It’s back!

(Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

The inane concept of the $1 trillion coin has reared its ugly head again by a member of congress that lost the ability to think after being elected.

The idea was first conjured up in 2013 by conservative economists and pundits with some minor vocal support from some members of congress. It was brought up again in 2020 by a liberal freshman member who missed the earlier lessons about why it is a stupid idea.

Now Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has doubled down on the moronic by introducing S. 185, Cancel the Coin Act, to “remove the Treasury Secretary’s ability to mint coins of any value.”

Mike Lee was first elected to the Senate in 2011. He was in congress when the discussion of the $1 trillion coin began. Nearly every competent member of congress on both sides of the aisle dismissed the idea. They understood that issuing a $1 trillion coin will not work.

Lee did not learn the lesson.

Lee introduced the Cancel the Coin Act as a partisan measure because he is suddenly worried about a federal deficit. Even though the deficit was projected to be $1.083 trillion before the pandemic on a budget he voted for, Lee becomes concerned because a different party is in the White House.

The last time the government tried to curb deficit spending and manipulate coinage, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was on his way to being impeached. President Herbert Hoover appointed Mellon as Ambassador to the Court of St. James to get him out of town.

With the worldwide economy crashing, gold was becoming the primary means of international trade. Gold exports were happening faster than could be managed. To stop the hemorrhaging of money, congress passed the Emergency Banking Act on March 9, 1933, with bipartisan support. The act allowed the government to close the banks to allow the system to be recapitalized. It would be the last bank holiday of the Great Depression.

Om May 1, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 to recall gold held by the public except for some coins and jewelry. The gold would go to replenishing the country’s gold reserves. The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 codified the Executive Order.

From this point, we can pick up the story of the 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagles.

President Gerald Ford reversed Roosevelt’s Executive Order the same day that the law that reverse the Gold Reserve Act was signed: December 31, 1974.

While the story of the 1933 Double Eagles makes for an intriguing drama, the lesson of unintended consequences should be a concern over making political statements the way Sen. Lee is doing.

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