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January 15, 2021 28 min

Back in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning and the shelter-in-place orders brought the economy to a screeching halt, a quirky-but-clever idea to save the economy made its way up to some of the highest levels of government. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib proposed an ambitious relief bill to keep the country’s metaphorical lights on: recurring payments to people to help them stay afloat during the crisis. And the way Congress would pay for it? By minting two platinum $1 trillion coins. (You read that right). 

In this episode, we take a jaunt through the evolution of our currency, from the gold-backed bills of the 19th century, to the most powerful computer at the Federal Reserve. And we chase an idea that torpedoes what we thought was a fundamental law of economics. Can we actually just print more money? 

This episode was reported by Becca Bressler and was produced by Becca Bressler and Simon Adler.

Special thanks to Carlos Mucha, Warren Mosler, David Cay Johnston, Alex Goldmark, Bryant Urstadt, and Amanda Aronczyk. 

To learn more about these ideas check out: 

Stephanie Kelton's book The Deficit Myth

Jacob Goldstein's book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing and the Planet Money podcast

Betsey Stevenson's podcast Think Like an Economist 

This website for more about #MintTheCoin

And for a fun quick read, check out this WIRED article about the surprising origin of the trillion dollar coin.

 

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