An FAQ: The Trillion Dollar Coin

A good FAQ explainer at The Atlantic on the trillion dollar coin idea that’s floating around Congress (and the blogosphere):

What’s this nonsense I’ve been hearing about a trillion-dollar coin? It’s got to be some kind of elaborate —
 
Stop. It’s no joke. At least no more than voluntarily defaulting on our obligations by refusing to lift the debt ceiling would be. It sounds like something out of the Simpsons, but thanks to a crazy technicality the Treasury really can create a trillion-dollar coin, which would let us keep paying our bills if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. It’s an absurd solution to an absurd problem, but a solution nonetheless. As they say, when in Washington….
 
No, I’m pretty sure this is from the Simpsons.
 
Almost. That was a $1 trillion bill, which Fidel Castro tricked out of Monty Burns, but this is real life, so it has to be a $1 trillion coin. A platinum coin, to be exact.
 
I’m almost afraid to ask, but why does it need to be a coin? And why platinum?
 
We don’t make the loopholes. We just find them. The Treasury can’t print money on its own, because the money supply is supposed to be the strict purview of the Federal Reserve … but that might not be quite so strict after all, thanks to a coin-sized exception. Congress passed a law in 1997, later amended in 2000, that gives the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to mint platinum coins, and only platinum coins, in whatever denomination and quantity he or she wants. That could be $100, or $1,000, or … $1 trillion.
 
Read on to find out: what happens if the coin is stolen?

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