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Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: A Working Document

8:31 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Jack Foster proposed a framing document for High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage, in a recent comment he made on one of my posts. In response, I posted a six-part blog series to accommodate readers who prefer the blog format.

Some, however, will want to read or reference a single framing document, rather than six separate posts, and I prefer it in that form myself because it facilitates seeing the whole picture provided by the many and diverse objections to PCS and HVPCS. So I’ve provided one here. I think the full picture provided by the many objections is that of opposition grounded in a fierce unwillingness to change familiar ways of performing Federal deficit spending requiring debt issuance, even though many of those offering objections know very well that the Government is perfectly capable of creating its own high-powered money without selling debt instruments, and even know that all money creation in our financial system is ultimately, if most often indirectly, based on the constitutional authority of the Congress, and its delegation of that authority to other parties.

What can one say about this except that it is mere conservatism and grounded in fear of the unknown at best, or worse, grounded in a desire to continue to benefit from the financial system in one’s own, rather than the public interest? I’m not saying that conservatism is never rational, or that it is unjustified in all cases. But I think my evaluation in the series, and the full framing document indicates that many, and perhaps all of the objections that have been offered to HVPCS reflect a transparent bias to preserve the present system and are relatively easy to turn aside, because they are a stretch reflecting the bias of the people offering the objections.

In any event, that’s my view of the matter, and I leave it to others to read the framing document and to evaluate for themselves, whether the pattern I’m drawing out of the objections makes sense to them. In doing that I hope others will join me in continuing to gather objections to HVPCS I haven’t covered here, and to record these in comments, so that the document may be kept up to date and may become the primary reference for objections and replies to HVPCS. Let’s try to transform this into a crowd-sourced document, so that it becomes a true community document. I’ll be looking forward to your comments and your contributions!

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.)

Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: Part Six, More Political/Economic Objections

8:31 am in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

This series provides a framing document for Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS). In the five previous parts of the series, I pointed out that there are three classes of opponents of High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS, $30 T and above). The first and largest group opposes all Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) of whatever type. The second, opposes HVPCS, but favors using the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) for the limited purpose of avoiding the debt ceiling. The third, opposes HVPCS, and doesn’t really favor using the TDC either, except, perhaps, as a last resort to avoid the debt ceiling. It favors an incremental approach to PCS beginning perhaps in the millions or billions in face value, and over a long period of time, after giving people years to adjust to Treasury using platinum coins with unusual, and unprecedented, face values, eventually building up to a TDC.

Parts two, three, four, five and this post (Part Six), considers further objections to HVPCS brought forward by people in one or more of these categories, and my replies to them. As you’re seeing, if you’re following the series, the opponents of HVPCS are throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at it. In this concluding post, I’ll consider some further political/economic objections to PCS and HVPCS.

Destroys confidence in the dollar, here and abroad because it reveals the reality that our fiat money isn’t “backed” by anything

This one really makes me see red because it reflects 1) the arrogance of the complainer who thinks he or she is fit to know the reality of the fiat money and our present financial system, while the average citizen is not; 2) the attitude of the complainer that it is OK to maintain the platonic “noble lie” that the operation of our fiat money system is different from the way it really works; 3) the very questionable judgment that if everyone knew that US fiat money was just that, then that would destroy confidence in the dollar, even though it’s well-known that all the world’s currencies, including our own are fiat currencies; and 4) the attitudes of the globalizing elites that average citizens shouldn’t know what they’re about. In a word, the anti-democratic character of this objection to HVPCS really creeps me out.

But recognizing that this objection is profoundly anti-democratic also makes it very clear that HVPCS is very much about the larger process of turning back from the evolution toward global plutocracy we see all around us. And it is also about turning back towards both political and social democracy and a decent life for all.

Destroys budgetary discipline

This is another rich one. The idea here is that as long we think we are short of public money, then we will be more disciplined in our spending, and will make sure that the government deficit spending we do approve is only that spending that is necessary for public purpose. On the other hand, if we use HVPCS, then it will be clear that we can have as much money as we choose to have, and so we will lose our fiscal discipline and responsibility, and just spend willy-nilly on foolish things.

Too bad the world and our public spending habits aren’t as simple as this picture suggests. But, they’re just not.

We now have more than 35 years of experience with austerity politics in the sense that powerful groups in the political system have warned about our deficit and debt problems all that time, and have emphasized the importance of evaluating fiscal policy based on its impact on reducing deficits and balancing budgets, rather than the larger economic and social benefits and costs of those policies.

The record during this time shows that the US has increasingly suffered from a profound fiscal irresponsibility in the sense that we have failed to spend what was necessary to achieve larger public purposes like full employment, decreasing inequality, widely distributed gains in standard of living that keep up with productivity, developing a first class educational system, developing alternatives to fossil energy to serve as the new basis of our economy, developing programs to meet the challenges of environmental sustainability and climate change, increasing family integration, and providing first class universal health care to all Americans as a right. So, for more than 35 years now, our politicians have poor mouthed about not being able to afford expanding our domestic social safety net and discretionary programs, while proceeding to spend lavishly on defense industries, and insisting that we can afford that, all while our country more and more develops the social and economic characteristics of a third world nation.

In short, the last 35 years show that placing artificial constraints on the amount of public deficit spending we will do hasn’t worked to produce responsible fiscal policy that fulfills public purpose. I think that’s because when politicians and people focus on indicators like the debt and deficit to guide fiscal policy, instead of focusing on the real impacts of fiscal policy, that opens the way for well-funded elites to obscure issues about those real impacts and focus instead on narrow financial details that the elites understand, because they employ armies of analysts to understand them, while the public has no hope of understanding them, and so is in a very bad position to defend its interests.

So, when we look at the history of politics since Jimmy Carter decided we ought to try to balance the budget, and Alice Rivlin assumed a dominant position in DC thinking about fiscal policy, we can see that practicing artificial scarcity in fiat money creation hasn’t resulted in our becoming more fiscally responsible, but precisely the opposite. We have to acknowledge that we’ve been focusing on the wrong things, and we have to stop using them as a way of evaluating fiscal policy and government spending.

The national debt and reducing deficit spending should have no part in our evaluation of our fiscal responsibility. All that ought to matter is evaluating the real effects of Government spending on the economy, politics, society, culture, our resources, and the environment. That’s the sort of evaluation that should define budgetary discipline.

Budgetary discipline in that sense is unrelated to HVPCS. It has nothing to do with whether we have, or do not have $60 T in the TGA. It has to do instead, with whether we can mobilize ourselves to make Congress and the Executive accountable to our views about public purpose. Right now they are not.

Instead, they are using their austerity narrative as an excuse to weaken rather than strengthen the safety net. They are using it to refuse to legislate Medicare for All, even though polls have shown for many years that 2/3 of the population wants Medicare for All. They are using it to refuse to enable full employment, including a Job Guarantee for everyone who wants to work full time. They are using it to refuse to make available the funding we need to create a first class educational system. They are using it to refuse to fund sorely needed infrastructure repair and modernization. I can go on and on. But the main point is that the present system of funding Federal deficit spending isn’t working to fulfill our public purposes.

It’s time to change that system and to have the change reflect the truth that there can be no shortage of money in our system, only shortages of resources, labor, skills, know how, and well-being. The budgetary discipline we ought to pursue is the discipline of ending the real shortages we have, by using the money we can generate in whatever quantity we need to implement government programs that will help us end these other, real, shortages.

Causes the Government bureaucracy to expand and crowd out private sector activities

HVPCS is itself unrelated to the size of government compared to the size of the private sector. We can have HVPCS, use it to pay off the national debt, use it to cover deficits for many years to come, and still choose to have a lower percentage of economic activity performed by government rather than the private sector. Even if we run large deficits, covered by HVPCS, those deficits can be devoted to shoring up private sector growth rather than government growth. Whether we do this or not is our choice, and either shrinking the Government, or growing the Government is compatible with HVPCS.

Having said the above, that doesn’t mean that we should decrease the relative size of the government compared to the private economy. In recent years, we have shrunk the government bureaucracy substantially as a percentage of employment. That shrinkage has not led to good times or private sector growth. It has led to the opposite.

The privatization of a lot of government work since the 1970s hasn’t led to a reduction in the costs of funding the activities that used to be performed by civil servants. Instead, it’s clearly increased those costs. Contracting out was supposed to be cheaper, because the government would avoid expensive fringe benefits, including retirement costs, and supposedly would reduce the cost of services through competition. However, this theory has proven to be incorrect. Civil servants are cheaper than contractors, and they perform as well or better than contract workers, perhaps, because they have little incentive to drag out and prolong work to ensure that they will be employed in the future.

In addition, there is no correlation over time in the United States between prosperity, economic growth, and a smaller Federal government. If anything the correlation is negative. There were better times, lower unemployment, and faster growth from the end of WWII through 1980 when the Government’s percentage of the economy was higher than it has been during the period from 1981 to the present. So, maybe we could benefit from some more “crowding out” of the private sector by Government than we now have; but whether we would benefit from this or not, the issue of relative size of the government isn’t directly related to whether HVPCS is used or not.

Conclusions

Here are my conclusions based on this six part examination of HVPCS, including all the current objections I could find to the Executive Branch using it to fill the public purse.

  • Using HVPCS would demonstrate to the public that: the Federal Government’s budget isn’t like their budget; the Federal Government can never run out of money if it doesn’t choose to; there is no need to cut either revenue or spending because we must reduce the deficit; we can use revenues from HVPCS to pay off the national debt as it falls due, and there isn’t any need to pursue the current agenda of austerity and “shared sacrifice.” There is just no need for austerity and we ought to quit wasting time and causing harm by either discussing it or implementing it. Take it off the table!
  • So, HVPCS-based elimination of debt can end the whole austerity mind set that provides our current budgetary process with its constraining conservative cast, focused on narrow monetary cost considerations, rather than on a broader progressive framework that weighs the real costs and benefits of proposed fiscal activities of the Federal Government. Congress and the Executive would then evaluate the substance of legislative proposals based on their likely direct impacts and side effects on the lives of Americans, rather than their impact on Federal deficits and surpluses. Then the issues will be about what people need, and what improvements we can make by working together through the Federal Government. That would be the fulcrum of a new, game-changing politics, not debt, deficits, and debt-to-GDP ratios.
  • HVPCS strikes at the domination of the global financial and political system by Wall Street and the big banks. They will do everything they can to remove the power to use it from the President and the Treasury. That is why HVPCS must be used by the President ASAP! He has the main chance to bring change now. He should take it!
  • Progressives need to fight for retaining the Executive’s capability to use PCS, because that is the quickest road to ending austerity politics and preparing the way for Modern Money Theory-based policies to deliver sustainable economic prosperity, full employment, low inflation, and fiscal policy devoted to the public purpose.
  • High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage using coins having $30 Trillion or greater value is most probably a legal alternative for the Treasury to use to fill the public purse. I say most probably, because no one can tell what will happen in response to a Court challenge. However, the likelihood is that the court will not grant standing to any challenger. Even it does, the odds are with the Executive Branch due to the clear language of the coin seigniorage legislation, the relationships between the Fed and the Treasury specified in the Federal Reserve Act, and the unitary executive doctrine.
  • There are a host of other economic, political, institutional, and political/economic objections to using HVPCS, they range from dismissing it as “weird,” “crazy,” etc. scary to most people, characterizing it as “printing money” and “inflationary,” projecting a political firestorm and projecting political paralysis in Congress if PCS is used at all, worrying about letting the Republicans off the hook for their irresponsible behavior in causing repeated fiscal crises, worrying about appearing to act like a “banana republic,” worrying about the possibility that HVPCS will elicit “black swans” with terrible unanticipated consequences, warning that using HVPCS will violate “a social norm,” projecting a collapse of investor confidence in the US and its currency and loss of reserve currency status, projecting rising interest rates from the bond traders, warning that HVPCS shouldn’t be used because of the maxim “first do no harm,” warning that minting a platinum coin is the first cousin of defaulting on the debt, because the act will convince financial markets that we can’t manage our affairs, warning that using HVPCS will compromise the independence of the Federal Reserve, and the related objection that it would destroy the institutional structure of the financial system. warning that it would destroy confidence in the dollar because it will reveal the reality that our money is “unbacked” fiat, warning that it would destroy budgetary discipline, and that it would cause “crowding out” of the private sector by the government bureaucracy.

    Looking at this list of objections and the replies I’ve offered in this series, I suggest that every one them, with the possible exception of the inflation objection is insignificant compared to the likely benefits of using HVPCS in place of debt issuance to pay off old debt and perform deficit spending without issuing any new debt instruments.

    Even the relatively light austerity being practiced thus far is costing the United States $3.4 Trillion per year in GDP and is leaving more than 30 million dis-employed. If the coming round of austerity from the Congress and the President materializes in the next few months, and we experience another recession, we may end up losing another $1 Trillion off GDP, along with another few million dis-employed.

    So, lifting the burden of austerity politics on the 99%, and ending debt ceiling crises, sequesters, and ideological budgetary conflicts, and their attendant effects on economic activity and unemployment, far outweighs the likely negative consequences of any or all of the rest of the objections against HVPCS, apart from demand-pull inflation, which, I’ve argued, is a very unlikely outcome of HVPCS.

    In this series, I’ve tried to show that there isn’t a good reason in the world not to use HVPCS. Of course, one can’t prove a negative, so I really haven’t shown that. But I hope I’ve shown that it’s costing far too much to continue down the road of debt issuance, in the context of the many objections I’ve reviewed.

    The important cost of doing what we have been doing, is not really the interest on the debt itself; that’s only fiat currency which the Government can always make. it’s the political consequences of the national debt, which are bipartisan action to practice austerity and “shared sacrifice,” that really count. We need to get rid of this before it destroys everything we hold dear. The way to do that is to use HVPCS to get of rid of debt and cover government deficits for many years. HVPCS is a way out of the trap we’ve built for ourselves. We need to get on with it, now!

(Author’s Note: h/t to Jack Foster for proposing a framing document for HVPCS. This is the sixth and concluding part of that document. I’ll make available the whole document shortly.)

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: Part Five, Institutional Objections

7:50 am in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

This series provides a framing document for Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS). In the four previous parts of the series, I pointed out that there are three classes of opponents of High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS, $30 T and above). The first and largest group opposes all Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) of whatever type. The second, opposes HVPCS, but favors using the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) for the limited purpose of avoiding the debt ceiling. The third, opposes HVPCS, and doesn’t really favor using the TDC either, except, perhaps, as a last resort to avoid the debt ceiling. It favors an incremental approach to PCS beginning perhaps in the millions or billions in face value, and over a long period of time, after giving people years to adjust to Treasury using platinum coins with unusual, and unprecedented, face values, eventually building up to a TDC.

Parts two, three, and four, and this post (Part Five), and the remaining post in this series considers further objections to HVPCS brought forward by people in one or more of these categories, and my replies to them. As you’re seeing, if you’re following the series, the opponents of HVPCS are throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at it. In this post, I’ll consider some objections to PCS and HVPCS based on their predicted institutional impact.

The platinum coin is “the first cousin of defaulting on our debt”

This objection is from Ezra Klein; he says:

. . . It is a breakdown in the American system of governance, a symbol that we have become a banana republic. And perhaps we have. But the platinum coin is not the first cousin of cleanly raising the debt ceiling. It is the first cousin of defaulting on our debts. As with true default, it proves to the financial markets that we can no longer be trusted to manage our economic affairs predictably and rationally. It’s evidence that American politics has transitioned from dysfunctional to broken and that all manner of once-ludicrous outcomes have muscled their way into the realm of possibility. As with default, it will mean our borrowing costs rise and financial markets gradually lose trust in our system, though perhaps not with the disruptive panic that default would bring.

The “banana republic” stuff is just name-calling. What does using HVPCS, which is authorized by legislation passed in 1996, have to do with being a banana republic? Sure, we’ve never used HVPCS before to pay down debt and cover deficit spending, but why is it not a superior way to do these things than issuing debt instruments, which require us to deal with bond markets and to provide risk-free interest payments mostly to wealthy elites and foreign nations? It seems to me that it is that method of financing that is much more consistent with the methods used by the Latin American banana republics in the 20th century than HVPCS would be.

And why is the platinum coin the first cousin of defaulting on the debt? Ezra Klein says that it proves to the financial markets that we can’t be trusted to manage our economic affairs in a rational and predictable way. But why would it prove that?

It would prove that we’ve changed our way of paying off debt instruments and deficit spending alright; but that doesn’t mean that our new way of doing things wouldn’t be predictable and rational, and that financial markets wouldn’t know exactly what we were going to do. They’d know, for example, that the US wouldn’t be rolling any more debt by issuing new debt instruments, even though they may not like that as well as they like what we’re doing right now. They’d also know that with austerity off the table; we’d be likely to deficit spend a lot more to create full employment here, which they might guess would also be good for their flagging export-based economies.

As for our borrowing costs rising; just how does Ezra Klein suppose that would happen since 1) we’d use HVPCS to end sales of debt instruments altogether; and 2) our interest rates on still outstanding debt are mostly fixed, except for the relatively small volume of bonds that are inflation-protected?

This last notion of Ezra Klein’s makes two things clear. First, he’s fixated on using Trillion Dollar Coins or less; and has never thought through the implications of using a $60 T coin, having freaked out over the small-ball TDC proposal. And second, he hasn’t yet figured out that our bond interest rates can only go up if the Federal Reserve raises the Federal Funds Rate which it, and it alone, controls. He still thinks that the bond vigilantes and their “confidence” in US bonds determines our interest rates.

Compromises the independence of the Federal Reserve

That’s true. But, the vaunted independence of the Fed has not served us well over the years. What it has amounted to is that the Fed has not been accountable to the public. Its independence has meant independence from the Treasury and, largely, from Congress. But it has not meant independence from the big banks and Wall Street, which the Fed fails to regulate to any visible extent to protect the economy and the public, and whose interests the Fed has served ahead of the interests of the public at large. I am all for the President ordering the Secretary of the Treasury to use HVPCS, because I think the constraints imposed by that upon the Fed, and also the filling of the public purse to such an extent that it will be clear to people that the US can never run out of the currency it alone has the authority to issue, will make the Congress, the Fed, and the Executive Branch all much more accountable to the wishes of the American people.

Destroying the institutional structure of the financial system

I don’t know about its destroying the institutional structure of the system; but I will point to a few critical impacts I think HVPCS is likely to have. First, as Warren Mosler has pointed out in his characteristically pithy way,

“And all the coin does is shift interest expense from the Treasury to the Fed. . . “

This is Warren’s assessment of the financial system impact. But, second, an HVPCS coin would have a critical impact politically, because as I have pointed out time and again, it would end austerity politics for good, because it would end the debate over the national debt.

Third, it would make Treasury financing operations much more transparent than they are now. “The secrets of the temple” would be much more out in the open. That’s important, because right now the Federal Reserve and the banks escape accountability, since the American people don’t understand their role.

Fourth, the Federal Reserve Banks would have to pay IOR to maintain their target Federal Funds Rate. From the viewpoint of the public, that kind of operation would look like the bank savings accounts that people are familiar with. The Fed holds reserves and pays depositors an interest rate. Right now, when the Treasury pays interest on securities, that looks like debt to the public, not like the savings accounts that security accounts are like functionally. So, IOR replacing securities in response to HVPCS would greatly improve the political optics of government financing deficit spending.

And fifth, John Lounsbury makes this important point:

The reason Mosler’s one-liner is so significant is that, once discovered that it is no longer necessary for private banking to create the credit to pay for government appropriations when they exceed tax revenues, the banks have lost their umbilical cord to the federal government. The government will have demonstrated that private banking is not necessary to fund government operations.

A primal fear of private banking: The government might discover that public finance and private finance can be divorced. An entitlement can be ended: the need for government to pay interest to private institutions to finance operations would be no more.

That might well be beginning of the end for today’s institutional structure of the financial system. And I have to confess that after the many banking fiascos of the past 30 years, I can’t view that as a bad thing for either this country, or the rest of the world.

But that’s just me; maybe Ezra Klein has a different opinion?

(Author’s Note: h/t to Jack Foster for proposing a framing document for HVPCS. This is it; but divided into 6 parts for blogging convenience. The rest of the series will continue with objections made to HVPCS and my answers to them.)

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: Part Four, Political/Economic Objections

7:46 am in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

This series provides a framing document for Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS). In the three previous parts of the series, I pointed out that there are three classes of opponents of High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS, $30 T and above). The first and largest group opposes all Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) of whatever type. The second, opposes HVPCS, but favors using the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) for the limited purpose of avoiding the debt ceiling. The third, opposes HVPCS, and doesn’t really favor using the TDC either, except, perhaps, as a last resort to avoid the debt ceiling. It favors an incremental approach to PCS beginning perhaps in the millions or billions in face value, and over a long period of time, after giving people years to adjust to Treasury using platinum coins with unusual, and unprecedented, face values, eventually building up to a TDC.

Parts two, and three, this post (Part Four), and the two remaining posts in this series consider still more objections brought forward by people in one or more of these categories, and my replies to them. As you’re seeing, if you’re following the series, the opponents of HVPCS are throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at it. In this post, I’ll consider some political/economic objections to PCS.

An HVPCS coin is a less acceptable option than a TDC or HVCS coin

Less acceptable to who? Certainly, HVPCS would be less acceptable to the FIRE sector than other PCS options. But the truth is that all PCS options would be unacceptable to them. They will scream hysterically if any PCS option is used; and then will raise huge amounts of money, and work as hard as they can to repeal PCS legislation. So, what’s the difference whether an HVPCS, TDC, or HVCS approach to PCS is used? Why do we care about how they will react?

The important question is how most people will react; not how special interests will. And people will react much more favorably to PCS, if enough money is minted to fill the public purse, change the game, and solve their perceived debt/deficit problem, than will react if only enough is minted to avoid the debt ceiling, or to fund specific programs with relatively small amounts of seigniorage. That’s why HVPCS is actually a much more acceptable option than either of the other two.

An HVPCS coin would bring on “Black Swans”

The argument here is that any new significant thing that we do, will have unintended consequences; and that some of them will be “black swans.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb says (pp. xvii – xviii) that a “Black Swan” is an event with three attributes:

It is an outlier . . .” in the sense that it is “outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. . . it carries an extreme impact . . . human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”

Keeping this definition in mind, perhaps beowulf’s formulation of the PCS option might be considered a black swan; though Ellen Brown had envisioned the possibility of a TDC in her 2007 book, before beowulf advocated it, but without framing it in the context of existing legislation. That might make PCS more a “white swan,” an unexpected event we might have been able to anticipate. However, even if PCS itself is a black, white or “gray swan,” it’s much harder to contend, even with the most open-minded thinking about it, that it’s potential consequences are likely to include events “. . . outside the realm of regular expectations.”

Looking at the various objections we’re surveying here, they include a wide range of unintended consequences, and we are anticipating them, discussing them, evaluating the likelihood of the various possibilities. Black Swans can always arise, and we need to prepare for them as best we can. But that preparation can’t include avoiding new innovations that promise to help us solve serious problems that are visiting very heave social and economic costs on much of out population. But, instead, it ought to include measures we can take to adjust and correct for risks that are known and even unknown.

I think that deficit spending using HVPCS, comes with various fail-safes we can use if things begin to develop chaotically. One of them, perhaps the most fundamental, is that we can simply stop using the seigniorage in the TGA, and start issuing securities again. Even if we did that, by then we’d be a better position relative to the perceived threat from the debt, we’ve been hearing about everyday. Another, is that the Federal Reserve can pay Interest on Reserves (IOR), as it is doing now.

Yet another, is that we can monitor the effects of seigniorage spending carefully, to track the changes occurring in the financial institutional structure caused by seigniorage in itself. Finally, we can use taxation to cool off any overheating of the economy due to seigniorage spending.

In short, with the various alternatives for adjustment we have available, if necessary, and very careful monitoring of effects, I think that fear of the inevitable unintended consequences of using seigniorage should not deter us from using it to attempt to solve the political problem of the national debt and end austerity. To suggest otherwise, is to mistake the “black swan” for a conservative bogeyman. But then again, perhaps that’s what Nassim Nicholas Taleb intended all along.

Inflation

Won’t creating all this money by using PCS to repay debt and perform deficit spending without issuing any new debt be inflationary? In a word, no!

The credits in the Treasury General Account (TGA) ultimately resulting from using $60 T PCS aren’t immediately spent. So, they don’t all enter the economy immediately, but over a very long period of time from 15 – 25 years in duration. To gauge the inflationary impact, you have to analyze when and how the credits would be entering the economy.

Roughly $6.5 Trillion in debt subject to the limit was owed by the Treasury to other agencies or to the Fed itself. That debt could be redeemed in the same week after minting a $60 T coin. But the payments wouldn’t be inflationary because they would not enter the non-government economy. Nevertheless, these payments would cut back debt subject to the limit by close to 40%, because of the ridiculous quirk in the law that counts intra-governmental debt toward the debt ceiling.

Next, the 10 T or so of debt held by private corporations, individuals, and foreign governments would only be paid as it falls due. Much of it would be paid over the first three years. But, the additional reserves placed in the system by paying the debt, and not issuing new debt instruments would be less inflationary than rolling over bonds would be.

Also, their presence in the banking system, would clearly flood it with reserves and drive overnight interest rates down to zero, rather than raising them. For the Fed to hit any non-zero rate targets it would have to support them by paying IOR, to drain the excess reserves. So, there’s no inflationary impact from repaying debt instruments as they fall due by adding reserves to the banking system.

That leaves deficit spending. In the case of a $60 T coin, and a national debt of $16.4 Trillion, we’ll assume that $43.6 Trillion would be left in the TGA for future deficit spending. However, the fact that the credits are in the TGA doesn’t mean that the Treasury could spend them. In fact, it can only spend them if Congress appropriates deficit spending. So, the bottom line is that the $43.6 T doesn’t go into the economy until it’s appropriated. Then some portion of it can be inflationary if Congress deficit spends past the point of full employment; but if it doesn’t, then there won’t be demand-pull inflation. And, if it does, then the inflation will be due to unwise Congressional appropriations and not to using PCS.

In short, there’s no way that PCS in itself can have an inflationary impact, no matter how high the value of the platinum coin is. That’s because repayment of already held debt is less inflationary than continuous rollover, and gradual increase, of debt. Repayment of debt to government agencies including the Fed doesn’t enter the economy, and using PCS-generated funds to cover deficits is not in itself inflationary, unless deficit spending is so large that it continues past the point of full employment.

”First Do No Harm”

“First, Do No Harm,” is a great maxim; but when excessive caution and delay have the very high costs we see in our economy; then we have to weigh those already experienced and continuing costs of not minting a $60 T or other HVPC, and also the risk that the capability to use HVPCS may be repealed, against the potential cost and very low likelihood of inflation resulting from using it to fill the public purse, and then only to pay down the national debt and cover Congressional deficit appropriations. As I’ve already argued, there’s no causal transmission mechanism directly from PCS-based spending to demand-pull inflation. And demand-pull inflation is by far the consequence of HVPCS that people fear most.

It would shake investor confidence in the US

Some skeptics warn that using a $60 T coin would shake investor confidence in the United States lead to the dollar’s replacement as the reserve currency, and might and cause the de-evaluation of the dollar in international exchanges. I’m very skeptical about this possible scenario. First, the $60 T coin proceeds would first be used to pay off intragovernmental and Fed debt. This can have little effect on the non-government economy because nothing goes into it as a result of this pay off. Also, the outstanding public debt would suddenly be down by 40%, guaranteeing that would be no more debt ceiling crises in the US for some time. I can’t see how this would do anything but increase confidence.

Second, when the seigniorage is used for deficit spending, the immediate effect of that would be to supply no more securities to the market and to create the expectation that supply would be limited in the future. That can only increase demand for the securities still outstanding, increasing their desirability.

Third, during the first year after HVPCS is used another $1.7 T in short-term debt would be paid off, at least. That too, would increase demand for the remaining securities in the market place. As for the swap of $1.7 T in reserves for the securities, I’ve already argued earlier, that the reserves may be less inflationary than securities, which means that the swap might well be mildly deflationary. But whether it is, or is just a swap with little inflationary impact; it’s hard to see why this would effect the value of USD in international trade.

On the reserve currency business, I don’t think there will be any impact on that status as a result of using the coin, because, again, there will be no inflation resulting from it. But let’s say people panicked and replaced USD as the reserve currency. Then 1) our exports would increase and unemployment here would decline; and 2) our military interventionism in foreign policy would take a hit; because fighting wars overseas would be much more expensive due to the decreased value of USDs. Seems to me both of those things are good for us.

If we mint the $60 T then we will “freak out” bond traders since we’re “flipping them the bird.”

Well, all I have to say about this one, is that it’s probably true. After all, anyone would “freak out” if the primary source of supply for their business was threatened. But what I don’t understand about this complaint is why the President and the rest of us ought to worry about it. After all, the bond traders don’t worry about us, or the 31 million people who are now dis-employed, do they?

So, if the bond traders are mad at the US, then can they do about it? They can’t drive up the interest rates on bonds already sold, and they can’t force the United States to sell any more debt instruments if the Treasury doesn’t want to. Maybe they can get the Fed to pay a higher IOR rate. But that will have minimal effects on our politics.

In my next post, I’ll discuss objections to HVPCS based on institutional impacts

(Author’s Note: h/t to Jack Foster for proposing a framing document for HVPCS. This is it; but divided into 6 parts for blogging convenience. The rest of the series will continue with objections made to HVPCS and my answers to them.)

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: Part Three, Political Objections

10:57 am in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

As I pointed out in Part Two of this series, there are three classes of opponents of High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS, $30 T and above). The first and largest group opposes all Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) of whatever type. The second, opposes HVPCS, but favors using the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) for the limited purpose of avoiding the debt ceiling. The third, opposes HVPCS, and doesn’t really favor using the TDC either, except, perhaps, as a last resort. It favors an incremental approach to PCS beginning perhaps in the millions or billions in face value, and over a long period of time eventually building up to a TDC.

Part two, this post (Part Three), and the three remaining posts in this series consider the many objections brought forward by people in one or more of these categories, and my replies to them. As you’re seeing, if you’re following the series, the opponents of HVPCS have already thrown everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at it. In this post, I’ll consider some political objections to PCS.

The Executive will never do it because it’s too crazy, weird, bizarre, or outré for words and is beneath the dignity of the United States. Also, it’s too big to be practical.

Mostly, this kind of characterization is just name-calling and labeling and is really beneath contempt. A big problem exists. That problem is austerity politics and it is blocking the emergence of progressive economic policy during a time when the presence of nearly 31 million dis-employed people, unprecedented inequality, a stagnating economy, and many other serious challenges requiring an activist Federal government to enable solutions. This is what is too crazy, weird, bizarre, or outré for words and is beneath the dignity of the United States. This is what is profoundly impractical; not minting an HVPC of whatever face value to fill the public purse so we can pay off the debt and cover deficit spending for years to come.

HVPCS can provide the fiscal background that will open the way to constructive economic policies. HVPCS is a novel solution in the sense that it has never been used before. But that doesn’t make it crazy, weird, bizarre, or outré. It just makes it “new.”

Fearful, or conservative people will frequently characterize new initiatives in uncomplimentary ways; but their real objection is that the new proposal is outside of their comfort zone; and they believe in as little change as possible because they think that change is most often bad and rarely, if ever, a good thing. From their point of view, this is the best of all possible worlds, however evil it may be for the majority of people.

There’s no point to creating a Strategic Petroleum Reserve-like buffer stock of something the govt has the ability to create at will, especially if it’s just going to scare the hell out of people

This is an objection offered by those who prefer an incremental approach to PCS, rather than HVPCS with its consequence that enough seigniorage would be generated to pay off the national debt and cover deficit spending for many years to come. They emphasize the importance of making people comfortable with the idea of PCS before we use it to really change the situation of fiscal politics and move it away from austerity.

Making people comfortable and moving toward consensus is a laudable goal. But PCS will immediately be perceived as a threat to powerful vested interests (as I’ll explain below). These interests won’t allow the Treasury Department to have the power to create electronic credits in the Treasury’s spending account for very long. They will vigorously pursue repeal of the 1996 law to constrain Treasury once again to taxing or borrowing in order to fill the public purse. That’s why we do need a buffer stock of funds in the Treasury General Account (TGA) whether or not it scares people.

In addition, just what does “scaring people” people mean? Scaring bond traders? Scaring Wall Street? Scaring the big banks? Scaring the media who have gotten in bed with these interests? Scaring the people who have devoted their lives to propagandizing for austerity? Or does it mean scaring “average” Americans?

I don’t think it means scaring most people, because I think they will be comforted to know that the Treasury has enough funds to pay off the public debt as it comes due; and to cover deficit spending appropriated by Congress for many years to come. They will also be comforted to know that there’s no need to cut major popular safety net or discretionary programs, or to raise taxes on them.

Let’s get real! Using HVPCS may scare elites here in the United States and in other nations around the world. But it won’t scare the American people once they understand how it will impact their own lives.

It’s the same as “printing money”!

“Printing money” is an epithet from gold standard days used to characterize paper money that wasn’t convertible to, and thus “backed by” gold. When the US and other nations ended the gold standard in 1971, all money became fiat money, unbacked by convertibility into any commodity. So, today, when people refer to “printing money” they usually mean the Government issuing currency or bank reserves while deficit spending, without also issuing debt instruments of equal face value to withdraw an equal amount of money from the economy. When debt is sold along with new money created in deficit spending, this is often viewed as “debt-backed” money, and is also thought to be less inflationary than deficit spending unaccompanied by new government debt.

The objection to using PCS then, is precisely that it would provide the credits needed to add new money into the economy without issuing debt, and the basis of the objection is that this is more inflationary than adding the same money into the economy after subtracting an equal amount from it by selling debt. In turn, the idea that PCS-based deficit spending and debt pay off would be more inflationary than debt-based spending is based on the Quantity Theory of Money (QTM). The problem is that the QTM is false, and that both logical analysis of the theory and the empirical evidence available to us refute it.

I’ll discuss this a little more below under the inflation objection. But the main point here is that there’s no reason to believe that PCS-based deficit spending or debt repayment would be more inflationary than deficit spending or debt repayment accompanied by debt issuance. So, there’s nothing to the “printing money” objection. The US isn’t either Zimbabwe, or Weimar. It doesn’t have crippling external debts in currencies it does not create; or wholesale destruction or appropriation of its productive capacities to contend with. So, PCS won’t lead to our becoming like either of those historical basket cases.

The political blowback will be fierce, and minting the coin will strengthen the extremist faction in the Republican Party and lead to paralysis in the Congress.

Minting a platinum coin with any appreciable face value over $1 Billion Dollars will create a political firestorm. It doesn’t matter if the face value is $100 Billion or $100 Trillion, the act of using PCS, including HVPCS, will be met with outrage, propaganda, labeling, name-calling, and predictions about the decline and fall of the United States. The extremist faction of the Republican Party will have a field day and will be fully supported in their outrage by Wall Street, the big banks, and the financial and political MSM.

However, it won’t lead to political paralysis in Congress, provided HVPCS is used rather than “moderate” PCS options. If $60 T gets credited to the TGA, and the President pays down $6.5 T in intragovernmental debt, during the first week after minting the coin, then the Congress will be faced with a game-changing fiscal backdrop to deal with. The President can advocate for action on a variety of measures that will meet national problems with no questions about the fiscal capacity to accomplish these things. If the Republicans simply refuse to pass them, or to work through compromises without having the excuse that we must balance the budget, reduce the deficit, or repay debt because we are running out of money; then they will suffer severe losses in 2014, and the President will get what he wants in 2015.

It really is as simple as that. Without being able to “poor mouth” the country, the Republicans will have no rationalization for their obstructive fiscal politics, and the President will have no excuse for cutting programs people need and want. If the extremist Republicans continue on with their normal economic nonsense, then they will be dead men/women walking as we approach the next election. The 80 CEOs and their “fix the debt” stuff, as well as Peter G. Peterson will also be gone, as political factors. And both parties will have to get about the business of solving our nation’s problems, or suffer the consequences in 2014.

The platinum coin will only delay a reckoning we need to have

The “reckoning” here is over the Republicans’ “reckless threat to force the United States into default.” Using either the TDC or HVPCS, lets the Republicans off the hook on this issue and makes the new hot issue the President’s irresponsible action in minting a platinum coin. I think whether this happens or not depends on the face value of the platinum coins involved. If the platinum coin is a $60 T or some other HVPCS alternative, then I think the political system will quickly begin frying bigger fish than either of those issues.

The issue of whether to let Republicans off the hook is small potatoes compared to the issue of whether HVPCS should be used in place of debt issuance to pay off old debt and perform deficit spending without issuing any new debt instruments. Both this issue and the issue of whether we should end austerity politics when there’s no longer any need to worry about solvency or debt when deficit spending, are far bigger issues than whether the Republicans were “reckless” or the President “irresponsible.” In addition, the issue of the President’s “irresponsibility” will be gone in a week once he pays off that first $6.5 T in debt subject to the limit.

We can’t mint a platinum coin because this would violate a social norm!

Social and cultural norms are properties of social systems, and there are many levels of social systems ranging from families and small friendship groupings to international social systems. You can certainly say that there’s a norm against using HVPCS as a plausible solution to the national debt, and claim that this is not how our society pays its bills. And, it’s certainly true that we haven’t done it in the past; and that people working for, or identifying with, the FIRE sector are opposed to using PCS as a solution to the debt problem and take refuge in ridiculing us and trying to activate a social norm and frame that they think is dominant.

But these things don’t show that there really is a social norm preventing this in the United States when viewed as a large-scale political/economic system. Or that President Obama has to move incrementally to change “the social norm” because he would have a problem with implementing High Value PCS with a bold lightening strike minting a $60 T coin, since the country as a whole would rise up in opposition to such a move due to the strength of the social norm that we shouldn’t use HVPCS. There’s no evidence at all to suggest that this would be the case, and every reason to believe that most people don’t care how the national debt is paid off; so long as it’s paid off, and is not there to burden themselves, and “their grandchildren.”

After all, most people are completely unaware of how deficit spending and debt instruments work, and completely unaware that “debt is not debt” as we MMTers like to say. What they do know is that the United States has more than $16.4 T in debt instruments out there. That scares them, because they’ve been made to believe that it’s their debt, and I think they really don’t care if this “debt” is paid off by taxing more than we spend, or through using platinum coins to get the Federal Reserve to create money out of thin air for Treasury to use in a way that has no obvious short-term effects on them.

In part four, I’ll discuss more political as well as some economic objections.

(Author’s Note: h/t to Jack Foster for proposing a framing document for HVPCS. This is it; but divided into 6 parts for blogging convenience. The rest of the series will continue with objections made to HVPCS and my answers to them.)

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: Part Two, Legal Objections

4:30 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

There are three classes of opponents of High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS, $30 T and above). The first and largest group opposes all PCS of whatever type. The second, opposes HVPCS, but favors using the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) for the limited purpose of avoiding the debt ceiling. The third, opposes HVPCS, and doesn’t really favor using the TDC either, except, perhaps, as a last resort.

It favors an incremental approach to PCS beginning perhaps in the millions or billions in face value, and over a long period of time eventually building up to a TDC. The remaining posts in this series consider the many objections brought forward by people in one or more of these categories, and my replies to them. As you will see, the opponents of HVPCS have already thrown everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at it. In this post, I’ll consider some legal objections.

PCS violates the intent of the 1996 legislation, and is an unconstitutional exercise of executive authority, or is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the executive.

The Courts generally don’t try to interpret laws based on theories about Congressional intent, in the face of the plain language of a law. The language of section (k) of the 1996 legislation is particularly plain in providing for platinum coin seigniorage and leaving face values and other coin attributes up to the Secretary. It is not just that section (k) is plain its meaning; but also that other sections of the law constrain what the secretary can do in various ways. The plain implication of the section (k) textual context is that Congress intended to delegate broad powers of platinum coin seigniorage to the Secretary. There is no contrary evidence to the plain meaning of the text of section (k) in the law.

Some have contended that the purpose of the statute was to legislate about commemorative coins, rather than coins intended as a a source of revenue for the Treasury. Philip Diehl, Director of the US Mint at the time of the legislation drafted the language of the law. He flatly denies that the intent of the law was to authorize more commemorative coins, and says it was to provide new coins that would produce profits for the US Mint. Such coins are unambiguously legal tender. There’s no further evidence that Congress intended anything else in passing the law he drafted.

The Justices aren’t collective psychologists who are expert at divining the intent of the Congress. They are expert, however, at interpreting what the text of a law says, and so that is what they stick to almost all the time. A challenge to PCS based on intent isn’t something any Court is likely to take up, in the face of the language of the 1996 legislation, and Congress’s plain ability to repeal one or more of countless laws that allow unintended consequences.

What if a $60 trillion dollar coin is used to avoid the debt ceiling, and this saves the United States from defaulting on its debts, and the world financial system from collapsing? Is it then likely that the Supreme Court will entertain any challenges to the plain language of the law based on an interpretation of intent, unsupported in the text of the law, which would then place the Treasury in the position of having to return that trillion dollars in Fed credits, and again look default in the face? Can you see John Roberts ever voting for this?

John Carney, a CNBC blogger, has suggested that the 1996 legislation is unconstitutional because it specified an impermissible delegation of the Congressional authority to coin money to the Executive Branch. He argues that there’s no “intelligible principle” behind the language in section (k) limiting the Secretary’s powers.

However, Congress delegated to the Treasury the power to mint platinum bullion and proof coins having a variety of properties to be specified by the Secretary; but it did not delegate to the Secretary that power with respect to coins made out of other materials; or even with respect to platinum coins that are neither bullion or proof coins. So, Congress did limit the authority of the Treasury to mint platinum coins according to intelligible principles. Just not the intelligible principle that the coins involved had to be limited to a specific face value. Or, to put it another way, in the area of platinum coins what Congress has done is to delegate its authority according to “the intelligible principle” that the Secretary is to mint such coins with face values he/she deems necessary and proper.

PCS really doesn’t avoid breaching the debt ceiling

It’s also been suggested that PCS doesn’t solve the debt ceiling problem, because in substance, if not in form, using the platinum coin is just a way of Treasury getting a loan from the Fed until the debt ceiling can be raised and it can go back to issuing debt. This argument assumes, however, that Treasury would have an obligation, at some point, to redeem the coin from the Fed with revenue raised from taxes or debt issuance. However, none of the proponents of using PCS, until very recently, when this idea crept into the writing of Paul Krugman, ever proposed restoring the status quo by buying the coin back from the Fed.

Instead, our main idea has always been that any platinum coins deposited at the Fed would remain in its vault as a Fed asset in perpetuity, and that the Fed would credit the US Mint’s account with the face values of the coins. In our view the Fed would have the legal duty to provide such credits in response to a deposit of a platinum coin or coins because the coins are legal tender, and the NY Fed, as the fiduciary banking agent of the Treasury Department, cannot refuse to accept and credit a legal tender coin. The Treasury would incur no obligation to the Fed in using PCS, any more than any one of us would incur any obligation to our bank in giving them a coin with $100 in total face value, and expecting the bank to credit our account with that $100.

The Fed can’t be forced by Treasury to accept and credit an HVPC it mints

Oh, yes it can. Treasury may choose not to force the Fed to do this, as it just did, but one of the powers vested in the Secretary of the Treasury before creation of the Federal Reserve system was certainly to spend its legal tender into the economy. To do that under an arrangement where the Fed is its fiduciary bank/agent, requires that the Fed deposit and credit its legal tender into its spending account, the TGA. So, I think it follows that under 12 USC 246, the Secretary has the authority to order the Federal Reserve to credit that coin so Federal spending can proceed. If the Fed Chair still refuses, then the President can remove the Fed Chair for cause (12 USC 242). See this more detailed argument for further development. In Part Three, I’ll consider political objections to using HVPCS.

(Author’s Note: h/t to Jack Foster for proposing a framing document for HVPCS. This is it; but divided into 6 parts for blogging convenience. The rest of the series will continue with objections made to HVPCS and my answers to them.)

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

Framing Platinum Coin Seigniorage: Part One, Basics

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

How many times have you heard that the Government can only spend money after it raises revenue by either taxing or borrowing? Nearly every time someone talks or writes about the US’s public deficit/debt problem? How come nobody asks why, since Congress has the unlimited authority to create coins and currency, it doesn’t just create money when it deficit spends? The short answer is that Congress in 1913, constrained the Executive Branch from creating currency or bank reserves, delegated its power to do that to the Federal Reserve System, and never looked back when we went off the gold standard in 1971, even though this removed the danger of money-creation outrunning gold reserves, and also created a new monetary system based on fiat currency.

How It Works

But coins, it turns out are different from currency and bank reserves. They’re the province of the Executive. And Congress provided the authority, in legislation passed in 1996, for the US Mint to create one oz. platinum bullion or proof platinum coins with arbitrary fiat face value, having no relationship to the market value of the platinum used in the coins. These coins are legal tender. When the Mint deposits them in its Public Enterprise Fund (PEF) account, the Fed must credit it with the face value of these coins. The difference between the Mint’s costs in producing the coins, and the reserves provided by the Fed is the US Mint’s “coin seigniorage” or profit from the transaction.

The US code also provides for the Treasury to periodically “sweep” the Mint’s account at the Fed for profits. These then go into the Treasury General Account (TGA), the spending account of the Treasury, narrowing or eliminating the revenue gap between spending and tax revenues. So, for example, say the Secretary of the Treasury ordered the Director of the Mint to create a $60 Trillion (face value) coin; and deposit it in the PEF account at The NY Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed would credit the PEF with $60 T in reserves, and the Treasury would then “sweep” the seigniorage, nearly $60 T, into its spending account.

Benefits

Platinum coins with huge face values such as $60 T, can produce seigniorage closing the revenue gap and technically end deficit spending, while still retaining the gap between tax revenues and spending that can add to aggregate demand and produce full employment. Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) is also a way for the Executive to end debt ceiling crises, since the profits could be used to repay debt instruments when they fall due, without the need to issue any more debt.

The seigniorage from a $60 T platinum coin would serve as a potent symbol of the truth that the Federal Government can never involuntarily run out of money. This is one of the central ideas of MMT that the public needs to accept routinely, to understand that the Government’s budget isn’t like their household budget. The presence of the $60 T in the public purse would be a positive enabler of progressive legislation creating benefits that people want now, but austerians say we can’t pass because “we can’t afford it.”

If all debt instruments are re-paid by using PCS, then, eventually the US would have no debt subject to the limit, or presence in the bond market, and would pay no interest to bond holders. No one would worry about the public debt, or use its size to justify blocking legislation that fulfills public purpose and promotes the general welfare.

So, PCS-based elimination of debt can end the whole austerity mind set that provides our current budgetary process with its constraining conservative cast, focused on narrow monetary cost considerations, rather than on a broader progressive framework that weighs the real costs and benefits of proposed fiscal activities of the Federal Government. Congress and the Executive would then evaluate the substance of legislative proposals based on their likely direct impacts and side effects on the lives of Americans, rather than their impact on Federal deficits and surpluses. Then the issues will be about what people need, and what improvements we can make by working together through the Federal Government. That would be the fulcrum of a new, game-changing politics, not debt, deficits, and debt-to-GDP ratios.

Why we need to get it done right now!

It must be done now! If it doesn’t, then people who are against the use of PCS will have time to organize against it and get it repealed by the Congress. Now that the PCS capability is widely known, the FIRE Sector will be gunning for it with all the financial, political and propaganda power it can bring to bear. It will do that because using PCS, especially the $30 T or greater coin, High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS) I propose, strikes at the domination of the financial and political systems by Wall Street and the big banks. Cullen Roche explains why:

The most interesting thing about the coin idea is that the biggest threat of the coin was to the existence of private banking. I am actually surprised that a major bank hasn’t come out very publicly stating that the coin was ridiculous. Why? Because the coin exposes a potentially enormous change in the way the US monetary system functions. Instead of having a money system that is designed almost entirely around private banks (who issue most of the money) the coin threatened to expose the reality that government could self finance if it wanted to. In other words, the government could become the permanent primary issuer of money (as opposed to choosing to use private bank money).

So the Fed’s role is of particular interest here. And we must again ask ourselves. What is the Fed? Is it a public entity or private entity? It’s a bit of both. The Fed is a strange sort of hybrid public/private entity. But the coin decision has to make one wonder where they stand on this issue and whether the Fed has imposed its will on a potentially important debate. Is this merely a case of the Fed being apolitical and independent? Or is this a case of the Fed siding with its true master – the private banking oligopoly? I don’t know, but one thing we know for sure is that the Fed is not merely serving public purpose at all times. After all, its existence as a support feature for an oligopoly that serves private purpose (banks are slaves to their owners) renders the Fed compromised on public purpose to some degree.

So, HVPCS threatens the banks’ domination of the Fed, and also their role in money creation, and with it some of their income. The more time that passes without using HVPCS, the more likely it is that the Executive Branch will lose this capability to Wall Street’s persistent political efforts at repeal, and become the actual, rather than only the pretended (kabuki) prisoner of debt instruments and austerity once again.

Already, some bloggers in the business press who want to use the TDC to avoid the debt ceiling have proposed and expressed support for the idea that the capability to use PCS could be repealed in a swap for repeal of the debt ceiling legislation. This is a very unequal swap, because the power to use PCS, along with the willingness to use it, already makes the debt limit a dead letter.

The only swap that makes any sense is repeal for legislation giving Treasury the same right as the Fed has now, to create money out of thin air, but only for the purpose of repaying debt subject to the limit and covering deficit spending appropriated by the Congress; because this, and only this, is the equivalent of the PCS power. The only thing that would be more preferable than either of those things is to end the “independent,” really big bank and Wall Street dominated, Fed, and make it accountable by placing it under the direct authority of the Executive Branch and the Secretary of the Treasury with the Fed’s current capabilities to create money intact.

Progressives need to fight for retaining the Executive’s capability to use PCS, because that is the quickest road to ending austerity politics and preparing the way for Modern Money Theory-based policies to deliver sustainable economic prosperity, full employment, low inflation, and fiscal policy devoted to the public purpose. Removal of the capability would require that austerity politics be ended through change in the Congress. That sort of change, however, is years down the road, whereas the President can make HVPCS happen right now.

(Author’s Note: h/t to Jack Foster for proposing a framing document for HVPCS. This is it; but divided into 6 parts for blogging convenience. The rest of the series will deal with objections made to HVPCS and answers to them.)

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

Disconnect: High Value Platinum Coin Vs. Austerity!

1:38 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

A little disconnect: what President Obama, through Treasury and the Federal Reserve, really said last Saturday:

“We’re running out of money because the Republican House may not allow us to float any more debt; so I took the Platinum Coin off the table just to ensure that we would!

Next month, I’ll give you the gift of austerity, because, naturally, we’re now really gonna run out of money!”

Despite Saturday’s announcements by the Treasury and the Fed the Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) legislation is still on the books. For the President not to use it to fill the public purse with enough funds to banish the fiscal conditions that underlie austerity politics — the national debt, and the ability to cover the deficit for a long time to come — is inexcusably corrupt, fiscally and economically irresponsible, and completely opposed to the public purpose that the President is supposed to serve.

So, I want to tell the President that for as long as PCS is on the books, and he and others are claiming that we need austerity because we are “running out of money,” he has the duty and the obligation to mint a game-changing High Value Platinum Coin, for example, a $60 T platinum coin. After this legal tender coin is credited by the Fed, the presence of $60 T in the Treasury General Account (TGA), and its immediate use to begin paying off the national debt, will make it very plain that there is no need for austerity; no need to cut SS, Medicare, and Medicaid; no need to cut Head Start, no need to cut anything that’s working.

Yesterday, the White House line was that temporary fixes to the debt ceiling problem like the platinum coin would not solve the budgetary and political problems faced by the Government. Our mainstream media people did their thing by failing to call out the President on that – probably because they, themselves, have never dared think about any other PC option apart from the Trillion Dollar Coin. It’s easy to see, however, that a $60 T coin wouldn’t be a “temporary fix,” spawning crises every few months, even if it wouldn’t last forever. The fact that a $1 Trillion Dollar Coin would not solve our debt ceiling problem for very long, isn’t an argument for taking High Value PCS (HVPCS) off the table at all.

So, I call on the President to mint that $60 T coin now! I call on him to abandon austerity and to create financial plenty in Federal fiscal policy by using game-changing HVPCS. Austerity and “grand bargains” are “the great betrayal!” We don’t need such “greed bargains.” We need a full public purse, and then we need to get Congress to open the purse for programs that fulfill public purpose.

I call on others to join me in beginning again to blog, comment, facebook, and tweet about PCS; but this time to forget about the TDC, which was always the wrong coin, and focus on #minttheHVPC instead.

Up the ante! Make this about ending austerity, and using the right platinum coin to create the political space needed for doing it! Forget about them taking PCS off the table! As long as it’s legal it’s still on the Table! Mint that HVPC! End Austerity!

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.)

Make ‘Em Do It! I Still Choose Using High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage To End Austerity!

7:50 am in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Yesterday, Ezra Klein reported in the Washington Post that:

The Treasury Department will not mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin to get around the debt ceiling. If they did, the Federal Reserve would not accept it.

That’s the bottom line of the statement that Anthony Coley, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, gave me today.

“Neither the Treasury Department nor the Federal Reserve believes that the law can or should be used to facilitate the production of platinum coins for the purpose of avoiding an increase in the debt limit,”

he said.

The inclusion of the Federal Reserve is significant. For the platinum coin idea to work, the Federal Reserve would have to treat it as a legal way for the Treasury Department to create currency. If they don’t believe it’s legal and would not credit the Treasury Department’s deposit, the platinum coin would be worthless.

This statement from Ezra Klein would have us believe that the Federal Reserve is an independent agent in this matter, and that it can refuse to credit the deposit of a newly minted high face value proof platinum coin, if the Treasury makes such a deposit. It also assumes that if the Treasury insisted on the deposit of the coin, that the Fed would be in a position to go Court to contest that; that it has a choice in the matter.

I don’t believe that either of these things are true. I also think they are just a rationalization, so the President, who most probably decided this can pretend that this decision isn’t on him; or at least can be partially blamed on the Fed. Let’s review some critical aspects of the relationship between the Fed and the Treasury.

Fed Independence?

First, here are a some quotes from the US Code and comments.

“…banks, when required by the Secretary of the Treasury, shall act as fiscal agents of the United States; and the revenues of the Government or any part thereof may be deposited in such banks, and disbursements may be made by checks drawn against such deposits.”12 USC 391

The coins are legal tender, and disbursements can’t be made unless a deposit is credited. So, both imply that all banks that receive such deposits must credit them, and that the Bank officers at the New York Fed cannot refuse to credit the face values of a deposit of coins by the US Mint in its Public Enterprise Fund (PEF) Account. As for the Board of Governors, including the Fed Chair, forbidding the New York Fed from crediting the deposit, there is this part of the USC:

“. . . wherever any power vested by this chapter in the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System or the Federal reserve agent appears to conflict with the powers of the Secretary of the Treasury, such powers shall be exercised subject to the supervision and control of the Secretary.” 12 USC 246

The US code says that the Secretary has supervision and control, not the Fed Chair, or the bank officers at any of the banks, however exalted, within the Fed system. So, if anyone in the Fed system wants to go to Court about this; it’s hard to see that they could get standing even to file an injunction. In fact, if they attempted to get an injunction and to sue after a Treasury order prohibiting them from doing that, apparently the Treasury Secretary could fire the offending parties if “supervision and control” means what it usually means.

In short, the Platinum coin is still on the books. The legal rationalizations of the Treasury and the Fed are a smoke screen to obscure the President’s deciding not to use the authority he is granted by the Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS) legislation. And finally the coin certainly would work if the President decided to use it, provided he ordered the Secretary to mint and have a platinum coin deposited in the Mint’s PEF at the New York Fed; and provided the Secretary sent instructions to the New York Fed and the Board of Governors ordering that the coin be credited and no attempts be made to contest the Secretary’s action in a Court of Law.

The Wrong Kind of Coin

After a hiatus of 16 months the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) surfaced again in the mainstream blogging and MSM World at the beginning of December. The outbreak of posts and discussions was fairly intense as people began looking beyond the “fiscal cliff “crisis and started looking ahead to the debt ceiling fight to come. During the second half of December however, posts and commentary slowed as we got closer and closer to the “cliff,” and most commentary focused on that.

But at the beginning of the New Year, after the ‘cliff” was partially deflated, new posts from mainstream bloggers on the possibility of minting a Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) to avoid the debt ceiling appeared, including a post from Paul Krugman. In addition, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) became the first Congressman to advocate for the TDC to get around the debt ceiling, the TDC was suddenly ubiquitous on MSNBC, and began appearing on other networks as well.

The ground swell for the TDC continued through the first week of January and kept growing larger and larger facilitated by the #minthecoin twitter campaign. The hashtag #mintthecoin was originated By Stephanie Kelton of the Economics Department of the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Joe Wiesenthal, blogging at Business Insider, picked it up, used it to name a White House petition, and marketed a viral petition drive urging the President to mint a TDC and use it to pay down debt so the debt ceiling could be avoided.

The twitter campaign became a phenomenon and a trending topic, accompanied by more and more blog posts across the political spectrum, both pro and con, about using the TDC. Signatures on the petition grew fast, finally resulting in questions at White House news conferences about the TDC, asking whether the President was going to use it or had considered it.

Increasingly, after January 5th, the platinum coin was everywhere even getting covered by the Colbert show. Finally, on June 12, as the web frenzy continued to grow and after a very notable panel discussion of Platinum Coin Seigniorage on Chris Hayes’s Up show, including both Wiesenthal and Kelton, among others, this past Saturday morning at MSNBC, the Treasury and the Fed tried to put an end to speculation by announcing that the Administration would not mint the coin.

So, now the web echos with cries that the platinum coin is dead, some of the cries are joyful. Some of them are angry. Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps the coin is dead. But perhaps also it will come back again, in a new guise, when conditions are right. How can that be?

Well first, we need to recognize that the TDC, with its intense and frenzied web-based campaign was based on the wrong coin and the wrong cause. The cause or the problem it was addressed to was getting past the debt ceiling by creating some head room below it with the seigniorage proceeds. After that, the TDC bloggers envisioned that deficit spending would continue to require issuing debt instruments, and that there would be no further “disruption” in the normal way of doing things, and also that the President would cope with the coming sequester, and continuing resolution (CR) conflicts separately.

So, the TDC, even if used, would really change very little. It wouldn’t stop the Republicans from pursuing spending cuts in entitlements and important discretionary programs. It wouldn’t change the fundamental drive for austerity in both parties, fueled as it is by the view that “national debt” is both frighteningly large, and also unsustainable. So, at best, the TDC was a tactic to put off the day of reckoning with the Republicans, and perhaps to use the law authorizing it as the basis for a swap with the Republicans of the PCS legislation for the debt ceiling law, a very silly and odious idea proposed by a mainstream blogger, wanting to return the system to “normal” but not change it.

Considering this background, it is easy for the President to say that we won’t use PCS. Maybe not as easy he would have liked. But still the TDC was only a tactic. The President can abandon it and talk about other tactics, or his apologists can talk about his desire to avoid default by having a government shutdown that will break Republican resistance, as President Clinton was able to do. If they and he can do that for long enough, then the President can keep Democratic Congresspeople in line for as long as it takes for him to make his “grand bargain” for austerity with enough Republicans to join with the supine Democrats to pass it.

Even though I have blogged more frequently about PCS than anyone, I have never been for minting one TDC and returning to normal Treasury/Fed procedures for deficit spending. I have always proposed substantial and significant change in the financial system, change that would end with paying off the national debt, and with destroying the underlying political rationale for austerity based on the debt and the related idea of fiscal unsustainability.

During the whole current TDC campaign I have blogged constantly about High Value Platinum Coin Seigniorage (HVPCS) and its potential for changing the fiscal and political landscape and destroying the basis for austerity politics, while changing the game radically for progressive attempts to create greater economic and social justice. I referred to HVPCS as the big story the mainstream was missing, and also as game-changing PCS that would change the context of politics.

I believe that if the MSM bloggers hadn’t set up one of their usual “only talk to fellow villagers” echo chambers, but instead had embarked on an honest discussion of PCS options, they would have ended with a groundswell of support for HVPCS to fight austerity and that idea, since it is more strategic than tactical, would have been much harder for the President, Geithner, and Bernanke to dismiss, after a campaign that had identified it as the way out of austerity for the United States.

The President must, if he’s going to be successful in making the “grand bargain” continue to present himself as preferring not to make serious cuts to entitlement and other valued domestic programs, unless the Republicans “make him do it.” To the extent possible, the Democrats who will support him, also want to deny responsibility for the actions they will take. For the President and his Democrats to be seen as forced into the “grand bargain,” the President cannot be seen as acting to take an important way out of the austerity trap “off the table.” And that is what he would have had to do if the TDC campaign had been replaced with an HVPCS campaign sold as an answer to austerity.

The MSM and the blogosphere generally have missed the chance to generate such a campaign with the really heavy pressure it would have placed on the President and the Democratic Party. That is its failure; yet another disservice to the American people by the MSM Press.

The Right Kind of Coin

I’ve been blogging about the right kind of coin for a long time now, and very frequently since the latest wave of PCS began in December. That kind of coin is a platinum coin with a face value of $60 T. Why $60 T? Because that’s the face value needed to pay off the national debt, and to cover deficit spending for 15 – 25 years, enough time to educate people about the nature of fiat money and the desirability of changing the current financial system so that the Federal Reserve is reorganized as part of the Treasury Department, and the Treasury’s authority to create reserves as it spends, without either debt financing or seigniorage, is recognized as the way things ought to be done.

The idea that after Congress appropriates money for Federal deficit spending, that spending can only occur if and when the Treasury can raise the money, is a hangover from gold standard days and ridiculous for a fiat sovereign government like the United States. The authority to spend should be delegated by Congress to the Treasury at the point appropriations are approved.

Appropriations are a mandate on the Executive; that mandate, in a sane nation, would be accompanied by the delegation of the authority to fulfill the mandate. That is the system we should eventually have because it is the only one that makes any sense and that can keep both the Executive and Congress accountable for their actions.

But until Congress passes legislation creating that system, it ought to be recognized by all that the PCS legislation is on the books, and that for the President not to use it to fill the public purse with enough funds to banish the underlying fiscal conditions that underlie austerity politics, the national debt, and the ability to cover the deficit for a long time to come, is inexcusably corrupt, fiscally and economically irresponsible, and completely opposed to the public public purpose that the President is supposed to serve.

So, I want to tell the President that for as long as the PCS law is on the books, and austerity is impending, he has the duty and the obligation to reject it and to mint a game-changing PCS solution using a very high value platinum coin, that after it is credited by the Fed, will make it very plain that there is no need for austerity, but that there is a need for whatever deficit spending Congress needs to appropriate, and he needs to implement, to put America back on the road to the economic and social justice we ought to be pursuing as part of a Green New Deal.

I call on him to mint that $60 T coin now. And if he fails to do that; and instead, along with the Democrats, goes ahead with his plans to impose unnecessary austerity and sacrifice on most Americans other than the wealthy, in the face of his ability to create financial plenty, then I, and others who I am able to persuade about game-changing HVPCS, will do all we can to place the blame where it belongs for “the great betrayal,” and to see that Congresspeople who join in the “grand bargain” travesty of justice pay for it at the polls!

But before we get to that point, I call on others who want to see an end to austerity join me in beginning again to blog, comment, facebook, and tweet about PCS; but this time to forget about the TDC, which was always the wrong coin, and to focus on #minttheHVPC instead. That is up the ante! Make this about ending austerity, and using the right platinum coin to create the political space needed for doing it!

Forget about them taking PCS off the table! We’re putting it back on the Table! Make ‘Em Mint the HVPC! Make ‘Em Do It!

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.)

Ezra Klein Chooses Fear Mongering the Big Coin, I Choose Ending Austerity!

4:40 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Ezra Klein

(H/T to Lambert Strether for the title!)

Here’s a commentary on Ezra Klein’s recent diatribe against Platinum Coin Seigniorage (PCS).

But there’s nothing benign about the platinum coin. It is a breakdown in the American system of governance, a symbol that we have become a banana republic. And perhaps we have. But the platinum coin is not the first cousin of cleanly raising the debt ceiling. It is the first cousin of defaulting on our debts. As with true default, it proves to the financial markets that we can no longer be trusted to manage our economic affairs predictably and rationally. It’s evidence that American politics has transitioned from dysfunctional to broken and that all manner of once-ludicrous outcomes have muscled their way into the realm of possibility. As with default, it will mean our borrowing costs rise and financial markets gradually lose trust in our system, though perhaps not with the disruptive panic that default would bring.

Name calling, labeling, and fear mongering aside, does Ezra understand the first thing about PCS? Does he know that if a $60 T coin were minted, and the Treasury General Account (TGA) filled with $60 T in electronic credits, the US would be able to just say goodbye to the international markets? If we were paying off the national debt as it fell due, we would not only not be defaulting, but would be paying all our creditors on time and in full, and without benefit of further debt instrument issuance. Nor would we care whether the markets trusted us or not; since we would not be borrowing money from them for the foreseeable future. So, how could our borrowing costs rise?

And, as far as predictability is concerned, what would then be predictable is that we would be paying all our obligations to everyone whether Wall Streeters, denizens of the global markets, pensioners, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients, and everyone else we have obligations too without anyone getting the short end of the stick. Now, I’d like to see that kind of predictability from this Government, without any drama, histrionics, deficit terrorism, or whining about how our moral character is too weak to endure the Washington Post’s favorite meme, “shared sacrifice.”

The argument against minting the platinum coin is simply this: It makes it harder to solve the actual problem facing our country. That problem is not the debt ceiling, per se, though it manifests itself most dangerously through the debt ceiling. It’s a Republican Party that has grown extreme enough to persuade itself that stratagems like threatening default are reasonable. It’s that our two-party political system breaks down when one of the two parties comes unmoored. Minting the coin doesn’t so much solve that problem as surrender to it.

Well, Ezra, that’s your notion of the worst problem we face. My notion of a problem is that our national debt is hopelessly misconstrued by people, and that its existence is being used by radical “free market” extremists who want to sharply cut the social safety net, and who also want to block the passage of other Government programs that would benefit most Americans. So, I want to get rid of “the national debt” as a political issue. The best way to do that is to get rid of that national debt. That can be done by using PCS, and in a way that will not drive the economy into depression, or working people into even deeper poverty.

The platinum coin is an attempt to delay a reckoning that we unfortunately need to have. It takes a debate that will properly focus on the GOP’s reckless threat to force the United States into default and refocuses it on a seemingly absurd power grab by the executive branch. It is of no solace that many of the intuitive arguments against the platinum coin can be calmly rebutted. It’s the wrong debate to be having.

Only your version of the platinum coin. You clearly have in mind the Trillion Dollar Coin (TDC) PCS option. I agree that it would only delay a reckoning, and that a debate over its legality is not the debate to have. But a $60 T coin, would eliminate the debt ceiling as a factor, make the debate about getting rid of austerity irrelevant, and also make it impossible to use any of following to oppose progressive legislation:

– “The Government is running out of money.” (Not with a $60 T coin in the bank.)

– “The Government can only raise money to spend by taxing and borrowing” (Not with PCS)

– “We can’t keep adding debt to our national credit card.” (We won’t be using any of the money on the credit card.)

– “We need to cut Government spending and make do with no more money.” (Only if more spending would definitely cause inflation.)

– “if the Government borrows more money, then the bond markets will raise our interest rates.” (The Government won’t be borrowing anymore.)

– “If we continue to issue more debt, our main creditors: the Chinese, the Japanese, and our oil suppliers, may cease to buy our debt, making it impossible for us to raise money through borrowing which, in turn, would force us into radical austerity, or perhaps even into insolvency, which would then be followed by radical austerity and repudiation of our national obligations.” (Again, the Government won’t be borrowing anymore, so who cares if they no longer want to buy our debt)

– “Our grandchildren must have the burden of repaying our national debt.” (There won’t be any debt or any burden.)

– “Now, the final step – a critical step – in winning the future is to make sure we aren’t buried under a mountain of debt.” (Again, no debt; either mountain or molehill.)

– “Our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.” (But it is sustainable. If we use PCS, then we can have gaps between taxes and spending every year.)

– “We need to cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, because we are running out of money and they are not fiscally sustainable.” (But they are with PCS, because we won’t be running out of money!)

– “If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.” (Given PCS, what we do now about deficits has nothing to do with our capability to make the investments we will need)

– “We need to reduce our deficits to be fiscally sustainable.” (Deficits have nothing to do with fiscal sustainability in the sense of continued capability to spend, which will be very plain to people if $60 Trillion is sitting in the TGA.)

– “We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy, and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.“ (Can’t say that if most of the debt is about to be paid off.)

– “Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis. We cannot deny it; instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly.” (PCS can confront it responsibly, but the bipartisan horror just enacted can’t.)

– “We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.” (Right! So let’s stop borrowing and use PCS.)

– “Everyone knows that the U.S. budget is being devoured by entitlements. Everyone also knows that of the Big Three – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – Social Security is the most solvable. . . . “ (The budget can be as big as we need it to be with PCS.)

– “The Social Security Trust fund is a fiction, a mere bookkeeping device.. . . There is no free lunch. There is nothing in the lockbox.” (There will be if we pay back the trust fund through PPCS.)

– “There is a deficit/debt reduction problem for the Federal Government that is not self-imposed.” (What’s the problem? We can’t run out of money with PCS!)

– “The Federal Government is like a household and that since households sacrifice to live within their means, Government ought to do that too.” (What nonsense! As PPCS shows very well; the Government is not like a household. Households can’t create unlimited funds through PCS; but the Federal Government can.)

– “The only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it.” (It’s always good to cut spending that’s not in the public interest. But if spending is having good results, and we’re using PCS, then there’s no reason to cut it, whether taxes cover the spending or not.)

– “We should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.” (With PCS, we can easily strengthen SS by extending benefits, and we don’t need to do it through a bipartisan Rube Goldberg contraption.

– “The United States is in danger of becoming the next Greece or Ireland.” (Even without PCS it can’t become Greece or Ireland, only the next Japan. But with PCS it can become the United States again.)

– “Fiscal Responsibility means stabilizing and then reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio and achieving a Federal Government surplus” (With PCS, the debt-to-GDP ratio will be stabilized and reduced, but no “surplus,” in the sense of more tax revenue than spending, will ever be necessary for revenue purposes.)

Ezra goes on to say that using the Platinum Coin will trigger a debate within the Republican Party, that will strengthen its worst factions, because its extremists will be able to argue against:

. . . a wild, unprecedented, inflationary power grab by an overreaching president. Making matters more difficult, it will become impossible for more cautious Republicans to break ranks. It’s one thing to argue, as many are already doing, that inducing default risks destroying the Republican Party for a generation. It’s another to abet such a blatantly unconstitutional, dangerous move from the executive branch.

Well, it’s not blatantly unconstitutional at all Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe thinks it’s legal. Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin thinks it’s legal. The lawyer who came up with the idea, beowulf (Carlos Mucha), thinks it’s legal. Philip Diehl, former Director of the US Mint thinks it’s legal. And, I, a Ph.D. political scientist with some background in Constitutional Law, also think it’s legal.

Even Ezra says it’s legal earlier in this very column. So, who are the Republicans to label it “blatantly unconstitutional”? What evidence would they have that it’s “blatantly illegal? If the President uses it he will have legal opinions supporting its legality. In addition, the plain language of the law says it’s legal. Arguments that it’s not are more complex and detailed than the plain language of the law. So, how will this play in the court of public opinion?

Ezra goes on to suggest that using the coin won’t end the conflict; but will cause the Republicans to work even harder and in a united fashion to get what they want. Well, isn’t that too bad, they’re just going to work harder at being even more nasty, so the rest of us shouldn’t do anything that will get them really ticked off. What kind of advice is that, the advice of a columnist who works for a newspaper with a deficit hawk editorial director, and a financial deal with the world’s most prominent deficit hawk: Peter G. Peterson?

Can’t you just picture it? Ezra gets called into a meeting with Fred Hiatt who asks him whether he can’t do anything to dampen this platinum coin wave that everyone is riding, and Ezra replying says: well, maybe I can write something that will make people very, very afraid of the tea partiers fomenting a new American Revolution.

Of course, Ezra may be right about a big coin making Republicans even more determined to destroy the US economy than they are now. Things could happen that way; but if a very high face value coin, like a $60 T coin, is minted; then the mere presence of the $60 T in the Treasury General Account (TGA), and its use to pay down debt, will change the political context, and make Republican propaganda look much more fanciful, than it does in an imagination that assumes the political context and the future won’t be changed by minting a big enough coin and using it to fill the public purse.

So, Ezra, notice what happens to the memes Iisted above. They’re just not going to work anymore, if a $60 T coin gets used. If the Republicans remain stiff-necked, what justification would they then have for austerity? Now, they have the debt, and no apparent means of paying it off except lowering spending and raising taxes. But what would they have after that coined filled the public purse? The answer is ZIP!

It is likelier that the platinum coin would drive the Republican Party towards a much more dangerous and enduring standoff. If Republicans never permitted another debt increase, would we just keep minting platinum coins? Would the Federal Reserve abet the strategy and work to hold down inflation, effectively putting itself in the middle of a titanic political fight? Would the market eventually begin to panic because American governance has entered into unknown territory?

If the Administration minted a $60 T coin, then it would probably never have to mint one again, since the first one would lead people to understand that the world won’t come to an end if Treasury can print money to fill the public purse to spend Congressional appropriations. Would the Fed help hold down inflation? Of course, it’s their mandate. It’s not about politics. They’d have to act that way. If they didn’t; there’d be immediate talk of folding them into Treasury! Finally, minting and using a $60 T coin to pay for debt and deficit spending won’t be inflationary.

There are two ways to truly resolve the debt-ceiling standoff. One is that the Republican Party needs to break, proving to itself and to the country that the adults remain in charge. The other is that America is pushed into default and voters — and the world — reckon with what we’ve become, and what needs to be done about it. Sadly, there’s no easy way out. It’s heads America wins, tails America loses.

Well, rule out the platinum coin, and sure, these may be one’s only two choices. But Ezra hasn’t shown that using a really BIG coin would elicit real problems, other than getting the Republicans and the right wing really, really, mad (maybe they won’t have lunch with him anymore), and there are compelling arguments suggesting the contrary. So, I think that Ezra’s gone off the deep end in this column, especially when you consider the cost of default to people, and also the cost of the austerity alternative. Both default-induced austerity; and major party-induced austerity by compromise are both utterly unacceptable.

We must find a third way! Ezra can’t just assume that there is no way out of his Hobson’s choice. He and we need to consider game-changing PCS before condemning the nation to default.

(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)

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