Why the Treasury Won't Mint a Trillion-Dollar Coin

Photograph by Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

This afternoon Chuck Todd of NBC News finally asked the question that a handful of political dorks have been dying for the White House to address: Would Obama consider minting a $1 trillion platinum coin (as the law allows) to avoid default on the U.S. debt if Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit?

Press secretary Jay Carney was a bit squirrelly, leaving the impression that Obama would not agree to this but referring questions to the Treasury, which has the authority to mint coins. Earlier today, a source close to Treasury secretary Tim Geithner told me that Geithner is very skeptical of the idea.

But it doesn’t really require grilling administration officials to know that the White House isn’t going to go through with the coin idea or claim that the 14th Amendment gives them the ability to ignore the debt ceiling. Why not? Because if the White House were to admit that there’s an “out” short of raising the debt ceiling, it would encourage the GOP to refuse to raise it—it would seem safe to threaten default, rather than terrifying. So while it’s fun to write about, it’s not going to happen.

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