The Treasury Dollar Act of 2020

6 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2020

Date Written: March 27, 2020

Abstract

This Bill would convert the Department of Treasury's existing 'Treasury Direct' system of universally available transaction accounts in Treasury Securities into a publicly administered digital savings and payments platform. A platform of this type is an essential public utility, hence a requirement of justice, in any 'commercial society' or 'exchange economy' such as our own. It is also growth-promoting, inasmuch as growth-tracking GDP is a measure of transaction volume, while transaction volume in turn is a positive function of speedier, more efficient, and more inclusive transacting. In this sense the prescribed system amounts both to a justice gain and to an efficiency gain.

The Bill prescribes achievement of its aim through two surprisingly simple steps, enabling full specification of what it mandates in only two pages exclusive of Findings and Definitions.

First, Treasury is instructed to issue a new class of zero coupon perpetual Treasury Bill - the 'Treasury Dollar Bill,' or 'Treasury Dollar' - valued at precisely one Federal Reserve Note (a.k.a. 'dollar bill') per Treasury Dollar. The Treasury Dollar is deemed legal tender, sufficient to discharge all obligations public and private, on a par with Federal Reserve Notes. It is in effect identical to the Federal Reserve Note (again, the current 'dollar bill') in respect of all attributes save its issuer.

Second, Treasury is instructed to add phone-accessible digital wallet capability to all Treasury Direct Accounts, such as to enable direct peer-to-peer transacting in 'real time' both among all wallet holders inter se and between wallet holders and the public fisc. The U.S. Digital Service, an executive agency housed within the Executive Office of the President of the United States, is instructed to design and implement the digital wallet capability in collaboration with Treasury.

In addition to all citizens and legal residents of the United States, all businesses too will receive Treasury Direct wallets, and all bank and thrift institutions will be required as a condition of chartering to afford the same access to ATM, e-banking and other services to customers transacting in Treasury Dollars as they do to customers transacting in Federal Reserve Notes.

What the bill prescribes is not as exotic as some might first think. In the roughly 70 years between the Banking, Currency, and Legal Tender Acts of the Civil War era and the founding, then Note-issuance, of the Federal Reserve System well into the 20th century, Treasury issued the nation's primary currencies - best known among them the 'Greenback.' (Hence the name of that Treasury office which serves as one of our three primary bank regulators - the 'Comptroller [i.e., Controller] of the Currency.) What this bill institutes is accordingly no more than the restoration of currency issuing authority, in parallel with the Fed's continuing such authority, to our more democratically accountable Treasury.

Where new issuance is concerned, Congress may choose to limit the use of this authority to crisis situations in which immediate 'helicopter money' drops are necessary, or may authorize more continuous use of it for periodic disbursements of other kinds. In all such cases Treasury will of course have to coordinate with the Fed to avoid any possible disbursement-caused instability of the national money supply. What matters most at present is that the architecture be in place, so that all citizens, legal residents, and businesses operating in the United States have immediate access to savings and payments services free of any charge. Use of paper currency does not require fee payments; neither should use of digital currency.

Suggested Citation

Hockett, Robert C., The Treasury Dollar Act of 2020 (March 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3563007 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3563007

Robert C. Hockett (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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