Emphasis on “officially.” You’re watching this not for the humor value but for the spectacle of one of the left’s pop-cult political heroes gently trying to warn them away from a PR catastrophe in the making. People like Krugman and Jerrold Nadler like the coin because they’re liberal hyperpartisans and therefore relish the thought of spiting obstructionist Republicans even when it involves something as patently insane as minting a trillion-dollar coin. A comedian, even a liberal one who shares their disdain for the GOP, naturally views that a bit differently. Or maybe he just sees the lights on the train in the distance better than they do and is keen to get everyone off the tracks. Ah well. Too bad for us:
If Obama were to listen to liberals and go the coin route instead, it would be tossing a life preserver to Republicans. Whatever economic and legal arguments liberals want to make, to a more casual observer, the idea is going to look either absurd, scary or both. Just imagine Obama publicly addressing the nation, and uttering the words, “Today, I’ve directed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to exercise his authority to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin.” It would not only be easy to parody — like some sort of cartoonish Scrooge McDuck scheme — it would be seen as a massive power grab by Obama that validates years of conservative attacks. It would instantly reinvigorate dispirited Tea Partiers and get more of the public on their side, because it would be much easier to argue that Obama was manufacturing money to pay off the debt he was running up than to raise alarms about what would have happened if he hadn’t taken such drastic action.
Meanwhile, if the coin proponents are wrong about the inflationary and market impacts of the action, than any resulting economic chaos would be squarely blamed on Obama rather than on the failure to raise the debt ceiling. Instead of small government ideology becoming unpopular as a result of the crisis, it would be big government philosophy that would be under fire. Instead of Obama getting to play the grownup in the room, he’d look silly. Minting the $1 trillion coin would represent such a massive in-kind contribution to Republicans that we may want to start researching whether it would violate some aspect of campaign finance laws.
I wouldn’t say the idea’s quite dead yet but it’s on life support thanks to Colby. Will Jon Stewart administer the coup de grace tonight? Don’t fret, lefties: There’s always the dubious yet far more salable “Fourteenth Amendment option” if it comes to that.
Exit question: Michael Phelps on the back of a dinosaur? Sweet.