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Friday, January 11, 2013

Soft Currency Crusaders and the Trillion Dollar Coin

Here is your daily dose of champagne wishes and platinum dreams.

Starting off with the international man of mystery behind the trillion dollar coin (TDC) idea.

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Beowulf AKA Carlos Mucha mastermind behind the $1 trillion platinum coinRyan Tate / Wired:
Meet the Genius Behind the Trillion-Dollar Coin and the Plot to Breach the Debt Ceiling — It was a December 2009 Wall Street Journal article that ultimately inspired the Georgia lawyer known online as “Beowulf” to invent the trillion-dollar coin.

The article, “Miles for Nothing,” detailed how clever travelers were buying commemorative coins from the U.S. Mint via credit cards that award frequent flier miles. The Mint would ship the coins for free and the travelers would deposit them at the bank, pay off their cards, and accumulate free miles...

Ever the lawyer, Beowulf dived into Title 31 of the U.S. Code: “Money and Finance.” That Journal article was still rattling around in his head. He was also inspired by ideas from attorney-turned-finance-author Ellen Brown, who in her 2008 book Web of Debt quoted a 1980s-era director of Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing as saying the government could solve its debt problems by printing large coins. He wasn’t talking about circumventing the debt ceiling, which hadn’t yet become a political football, but he may have been on to something....

The coin hack even surprised and impressed former U.S. Mint director Philip Diehl, who co-authored the law that enabled the platinum loophole in the first place.

“When I first heard about the idea to mint a trillion-dollar coin, I was very surprised,” says Diehl. “But because I know that law backwards and forwards, I knew immediately that the guy who came up with the idea was right.

“It’s an ingenious use of the law to avoid a ridiculous and irresponsible situation, in which the country would be driven to default.”
discussion:
Mosler Economics: Meet the Genius...
Mike Norman Economics: Meet the Genius...
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Other articles by Carlos Mucha AKA "Beowulf" the hero of the Geats "soft currency crusaders"1 and the slayer of Grendel the debt monster:

Beowulf is a primary contributor at Monetary Realism
AKA letsgetitdone at Firedoglake
Beowulf / letsgetitdone at the Daily Kos
Carlos Mucha at Corrente
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note 1Warren Mosler's 1994 paper "Soft Currency Economics" is the seminal work for Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).
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Carlos Mucha / Beowulf  / Letsgetitdone's latest post at the Daily Kos:
Wake Up Progressives: the Trillion Dollar Coin Can Be Game-Changing! — Well, not really. But if you view the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) meme, as I do, as a short-hand for the more general idea of using Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS), then yes, it can change the whole political game for progressives if President Obama dares to use it.

Literal TDC proposals would solve the debt-ceiling, but they won't solve the larger problem of defeating the austerity politics that is so close to getting the cuts to social safety net and important discretionary government programs that austerians have long sought. PCS game-changer proposals are the ones calling for, or analyzing the impact of, PCS options aimed at paying off the national debt and covering anticipated federal deficit spending for some years...

Some bloggers have advocated minting a $quadrillion coin, and that is another option for how to proceed with game-changing PCS. I'm not really opposed to that. But I've proposed the $60 T coin, because I think a game-changing PCS solution is a transitional stage preceding the reorganization of the Federal Reserve and its placement under the supervision of the Treasury Department. Since the $60 T coin will cover debt repayment and debt-free deficit spending for 15 - 25 years; it provides enough time to educate people politically about the desirability  of such a change, while providing the Executive Branch with the power to fill the public purse while retaining Congressional control over the purse things themselves, as the Constitution requires...
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How can Republicans say no to a $1 Trillion Dollar Platinum Ronny?

How about a $1 Trillion Platinum Ronald Reagan coin, AKA the Ronny?

Jon Perr / PERRspectives:
Introducing the $1 Trillion Ronald Reagan Platinum Coin  — As part of their never-ending campaign to canonize President Ronald Reagan, conservatives three years ago proposed replacing Ulysses S. Grant on the 50 dollar bill with the likeness of the Gipper. But while his hagiographers mercifully failed in that quest, a new and altogether fitting denomination has emerged to memorialize Reagan. The much-discussed one trillion dollar platinum coin, the unfortunate gimmick that may be needed to circumvent the Republicans' dangerously real gimmick on the debt ceiling, would be a perfect home for Reagan's image. After all, President Reagan didn't merely triple the national debt in his eight years in the White House and establish budget-busting tax cuts as a permanent fixture in Republican politics. As it turns out, Reagan excoriated those in Congress who would jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States by refusing to increase the nation's debt limit.
discussion:
Terrance Heath / Campaign for America's Future:   Why Ronald Reagan Should Be on the $1 Trillion Platinum Coin
Mike Norman Economics: Introducing the $1 Trillion Ronald Reagan Platinum Coin
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Has trillion dollar platinum coin talk goosed the precious metals markets?
Has all this talk about trillion dollar platinum coins goosed the precious metals and FX markets? These were very large moves on Thursday (1/10/2012):
  • Gold up $16.80 +1.01% to $1675.30
  • Silver up $0.50 +1.65% to $30.91
  • Platinum up $35.00 +2.20% to $1633
  • Euro up  $0.0202 +1.546% to $1.3265 USD/EUR

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Maybe it's the Fox News viewers who are putting in a bid for platinum? After all the government will need 17,773.995 tons of it in order to mint a Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC). Crazier things have happened.

Fox News is clueless about what the $1 Trillion Platinum Coin really is
Fox News - clueless

Matthew Yglesias / Slate:
Fox News Doesn't Understand How Coins Work  — Here's Fox News confusing the idea of a coin-shaped pile of platinum worth $1 trillion and a $1 trillion coin that happens to be made out of platinum and can be of any size. We saw earlier this week that the National Republican Campaign Committee also doesn't understand how coins work, so perhaps I can try again to explain...
discussion:
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Mark Memmott / NPR.org:
Crazy Or Canny? Talk Grows About $1 Trillion Platinum Coin — We're pretty sure this won't happen. But ...

You practically can't visit a news site these days without seeing a story about why President Obama should or should not order the Treasury Department to strike a platinum coin "worth" $1 trillion and deposit it with the Federal Reserve.

And why would Obama want to do that? Because, as we've said, the next big political battle in Washington comes in mid-February when the federal government again hits its "debt ceiling" and won't be able to borrow any more money. Republicans are saying they won't go along with an increase of the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to some serious spending cuts. President Obama has said he's not going to go through another battle like the one in 2011 when much of the government almost had to shut down.

So, the idea has been raised of putting a $1 trillion coin in the Fed's vaults — which in theory, at least, would mean the government has more money available to borrow against and won't bump up against its debt ceiling.
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Ezra Klein / Washington Post:
Mr. President, don’t mint that platinum coin! — Much political commentary has, in recent days, revolved around a most unusual question: Should the Treasury Department mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin that can be used to pay off our debts in the event House Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling?

The short answer is: No, it shouldn’t. The long answer is also: No, it shouldn’t....
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Eric Posner / Slate:
The Danger Lurking Behind the Platinum Coin — This way lies the risk of impeachment.

The idea that President Obama could evade the debt limit by ordering the Treasury Department to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin started off as a joke, or a quasi-joke, but now, thanks in part to Paul Krugman as well as to many other influential commentators (even the former head of the U.S. Mint), is being taken seriously. And if serious people take it seriously, then the coin loses its fairy-tale quality, and why not go through with it? The answer is that the legal case for the platinum coin is not as strong as people think, and if the president gets this wrong, the consequences could be severe...
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