I have a question and a comment:
==> The “trillion dollar coin” thing is just because a billion is too little, and a quadrillion is too much, right? For example, there’s nothing to stop them from using this “option” but doing so by minting, say, 10 coins each with a face value of $100 billion?
==> Look at this comment from Krugman:
Don’t like the platinum coin option? Here’s a functionally equivalent alternative: have the Treasury sell pieces of paper labeled “moral obligation coupons”, which declare the intention of the government to redeem these coupons at face value in one year.
It should be clearly stated on the coupons that the government has no, repeat no, legal obligation to pay anything at all; you see, they’re not debt, and therefore don’t count against the debt limit. But that shouldn’t keep them from having substantial market value….
And maybe the coupons wouldn’t have to be sold on the open market; why not just have the Fed buy them? Bear in mind that the Fed doesn’t always buy safe assets; it’s buying a lot of mortgage-backed securities (from Fannie and Freddie; see above), and during the worst of the financial crisis it bought lots of commercial paper. So why not slightly speculative pieces of paper sold by the Treasury?
Update: If there is a legal problem even with selling these coupons, there are still alternatives, such as paying suppliers with these coupons and then having the Fed buy them. The mechanics really don’t matter; as long as we’re in a liquidity trap, printing money, printing conventional debt securities, or printing funny money with no legal standing that nonetheless lets the government pay its bills are all equivalent. [Bold added.]
Does everyone see how crucial it is for the Fed to have the power to buy any kind of asset it wants? This is exactly the sort of slippery slope some of us have been warning about.
Even if you are Scott Sumner himself, you should be very alarmed when you’ve now got arguably the most prominent economist on Earth arguing that the government should start paying its bills with coupons that are then monetized by the Fed. That is just the barest step removed from having the Fed literally create new money to cover the government’s spending.
Forget the macroeconomics for a second. Surely there is the faintest hint of Public Choice economics buried in the souls of the market monetarists. Can we all agree that Krugman’s flippant remarks above are downright alarming? It’s the economic equivalent of people casually talking about the president having the power to blow up American citizens on a secret kill list with his fleet of flying killer robots.