The Trillion Dollar Coin

I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this sooner!  I just learned about it this week while discussing our latest Federal government crisis with someone. Turns out that, during the first debt ceiling crisis of 2011, people were considering the idea of the U.S.  minting a platinum trillion dollar coin in order to bypass the Congress’s refusal to raise the debt limit.  Says Wikipedia:

The concept of striking a trillion dollar coin that would generate one trillion dollars in seigniorage, which would be off-budget, or numismatic profit, which would be on-budget, and be transferred to the Treasury… Thus, if the Treasury were to mint one trillion dollar coins, it could deposit such coins at the Federal Reserve’s Treasury account instead of issuing new debt.

Read the article for the full details.  The coin would have to be platinum, apparently, which of course immediately made me think of the “platinum chip”, the central MacGuffin in Fallout: New Vegas. Moreover, the whole concept of sounds like the denouement of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. So, how could I not be interested?

More seriously, I think the fact that this was even considered–and only rejected out of deference to the balance of power rules–shows the extent to which our government is not functioning like it should.  But then, you knew that.

This latest crisis has shown some serious vulnerabilities in the rules governing the operation of the Federal government.  Has our country really never been so polarized that the parties weren’t driven to this kind of thing before?


  1. When one side of the aisle doesn’t want to play fair, there has to be someway to get around them. This is one of them, but better used as a threat than put into practice.

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