What would the founders do?

Laura Donovan Contributor
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First, they would have to learn the word “trillion.” The first loan to the U.S. Treasury, under the new constitution in September 1789, was for $20,000, drawn on the Bank of New York (it was to help the new federal government cover immediate expenses). Once we introduced the founders to all the new decimal places, they would probably say, “Been on a little binge, haven’t you, bro?”

I can imagine three practical responses to our crisis. The first would be the handiwork of a certain sort of run-of-the-mill founding-era politician — repudiation. That’s what some of the states were doing in the 1780s as they struggled with the debts they had amassed in the Revolutionary War. Rhode Island was notorious for printing paper money; North Carolina simply announced that it would knock 20 percent off all the debts it owed. Chicanery and sharp practice exist in every country and every era.

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