Kevin Drum spends several hundred words explaining why it would not actually be legal for the Obama administration to mint a trillion-dollar platinum coin as an end run around GOP debt-ceiling blackmail. I agree that the courts would probably rule against the administration, but not for the reason Kevin gives. (He says the intent of Congress when it passed the law in question did not anticipate this.) I think the courts would rule against the administration for the usual reason:
Our federal courts are still Republican-dominated, and any GOP-appointed judge asked to rule on this would be a Scalia and say, "Up yours -- I don't like what you're doing, therefore it's a violation of the law's intent."
But that would apply only to Obama or another Democratic president. If, at some point in the past, a Democratic Congress had tried to hold up a debt-ceiling increase with Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush in the White House, and Ronnie or W had announced the production of a high-denomination coin (or some other end run around the evil Democrats), with the legal imprimatur of Ed Meese or John Yoo, centrist and right-wing pundits would swoon at the "cowboy" "boldness," and approval by the courts would be inevitable. But Obama had better not try it.
Personally, I like the idea of anything that circumvents wingnut hostage-taking -- but I don't think the public would go along. I really disagree with Mistermix:
... it's probably a big political win for Obama. At a the most common-sense level, people can see how stupid the whole debt ceiling hostage taking is, and with Congress' popularity hovering between anal warts and communism, Obama's use of a technicality to get out of a hostage crisis would make him look like a problem solver.This isn't like raising taxes on the rich, which most Americans now regard as a matter of simple fairness. Americans hate government debt and deficits. They hate the notion of the government spending borrowed money because they've been conditioned -- by Democrats as well as Republicans -- to see government budgeting as analogous to personal budgeting; they know that when they have less, they ought to spend less. No politician in America ever explains to the public that money borrowed by the government, like money borrowed by companies, can actually be productive -- no one says that it can create wealth if it's spent wisely. Sometimes, of course, that's true of individuals as well -- if you're out of work and you borrow money to pay for education that leads to a new, good-paying job, that was money well spent. But no politician ever offers that analogy to the public. So the public thinks: Broke? Spend less. And the platinum coin would seem like a sneaky way to evade that apparent necessity. I wish that weren't the case, but it is, until someone finds a way to argue persuasively for Keynesianism, in plain language the public can understand.
(Drum via Memeorandum.)