(RNN) – The problem of solving the debt ceiling has dragged on for several months, but according to experts and commentators, the Treasury could end all the discussions with one major coup.
The solution: Print a 1-ounce, $1 trillion platinum coin.
It's not a joke. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner could direct the U.S. Mint to produce a coin of any value he deems necessary and take advantage of a provision in the Coinage Act of 1965.
The purpose of the act was to drastically reduce the amount of silver in half dollars and eliminate silver in dimes and quarters.
However, the Secretary of the Treasury has this broad authority: "The Secretary may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary's discretion, may prescribe from time to time."
The country at that time was trying to reduce the intrinsic value of metal money to preserve silver, but if for some reason it needed more coins in circulation, the Treasury could mint as many platinum pieces as it wanted.
It may have seemed like a noble idea back then, but as with all laws that have not been addressed in nearly 50 years, the language in the act does not address current needs.
It also technically makes Geithner the most powerful man in America at this point.
Several people have suggested exploiting that clause to remedy the most pressing issue of the current financial crisis. One of the "supporters" includes economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
Apparently, there are several responsible ways to justify the move once the balance on the country's debt is back at zero.
Is this notion a bit absurd? It's probably that and even more.
But let's ask ourselves: Is it any wackier than everything else that has gone on in Washington D.C. the past two months?
The Coinage Act itself is a prime example of lawmakers' gross inattention to the substance that greases the gears running this country.
Before its revision in 1965, the act had not seen any fundamental changes in 173 years. It has been revised six times since its original passing in 1792 and went 42 years before its first major revision.
The comments President Lyndon B. Johnson made when he signed the most recent act showed just how bad people are at predicting the ebb and flow of money.
"Our present silver coins won't disappear, and they won't even become rarities," Johnson said. "We estimate that there are now 12 billion, I repeat, more than 12 billion silver dimes and quarters and half dollars that are now outstanding. We will make another billion before we halt production, and they will be used side-by-side with our new coins.
"Since the life of a silver coin is about 25 years, we expect our traditional silver coins to be with us in large numbers for a long, long time."
Won't disappear and won't become rarities? Anyone with a piggy bank full of coins that were in circulation back then probably has enough in current value to put a down payment on a shiny, new toy. Johnson and that Congress also probably never would have imagined that the U.S. would aproach anything close to a 10-figure spending deficit.
So, back to the whole platinum coin thing. Let's do it. Why not?
Because there is no language limiting the Treasury's discretionary power to mint money, there is nothing to prevent the liquidation of the entire balance of U.S. debt with a one-time deposit of a single coin in the Federal Reserve Bank.
It's not even technically a detriment to the inflationary process, according to Krugman.
That fact is highly debatable, but just about everything is these days.
It's the perfect solution for an imperfect process.
The government can make and spend its own money for one day and get back to spending someone else's money: Yours.
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