Citing a misreading of the U.S. Constitution and overblown fears of a collapsing U.S. currency, Montana State Rep. Jerry O’Neil (R) claims that he should be paid his legislative salary in gold and silver:
In a letter sent to Montana Legislative Services this week, O’Neil cites Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, which states in part that no state shall “make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.”
He said that in his 10 years as a legislator, he considered it a “trivial matter” and he “did not want to be branded as a fanatic over an issue of no consequence.” But now he says he is looking at the value of the dollar “in a new light.” . . .
In his letter, O’Neil points out that he does not want to be paid at the face value of $50 American Eagle gold coins or $1 silver American Eagle coins. He stipulates that he should be paid at their market values, currently $1,801 for the gold coin and $35.28 for the silver coin.
“Let’s say I made $1,800 in a month. They could give one gold American Eagle” or multiple silver American Eagles, he said.
Fears that the U.S. dollar is caught in a spiral of disastrous inflation are common among the tea party fringe, as are similar claims that the way to defend against such inflation is to horde gold and silver. Indeed, these misguided fears are widespread enough that scam gold dealers, such as Goldline, allegedly take advantage of them by selling overpriced gold to tea partiers and others gripped by false fears of inflation. In reality, inflation is currently both very low and quite stable — and it is well below the rate of inflation under most of President Reagan’s two terms.
Additionally, O’Neil’s reading of America’s founding document is constitutional gobbledygook. The Constitution does indeed provide that “No state shall . . . coin money; emit bills of credit [or] make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts,” a provision intended to prevent the states from printing their own paper currencies, but the key words in this constitutional provision are “no state shall.” Nothing prevents the federal government from printing currency which, as anyone who has ever read the front of a dollar bill knows, is “legal tender for all debts, public and private.” That includes the salaries Montana pays its lawmakers.