We have in our possession a coin worth one googol dollars. For those of you unaccustomed to dealing with very large numbers, a googol is ten to the 100th power, also expressed as a one followed by 100 zeroes which we cannot be bothered to type right now. That is a lot of money, even in the Obama age, and being patriotic sorts we are willing to donate a relatively small portion of it to pay off the entirety of the nation’s trifling $16 trillion debt.
The coin is slightly less than an inch in diameter, appears to be made of tin, and is stamped with the words “Wichita MTA” on one side and “Good for one fare” on the other, but we have decided that its actual value is one googol dollars. If the federal government were to officially decree it so — and given the inducement of our budget-balancing donation, there is no reason it should not — the coin would indeed be worth that amount. Feeling quite flush with our newfound wealth, we would not only use it to pay off America’s debt but also the accumulated debts of every individual American, with plenty of zeroes left over for us to indulge in our passion for collecting rockabilly recordings.
This might strike you as a rather unrealistic economic plan, but it is just a slightly more ambitious variation on a scheme being seriously proposed by some supposedly smart people: Simply have the United States Mint stamp out a couple of platinum coins, declare their value to be one trillion dollars apiece, deposit them both in the national treasury, and thus spare the president the unpleasant chore of strong-arming the Republicans into once again raising the debt ceiling. The idea has been bandied about by such a deep thinker as Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel economics laureate, and only after much hectoring from a few unimaginative reporters did the White House finally dismiss the notion. We suspect that the average American will find the plan perfectly logical, even without the benefit of a Nobel Prize, and much prefer it to a tax hike.
Of course, the plan would require a more steadfast faith in the omnipotence of the federal government than most of us could muster. Although platinum is the most precious of the precious metals a trillion dollar’s worth of the stuff would make for a bigger coin than would fit in one’s pocket, and actually purchasing two trillion dollars worth of platinum would defeat the purpose of the scheme, so the coins would only be worth their stated value because the government has thus spake. This will be sufficient for those who believed the president’s promise to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans, or bought into the idea that the problem of uninsured Americans could be solved by a law mandating that they have insurance, or expect that guns will disappear as soon as a law is passed banning their existence, but ultimately the world will act according to the laws of economic reality.
Our plan is better, in any case. We already have the coin, sparing the government workers down at the Mint the bother of creating a new one, and it wouldn’t have anywhere near the inflationary pressure on tin futures that Krugman’s proposal would have in the platinum market, so we’ll see if the Obama administration is willing to give it a shot. The stimulative effect on the rockabilly market would be salutary, too, and we’d get a good feeling knowing that we’ve helped out the country.
– Bud Norman