Well, that settles that:
The U.S. Treasury Department will not mint a high-value platinum coin to avert the debt ceiling, according to an official statement from the Obama administration obtained by the Huffington Post on Saturday.
“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit,” the statement reads.
Since using the 14th Amendment gambit was ruled out by the White House back in December (no surprise there, they’d previously rejected it back in July 2011 during the last GOP effort to hold the debt limit hostage), this leaves no “easy out” from the debt limit standoff.
If Obama mints the coin, the Republicans can instantly switch (they’re incredibly good at this) from threatening financial chaos to ferociously demagoguing the prevention of that chaos—in a way that the 99.9 percent of the American people who aren’t constitutional lawyers or financial economists can easily understand.
We’ve already gotten a pretty good taste of their material: Like the National Republican Congressional Committee’s brilliant argument that the weight of a $1 trillion coin would sink the Titanic.
I said brilliant and I meant it. As a monetary concept, the idea that a $1 trillion coin has to contain $1 trillion worth of precious metal may be so freaking stupid it makes Glenn Beck look like Milton Friedman. But, as a political talking point for the cable news viewing masses—the teabagger masses in particular—it’s right on target: simple, intuitively obvious, and hard to refute without using words like “seignorage.” It even comes with its own funny graphic.
Also, while the sink-the-Titanic argument may be a lie, it is a lie with “mythic truth” behind it: Minting a $1 trillion coin is an extreme solution, one that bends the law, if not to the breaking point, then at least to the point of absurdity. The political consultant hasn’t been born yet who couldn’t spin gold—maybe even platinum—out of that one.
For the GOP, the coin would be a political Godsend: No more having to make good on insane threats, or defend that insanity in the 2014 elections—or even explain and justify a craven retreat to their teabagger base. Instead, almost infinite opportunities to attack a president bent on subverting the U.S. Constitution in order to go on running up huge amounts of public debt, blah blah blah.
For the GOP electoral machine, what’s not to like?