Paul Krugman has done this whole thing one better as he calls for the Obama administration to engage in financial fraud under the guise of "moral obligation bonds." Yes, this is the same Paul Krugman who in the past has called for criminal investigations for Wall Street executives (except for Jon Corzine, who was a Democrat politician, so it doesn't matter how badly he defrauded his clients), but the amount of financial fraud in Krugman's proposal would dwarf anything that the most dishonest people in the financial markets had done. Indeed, Bernie Madeoff has slain his thousands and Krugman his tens of thousands.
Before I explain why I believe Krugman is demanding financial fraud, let us examine his own words. He writes:
Don’t like the platinum coin option? Here’s a functionally equivalent alternative: have the Treasury sell pieces of paper labeled “moral obligation coupons”, which declare the intention of the government to redeem these coupons at face value in one year.
It should be clearly stated on the coupons that the government has no, repeat no, legal obligation to pay anything at all; you see, they’re not debt, and therefore don’t count against the debt limit. But that shouldn’t keep them from having substantial market value. Consider, for example, the fact that the government has no legal responsibility for guaranteeing the debt of Fannie and Freddie; nonetheless, it is widely believed that there is an implicit guarantee (because there is!), and this is very much reflected in the price of that debt.
One must admit that this is rich, calling a bond upon which the government legally could default a "moral obligation" security. (And don't forget that the government, even if it paid back this loan, would essentially default via the "magic" of inflation.) This from a person who in past columns has marveled that governments in the past actually took financial obligations and financial treaties seriously.
But it gets even better, as Krugman writes:
And maybe the coupons wouldn’t have to be sold on the open market; why not just have the Fed buy them? Bear in mind that the Fed doesn’t always buy safe assets; it’s buying a lot of mortgage-backed securities (from Fannie and Freddie; see above), and during the worst of the financial crisis it bought lots of commercial paper. So why not slightly speculative pieces of paper sold by the Treasury?In other words, the Fed can pretend that what essentially are political securities has real value. That is financial fraud, period. People have gone to prison for much less. And lest one think I have misread Krugman, he gives us this gem:
If there is a legal problem even with selling these coupons, there are still alternatives, such as paying suppliers with these coupons and then having the Fed buy them. The mechanics really don’t matter; as long as we’re in a liquidity trap, printing money, printing conventional debt securities, or printing funny money with no legal standing that nonetheless lets the government pay its bills are all equivalent.So, instead of facing the hard reality that the government cannot spend at current levels given the ability of the U.S. economy to produce enough tax revenues, Krugman claims that we can fix our problems by having Treasury and the Fed pull more rabbits from their proverbial hats. Call it what you wish, but this is fraud by every legal and moral definition. It also is the hallmark of Keynesian "economics."