A Trillion Dollar Coin
Wired reports on how a 2010 bull session in the comments section of an economics blog turned into a 2013 legal monetary exercise discussed by economists, pundits and politicians.
It’s been a remarkable journey. The path of the trillion-dollar coin, as [an anonymous online commentator named] Beowulf described it to Wired, began with a “silly question” in a “pointless … online bull session” in the comments section of financier Warren Mosler’s blog. Anonymous supporters helped spread the concept to the comments of other economics blogs and ultimately into posts on such sites. The idea soon attracted attention from more prominent liberal economists like James Galbraith and Paul Krugman, and then from writers like Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein. From there it was a short hop into the center mainstream. NBC’s Chuck Todd hammered a White House spokesman about the coin possibility on Wednesday.
If the president uses such a coin to bypass intransigent Republicans who refuse to raise the debt ceiling, or even if he merely uses the possibility of such as leverage in negotiations, it will underline how ad-hoc online communities, like the anonymous international band of commenters to which Beowulf belonged, are increasingly able to move their ideas from the fringes into the middle of political debate. It’s one thing for bloggers to help bring down a Mississippi senator or to embarrass a presidential frontrunner, as they have in years past; it’s quite another for commenters to re-engineer the funding of the entire federal budget.
Bonus: Also from Wired, Why Stealing a $1 Trillion Coin Isn’t Worth the Price of a Getaway Van. Hint: there’s not much you could do with it.
Image: Charmin’s submission — and possible commentary on the disposability of US currency — to Slate’s User design challenge for the Trillion Dollar Coin.