money he’s supposed to spend, there’s a pretty good case for using whatever gimmicks come to hand

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