Do you ever get the feeling America’s choo-choo has jumped the tracks? Joe Weisenthal says that the trillion-dollar coin is the most serious adult proposal put forward in our lifetime, “because it gets right to the nature of what is money.” As Weisenthal argues, “we’re still shackled with a gold-standard mentality where we think of money as a scarce natural resource that we need to husband carefully.” Ha! Every time it rains it rains trillion-dollar pennies from heaven. I believe Robert Mugabe made a similar observation on January 16, 2009, when he introduced Zimbabwe’s first one hundred–trillion–dollar bank note. In that one dramatic month, the Zimbabwean dollar declined from 0.0000000072 of a U.S. dollar to 0.0000000003 of a U.S. dollar. But that’s what’s so great about being American. Because, when you’re American, one U.S. dollar will always be worth one U.S. dollar, no matter how many trillion-dollar coins you mint. Eat your heart out, you Zimbabwean losers. As Joe Weisenthal asks, what is money? Money is American: Everybody knows that.
Whether the world feels this way is another matter. For Paul Krugman, the issue is the insanity of the Republican party, as manifested in their opposition to automatic debt-ceiling increases. By contrast, the contrarian Democrat Mickey Kaus thinks Republicans ought to be in favor of the trillion-dollar coin as an easy short-term fix to prevent them from getting screwed over by Obama and the media for the second time in a month. But out there, in what the State Department maps quaintly call the rest of the world, nobody cares about Democrats or Republicans, and the issue is not the debt ceiling but the debt. Forty-four nations voted at Bretton Woods to make the dollar the world’s reserve currency. If they were meeting today, I doubt they’d give that status to a nation piling on over a trillion in federal debt per year, 70 percent of which its left hand (the U.S. Treasury) borrows from its right hand (the Federal Reserve) through the Nigerian-e-mail equivalent of Paul Krugman’s trillion-dollar groat.