smart spending

U.S. dollars? Why not Texas cow chips?

Jay MacDonaldWhen word reached me last week of major breaking economic news out of South Carolina, where, frankly, major economic news rarely breaks, I naturally feared the worst: a repeat of the 1987 boll weevil infestation that had decimated the Myrtle Beach T-shirt industry.

But no, fortunately, this kerfuffle involved an apparently sincere attempt by a four-term state politician to unilaterally revert South Carolina to the gold standard.

State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, introduced legislation that would replace U.S. dollars with gold and silver coins as the recognized legal tender within the Palmetto State.

I'm thinking of a Stephen Colbert half dollar, aren't you?

By Pitts' estimation, rampant federal spending is bound to leave the U.S. government broke one of these days, thereby rendering dollars worthless except as absorbent wipes.

Of course, South Carolina would be spared the horrors of cash-pocalypse by virtue of proactively passing the Pitts bill and weaning itself from greenbacks back in 2010. Whose pockets are jingle-jangle-jingling now, y'all?

Legal tender for all debts public and private

Naturally, a phalanx of hairsplitters quickly pointed out that the Pitts proposition would violate the U.S. Constitution, which gave Congress, and not the states, the authority to create money.

Legalities aside, I think Mr. Pitts may be onto something here. In fact, I don't think he goes quite far enough. I mean, why gold and silver coins? Is he trying to defend his state from highwaymen?

I propose that each state establish a unique coin of the realm, minted from its natural resources, to be used for all debts public and private within its borders. It would be good for jobs, fun for tourism and provide fiscal doomsayers with the pillow mint they need before bedtime.

Let's take Pennsylvania. What better coin of the realm than scrapple, that indescribably unappetizing but durable foodstuff made from cornmeal and scraps of pork? Wouldn't it be fun to slap down a side of scrapple to pay your utility bill? And how easy would it be to make change?

Kudzu coins and car parts

The sovereign coin of Georgia could be the kudzu coin. We haven't found anything to kill or eat the invasive Asiatic weed yet, so why not process kudzu into coinage? Add a little Georgia pine cellulose and the stuff would probably make terrific currency, launching another green industry.

Michigan? That's too easy: car parts. We could emboss each denomination with a classic car, give them a metal flake Detroit paint job and embed tiny audio chips with selections from Smokey Robinson and Bob Seger.

It's all about the wise use of state resources. I don't see any reason why Iowa couldn't divert some of its high fructose corn syrup into gummy bucks. Hawaii might issue coconut quarters or thatched cash.

Kentucky could develop coal coins, though they wouldn't be the first. German municipalities minted anthracite coins in the cash-poor days following World War I.

And Texas? There's got to be a way to recycle what all those cows produce into sun-dried cattle coins.

Lobster shells and guitar picks

Washington State? Cedar shakes. Maine? Lobster shells. Tennessee? Guitar picks. Minnesota? Lutefisk. California? Tofu.

We've endured the hegemony of U.S. dollars for far too long. It's time for each state to step forward, shuck the yoke of fungible tyranny and mint their own money from the distinctive fruits, vegetables, meadow muffins and amber waves of grain that define them.

I want to be there when Rep. Pitts receives his first paycheck in pecans.

If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Bank Shots.

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