Sunday, January 13, 2013

I've Got a Hole in Me Pocket

Or I would, if I tried to carry around an actual $1 trillion platinum coin, one of the sillier ideas that has come out of Washington D.C. in recent weeks as a way to deal with the fact that Congress can't stop spending money.

In a few weeks, the government will run out of the authority to borrow money. But since they spend more than they take in, they can't keep running things without that authority, so there will have to be a vote to raise the debt limit. You and I, of course, can't do that even if we asked our banks very nicely, but we are not special enough (in every sense of that word) to be a part of the federal government.

Some Representatives and Senators don't want to raise the limit -- at least, not without a chance for some goodies to fall their way first -- so they are threatening to vote against any measure to do so. If enough of them do that, then the government can't borrow any more money and a lot of government services will shut down. Eventually, someone will notice (Hey, I haven't had any junk mail in weeks! This is awesome!) and then we will have to fuss about it.

The $1 trillion coin solution suggested that the Treasury Department use its own authority to mint a platinum coin in the denomination of $1 trillion and thus give itself the ability to spend $1 trillion more. Now, that coin would not actually have $1 trillion of platinum in it. As the article at notes, $1 trillion of platinum at the recent selling price of around $1,600 per ounce would need more than 42 billion pounds of platinum and if minted in the proportions of a normal quarter, it would be big enough to be seen from space.

If, of course, you found another nation that would be willing to take you into space. Because among the many things that 42-billion pound coin would pay for would not be any kind of manned orbital vehicle launched by the nation that minted it.

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