I can't believe we're actually having this conversation, but here we are. I mentioned the wacky notion of minting Trillion Dollar coins in a Bonus Bananas late last year, but now the idea is gaining steam as a quick fix for the debt ceiling fight. I'm being serious here; people I actually follow and respect are talking like this is a possibility.
The whole thing is a loophole inside a loophole inside a loophole of legality. Since the Constitution regulates all paper money, and gold, silver, and copper coinage, some enterprising Keynesian must have blurted out, "They didn't say anything about platinum!", because that appears to be the plan. Ship a shitload of platinum to the US Mint, have it pressed into $1,000,000,000,000.00 coins, and then deposit those with the Fed to settle our various bar tabs. So why platinum? Why not tin? And why stop at a Trillion? Why not make Hundred Trillion Dollar coins and really kick the can down the road?
But none of those questions are important today, and you don't have any say in whether it happens or not anyway. But there is one thing they can't do without you - decide whose face goes on the Trillion Dollar Coin. That's right, kids. That has to be put out to a vote.
The more difficult part comes sometime after the decision is made to coin the platinum and before the Mint gets to work in sculpting the pieces.
At that point, the American people must decide whose face will adorn the trillion dollar trinket. The process to determine the "specs" of the coin, U.S. Mint Public Affairs Specialist Genevieve Billia warns, must be "determined by legislation," creating the potential for another congressional impasse.
According to the US Mint, the only hard and fast rule (aside from the voting requirement) is that the person pictured on the coin must be deceased. I'm guessing that's so you don't end up with a Jerry Sandusky on something people are going to be carrying around for the next hundred or so years. Dead guys are easier to vet and don't decide to go off the rails in their autumn years.
While I think John Maynard Keynes would be the obvious choice, I'd give serious consideration to Nelson Aldrich, without whom the Federal Reserve system wouldn't exist. Or maybe Paul Warburg,, or John D. Rockefeller; all equally complicit in the creation of the beast. I'd give Woodrow Wilson a pass on this dubious distinction because at least he had the decency to apologize for signing the Federal Reserve Act into law - an act he considered the most shameful of his presidency (and that bar is set pretty high - Wilson had some doozies).
But what say you, WSO? Whose visage should grace our newest denomination of coinage? Whose face would most piss off the international schmucks that'll be on the receiving end of these subway tokens? Might as well get a little mileage out of 'em. Imagine the look on Hu Jintao's face if he had to look down in his hand and see old "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell smiling back at him.