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Saturday, Jan 12 2013 11:00 PM

Debt debate fostering silly options

By The Bakersfield Californian

The idea of minting a trillion-dollar coin to solve the nation's debt ceiling crisis is ridiculous. Literally creating money out of nothing to pay our bills is the height of absurdity. And yet it's hardly more preposterous than the chaos that passes for fiscal management that we've witnessed in Congress over the past several months. And the chaos will only deepen if House Republicans refuse to increase the debt ceiling limit.

The difference between these two ludicrous scenarios is that failing to take action on the debt ceiling, thereby igniting another potential recession and sending Wall Street reeling is dangerously irresponsible. Minting a one-of-a-kind coin to stave off such a disaster is by contrast rather benign.

Please don't misunderstand. Both of those outcomes must be avoided. Combating one silly idea with another is not the way anyone should be running a country. But anything seems possible in this polarized era of governmental dysfunction. This is how crazy things have become: Last week, a White House spokesman refused to say if the trillion-dollar coin was being seriously considered by the Obama administration. And Republicans appear to be bracing for a battle (even though the president has said he won't engage in one), apparently seeing it as their chance to extract the kind of debt-reducing concessions they didn't get in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

What needs to happen now? For starters, instead of digging in their heels, it would be nice if the two sides would acknowledge that they already agree on something -- something pretty important, actually. Both sides know the debt ceiling must be raised. No one is willing to wreak economic chaos by letting the nation default on its debt.

Congressional Republicans, for all their bluster, won't do it. They didn't do it in August 2011 nor did they allow the nation to go over the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1 of this year. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove flat-out stated that Republican leaders don't want to take the nation into default this time either.

"Not House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or any other Republican leader," Rove wrote. "Quite the opposite. They want to cover the cost of the existing debt while cutting spending to prevent a fiscal catastrophe."

So, in summary: While Republicans recognize the danger of not increasing the debt limit, they're still willing to use economic disaster as a bargaining chip.

On the other side of the proverbial coin is Barack Obama's unwillingness to negotiate on the subject. But he'll give in eventually, just as he has in the past.

The best course of action -- and clearly this is wishful thinking -- would be for the two sides to get together and hammer out an agreement before we find ourselves staring down the barrel of another 11th-hour deadline. The nation is sick of these manufactured hostage-taking dramas that seem to be playing out continuously in Washington -- especially when we all know ahead of time that when it comes down to it, Republicans aren't willing to throw America under the bus of borderline fiscal malfeasance.

Republicans and Democrats, like the rest of us, are ready to put these fiscal issues to bed and get on to more important issues. They have the opportunity to do that in the coming weeks. If they don't, let's hope that Obama's trillion-dollar coin is shiny enough so that Congress can get a good look at just how ridiculous it is.

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