Monday, January 14, 2013

The Rise and Fall of The Coin

It's been kind of fun to follow the internet Coin Frenzy. "Mint the Coin!" screams Paul Krugman and a surprising number of others, none of whom have seats at the table, go right along. They might not have seats at the table, but they do have a presence on the InterTubes, and that's pretty much all that's necessary for Blogger Triumphalism to take hold. Let the Par-tay commence! Yay!

The Coin! Mint The Coin! Now! Bugger all, Mint The Coin!

This Coin Business has been a fiery frenzy to be sure, one that was doused over the weekend by the unequivocal pronouncement from the very White House that there would be no Coin, periodendofdiscussion, find something else to rave about you Hippies. Punch.

The dousing was announced by none other than Young Ezra, preparing the way as it were, for the final elimination of the Coin Option for dealing with the Debt Limit, and at least in theory for dealing with the debt itself, forever and ever amen.

I'm no expert in these matters (please), but it seemed that the MMT People, the Cult if you will (all of economics seems to be filled with cultists, hucksters, grifters and con artists, much like the rest of the workaday world), got this big idea that because there was this recurring problem regarding The National Debt and the Debt Limit Crisis, the workaround was to mint a $1T or even a $60T platinum Coin that would take care of it once and for all. Hah hah. The theory being that because the United States is monetarily sovereign, the government can issue money in any amount and pay its bills with that money in any amount, without incurring debt; it's almost Magic. The Debt and recurring Debt Crises are all illusions.

Yes, well...

The Coin was to be the specific workaround for the problem of the Debt Limit: simply mint a platinum coin in a high enough denomination and deposit it at the Fed, and the Debt Limit is wiped out, the Debt along with it if so desired. In addition, the hostage taking by the radical reactionaries in Congress is thereby thwarted. Won-der-ful! An end to these manufactured Debt crises is a situation devoutly to be wished, né? If The Coin would do it, then why not do it? Yes?

Well, the answer was no.

A very, very firm NO! Way!

Sigh. Oh, too bad, so sad, no Coin, not even an alternative workaround. Nope. Na gah happen.

No workaround of any kind, not even the Constitutional option of the 14th Amendment.

What is this telling us? What is the Message Being Sent by these pronouncements from On High?

I watched a bit of one of the Sunday Shows yesterday during which The Coin and its demise were smirkingly discussed, and it looked like a bit of pure Hippie Punching done for the hell of it. According to the pundits, there was never any chance that The Coin would be minted or that there would be any workaround to the Debt Limit, and all the hype and hollering over it was nothing but Internet nonsense, don't you see. It's the same thing as the Free Silver hooey of the late 19th Century, an idée fixe sold as a "solution" to a problem that is so very much more complex. There is no single "solution."

The Coin was just silly.

Well, yes. The Message Being Sent is that the United States is bound by its obligations to the Global Financial Community -- to that diminishing handful of the masters of international finance. This has always been so and it will remain so forever.  Sometimes the United States is a player, sometimes the United States is played, but always, the Untied States is tied, bound in fact, to the needs and desires of the financiers and there can never be any escape. Ever.

The People can rally and rage all they want about it, it makes no difference. The People cannot escape any more than the US government can; the best the People can do (and this includes  people on the Internet) is to raise issues and discuss them among themselves. Argue away! The High and the Mighty have other priorities.

The Coin was just like Free Silver, or Single Payer, or any of the other populist fantasies, something that is not going to happen, but something to keep those parts of the public who glommed on to them fixated, amused and/or entertained.

Something, in other words, was better than nothing.

I'm all for entertainment, but the Triumphalists were braying mostly about the success of the marketing campaign that got Coin Placement in ever so many outlets. Straight out of Bernays. Of course there was apparently no object besides "placement." Maybe in 50 or 100 years there might be a glimmer of acceptance of The Coin Option at the top of the heap, but for now, it's enough to get the idea out there.

Well, when everything is reduced to marketing and triumphalism requires nothing more than "placement" -- ie: people hearing about it (whatever it is) -- then we're not really getting anywhere. 50 or 100 years in the future maybe there will be some sort of denoument, but there would be one anyway, for the course of events, with or without the earlier marketing campaign for this or that product, would quite naturally lead to... something.

Ultimately The Coin was never a serious option. It was never meant to be. It was a marketing ploy. In a certain sense, it was a con meant to get the meme "out there"  and meant to get the attention of the Highest and the Mightiest, and it's "success" was measured by the vehemence of the White House beat down of it.

Wheels within wheels is putting it mildly.

Unfortunately, we're going to have to go through an extended series of these meme marketing efforts before something actually takes hold.


  1. My take on things is that Obama is perfectly content with all this political theater to give him cover for the neoliberal reforms he actually wants to make, but has been disappointed by the Republicans refusing to take "Yes" for an answer. He needs those Republicans, along with the other Blue Dog Democrats to do what he wants. It seems like the Republicans go off script though.

    On the other hand, realizing that its all theater, I can't pretend to know what's really going on. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the White House!

  2. Theater, yes. For sure.

    The thing is, more and more people aren't waiting for the Show On High to get going; they're putting on their own shows, if you will. This includes the Republicans in the House.

    But it also includes all sorts of commoners styling and doing their own thing and trying to or getting attention for their efforts. The Coin came out of that framework.

    Note the difference in what happens depending on the sponsorship of populist actions and enthusiasms. Anything that might actually destabilize the Overclass and its power is dismissed or crushed. The Coin had that potential. Occupy likewise. The various internet monkeywrenching efforts.

    Anything else is given wide latitude.

    Managing dissent has never been more obvious...

  3. The Coin was a device to show that the Executive Branch isn't helpless here. That's why the idea of it had to be crushed so thoroughly.

    The story from the "Obama Left" is that Obama loves each and every one of us and wants to help us but the cruel Republicans make him make Sophie's Choice over and over again.

    The Coin was like, "Hey, wait a minute, who actually believe that the executive branch is this weak thing that can constantly get rolled by the minority party in the legislature?" That couldn't be allowed to stand.

  4. Ha ha ha ha ha. "The Obama Left."

    Now there's a contradiction in terms. I'm not sure what the Obama Crusaders and defenders are, but whatever it is, it sure isn't "left."

    As for The Coin, I doubt we've seen the last of it.

    I think people are really exasperated that Obama and all of his helpmeets in government claim such powerlessness against the minority in Congress, while that self-same minority assures us that he's a Big SocialistNazi HitlerStalin KingEmperor ruling by decree and unholy terror.

    The act wears thin...