Trillion-dollar coin isn't the answer

Jan 13, 2013 @ 12:01 am

Seriously? A trillion-dollar coin? I don't know whether to laugh or begin stockpiling food, water and anything else I might need to survive an economic collapse.

Once again, we find ourselves fast approaching the congressionally determined debt limit, and the only “solution” that seems to have captured the rather limited attention spans of some of our leaders and pundits in Washington involves minting a $1 trillion platinum coin and using it to pay the government's bills.

And I thought only kittens and babies were easily distracted by shiny objects.

The question I keep asking myself is this: Why stop at a $1 trillion? Why not add a few more zeros and mint a $1 quadrillion coin?

That way, the government could put this whole bill-paying thing to rest, at least for a little while. Better yet, we could use the extra money to make German Chancellor Angela Merkel look chintzy by buying Greece and Spain.

At the risk of stating the obvious, minting a single copper penny — let alone a $1 trillion platinum coin — to get around the $16.4 trillion federal debt limit is ludicrous.

If our elected officials were serious about addressing the debt problem, they would be engaged in discussions involving real and substantive solutions — such as spending cuts or (gasp!) comprehensive tax reform.

Although the fiscal cliff deal certainly laid the groundwork for tax reform, the fact that we are rehashing this old notion of minting money to solve the debt crisis suggests that spending cuts and tax reform ain't gonna happen, at least not in time to avert the next standoff with Congress over raising the debt ceiling, which could occur as early as next month.

Our elected leaders also should be talking about entitlement reform. Although Medicare and Social Security have long been the third rail of politics, both are clearly behind the spending side of the nation's debt problem.

Spending on Medicare, for example, is expected to grow faster than the nation's gross domestic product and will likely account for 5.3% of GDP in 2030, up from 3.7% last year, according to the Medicare trustees.

If nothing else, it is time for our elected leaders to jump en masse on the third rail and begin talking about applying means testing to Medicare and Social Security. In doing so, higher Medicare premiums and co-pays would be imposed on higher earners, and those most in need of income from Social Security would have it.

Whether President Barack Obama has the legal right to use a newly minted $1 trillion dollar coin to bypass the debt ceiling is irrelevant.

He shouldn't do it. Period.

Not only would Mr. Obama damage his own credibility with Congress (well, whatever credibility he still has), he would jeopardize the nation's standing with its largest international creditor: China.

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