Forward Thinking

The $1 Trillion Debt Ceiling Solution

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) wants the government to mint a platinum coin worth…a cool $1 trillion..

Nadler, a Jewish Upper West Sider, thinks the minting of a ridiculously valuable coin could foil GOP attempts to hold Democrats hostage in debt ceiling negotiations. It would allow the government to pay its debts without going through Congress, which seems intent on dragging its feet on anything President Obama wants, especially after the bruising fiscal cliff drama.

“It sounds silly but it’s absolutely legal,” Nadler told the website Capital New York last week.

The idea’s gained some traction recent days. Economist Paul Krugman endorsed the trillion dollar coin on Monday, as have others.

So here comes the backlash.

In a statement, the National Republican Congressional Committee lampooned Nadler. “It’s time for Jerrold Nadler to choose,” the group’s spokesman wrote in a statement. “…[W]ill he continue to stand with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi in believing that the only answer to our nation’s problems is to raise taxes and create trillion-dollar coins?”

The NRCC has released similar statements about other House Democrats who have signalled an openness to the silly-sounding proposal.

The possibility of the government actually minting a trillion-dollar coin might have bank robbers drawing up plans (and their fences shaking their heads), but it’s still a relatively long shot. Even if the president were willing to do something weird to get around a debt limit fight, it seems more likely that he would just raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval.

Still, that hasn’t kept pundits (and comedians) from speculating as to who will appear on the coin.

CNN suggested — who else? — President Obama. Talking Points Memo proposed Krugman; Krugman cattily countered with House Speaker John Boehner.

Steven Colbert, for his part, had perhaps the best idea of all. He suggested “a bald eagle breathing fire while making love to the American flag.”


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