Sunday, January 6, 2013

Avoiding the Debt Ceiling Crisis

While the platinum coin idea is ingenious, it does seem a ridiculous solution to the Republicans' taking the economy hostage, and would probably not go over well with the public. ( Ezra Klein provides a sturdy argument against the coin solution.)

Steve Waldman has what sounds like a more acceptable solution:

The Treasury Secretary would announce that he is obliged by law to make certain payments, but that the debt ceiling prevents him from borrowing to meet those obligations. Although current institutional practice makes the Federal Reserve the nation’s primary issuer of currency, Congress in its foresight gave this power to the US Treasury as well. Following a review of the matter, the Secretary would tell us, Treasury lawyers have determined that once the capacity to make expenditures by conventional means has been exhausted, issuing currency will be the only way Treasury can reconcile its legal obligation simultaneously to make payments and respect the debt ceiling. Therefore, Treasury will reluctantly issue currency in large denominations (as it has in the past) in order to pay its bills. In practice, that would mean million-, not trillion-, dollar coins, which would be produced on an “as-needed” basis to meet the government’s expenses until borrowing authority has been restored.

A reasonable workarounnd.  But the priority for President Obama right now should be to frame the issue so the public understands why extraordinary measures are necessary.

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