There’s all sorts of buzz about solving the debt ceiling debate by minting a trillion dollar coin. For those who’ve missed out on this idea, 31 U.S.C. 5112 is a statute that allows the President to unilaterally order the creation of a platinum coin of any value, and many are arguing that creating a trillion dollar coin and depositing it with the Federal Reserve will, without actually changing the money supply of the United States, prevent the country from reaching its “debt ceiling” and consequently stave off the Republican-planned crisis over increasing the debt limit.
It may sound goofy, but there are a bunch of goofier policies in American history.
Invading Canada: The War of 1812 saw the White House burned down and the Star-Spangled Banner written to commemorate the bombardment of Fort McHenry. What’s often lost is the fact that the whole war started because James Madison thought the British were unconscionably aiding the Native Americans in their plan of “not getting genocided.” Madison proclaimed that the Canadians would welcome us as liberators. Sound familiar. Thomas Jefferson shared Madison’s skewed vision of Britain’s resolve by declaring that the takeover of Canada would “be a matter of marching.” Oops.
Killing Castro: Put aside whether a rollback policy was necessary, the ideas the government pursued to kill Castro were downright ridiculous.
Plans to discredit Castro in the eyes of the Cuban public included contaminating his clothing with thallium salts that would make his trademark beard fall out and spraying a broadcasting studio with hallucinogens before a televised speech. Assassination plots included poisoning a box of Castro’s favorite cigars with botulinus toxin and placing explosive seashells in his favorite diving spots.
How in the world is a trillion dollar coin dumber than explosive sea shells.
Sarah Palin’s…Jewish Homeland: The Slattery Report was a pre-WWII plan to create a Jewish homeland by offering up parts of Alaska for Jewish immigrants fleeing Europe. The proposal had the ulterior motive of encouraging more immigration to the sparsely populated Alaskan territory. This whole idea forms the alternative historical setting of the Michael Chabon book, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. While I’m assuming the Yukon would make better neighbors than Syria has, this idea was pretty goofy.
Blowing Up the Moon: Well, maybe not blowing it up completely, but at least detonating a massive nuclear bomb on the moon. The theory was that seeing a huge mushroom cloud on the moon would freak out the Soviets because it would mark a sort of logical conclusion to the space race — rather than a proxy test for rocket technology to imply nuclear dominance, hitting up the moon would forefront America’s nuclear mastery.
The Debt Ceiling: Yes, the very policy that makes the trillion dollar coin a possibility is one of the dumbest policies in American history. Congress passes legislation that costs money. When those costs exceed revenue, it requires the Treasury to issue debt to cover those costs. The debt ceiling is thus asking Congress to cover the costs that Congress itself racks up. To borrow the ludicrously oversimplified “household budget” analogy, the debt ceiling debate is like looking at your household debt and saying, “I know, I’ll just stop paying my bills!”