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Pundits Suggest $1 Trillion Coin as Answer to Debt-ceiling Standoff

A Democratic congressman and several prominent writers are now floating the idea that the Treasury Department should use obscure powers to mint a $1 trillion coin.

Imagine sitting around the kitchen table, trying to figure out how you're going to pay off that next-generation HDTV you just bought. 

Then someone has an idea. Brush off one of the old checker pieces in the attic, assign it a value of, say, $2,000 -- and use that newly minted "coin" to pay the credit card. 

Such an absurd idea is, pun intended, gaining currency as a technically legal way for Washington to avert a looming fight over the debt ceiling. A Democratic congressman, a Nobel-winning economist and several prominent writers are now floating the idea that the Treasury Department should use obscure powers to mint a $1 trillion coin if Congress does not permit an increase in the debt ceiling. 

That coin, then, could be used to pay America's debts. 

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told Capital New York that the "out of the ordinary" idea could actually work. 

"I'm being absolutely serious," he said. "It sounds silly, but it's absolutely legal." 
Folks like Nadler point to a tiny section in the U.S. code that allows the Treasury secretary to "mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins" of a size and denomination of "the secretary's discretion." This is mainly for commemorative coins, but the idea that the provision could be exploited as an ace-up-the-sleeve for the administration was first explored during the 2011 debt ceiling fight. Now, it's back. 

The trillion-dollar coin idea has attracted more than 4,500 signatures on a White House petition, and, crossing social media's first threshold of acceptance, has earned its own #mintthecoin hashtag on Twitter. 

The likelihood of this happening is about as likely as the checkers scenario. But the argument in its favor is that minting a trillion-dollar coin is a commensurately ridiculous response to Congress refusing to pay debts it has already accumulated.

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