Platinum Coins and Banana Republics


A couple of days ago Greg Sargent emailed to ask me why I was so opposed to the $1 trillion platinum coin as a way of evading the debt ceiling. After all, a lot of liberals argue that Republicans are threatening to turn the United States into a banana republic by refusing to allow our bills to be paid, so why shouldn’t Democrats respond in kind? I think it’s worth sharing my answer:

Fighting banana republic with more banana republic is far more dangerous than coin supporters think. It’s one thing for Republicans to go crazy. It’s another for craziness to essentially become institutionalized. When liberals stop fighting this kind of stuff, we really are on our way to banana republic-hood.

Is that self-explanatory? In the end, I think we’ll end up with a negotiated solution of some kind to the debt ceiling standoff, so I don’t consider the danger as great as some people do. But even if I’m wrong about that, I think there’s a much bigger danger in the possibility of ridiculous unilateral legal hair-splitting becoming the norm in American politics. If that happens, then we really are just an unusually rich banana republic.

The answer to the debt ceiling nonsense is to force Republicans back into some semblance of responsibility and prudence. In the long term, it’s the only way we survive. Barack Obama appears to understand that.

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