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Coin with dollar sign on front
Felix Salmon, explaining why he doesn't believe the trillion dollar coin will ever be minted, outlines what he believes is the biggest problem with the idea:
It would effectively mark the demise of the three-branch system of government, by allowing the executive branch to simply steamroller the rights and privileges of the legislative branch. Yes, the legislature is behaving like a bunch of utter morons if they think that driving the US government into default is a good idea. But it’s their right to behave like a bunch of utter morons. If the executive branch failed to respect that right, it would effectively be defying the exact same authority by which the president himself governs. The result would be a governance crisis which would make the last debt-ceiling fiasco look positively benign in comparison.
So if Congress tries to tank the United States economy, the president should not pursue every legal avenue possible to prevent them from doing so ... because Congress has the right to screw over the country if they so choose? And even better, if you disagree with that notion, then you believe the country should be run by children:  
If you believe that the country is best run by grown-ups, you can’t believe in #mintthecoin, because it simply isn’t a grown-up strategy. If you believe that the House Republicans behave in crazy and illogical ways, then you can’t believe in #mintthecoin, because the threat of minting the coin doesn’t work against someone who’s crazy and illogical. And if you believe that the best way to approach the debt ceiling is to try and abolish it altogether, then you can’t believe in #mintthecoin, because the entire strategy is based on the idea of keeping the ceiling where it is, and then trying to circumvent it.
Basically, Salmon is arguing that the coin is a bad idea because it's icky and juvenile and would mark the complete failure of government as we know it. Okay, fine, as an intellectual exercise, I can see how it might be comforting to feel that way ... but if Republicans block the debt limit increase, wouldn't things already by icky and juvenile, and wouldn't government have already failed? And as long as the coin is legal (which Salmon seems to believe it is), wouldn't it be a dereliction of duty for President Obama to not pursue it unless he identified a better option?

I don't actually believe Republicans are serious about their threat to throw the country into default (see comments by McConnell, Mitch and Boehner, John), but if they do follow through on their threat, it seems pretty clear that the executive branch's top priority should be identifying mechanisms for mitigating the economic damage of Republican sabotage. Yet Salmon argues that's the wrong approach to take:

The solution to the fiscal cliff crisis was to let the House Republicans overstretch, self-destruct, and render themselves powerless: that’s how to best deal with such people. There’s exactly zero chance that the House Republicans, faced with the Coin Threat, will suddenly turn logical and decide that they’re not going to play political games around the debt ceiling after all.
Salmon is probably right that the existence of the coin option won't impact whether or not Republicans push us over the edge, but the coin isn't primarily a deterrent; it's strategy for coping with the fallout in the event Republicans attempt to force national default. But his analogy with the fiscal cliff doesn't make sense. For starters, that was a negotiation, and as a negotiation, Republicans weren't powerless. They might not have been happy about accepting tax increases, but ultimately the deal couldn't have passed without John Boehner allowing it to come up for a vote.

Unlike the tax deal and unlike the sequester, President Obama says raising the debt limit is non-negotiable. In the end, Republicans will probably accept his position, but if they don't, it would be foolish and irresponsible to not pursue every conceivable legal avenue to protect our economy and the world economy from potential harm. To borrow a tired and worn out phrase, it would be the grown-up to do.

Please sign the petition asking President Obama to mint the trillion dollar coin if Republicans attempt to force the nation into default.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:02 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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