Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Big new movie idea (spoiler alert)
Full faith and credit, they said. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
I came up with a movie idea last night, and it’s super-timely and I want to write it all down here and share it with you in case another writer out there gets a similar idea later and goes on to sell it and win an Oscar or something.
(Heck, I’d even take a Razzie; just spell my name right.)
Or maybe I have a movie producer reader I don’t know about. Or maybe I’ll just be smart and send today’s newsletter to my literary agent.
It’s called FAITH AND CREDIT. (We can work on the title).
It starts in the predawn hours of an early fall day at THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT, in Washington, D.C. You know the building; it’s on the back of the $10 bill.
The SECRETARY of the TREASURY is pacing in his office. He’s surrounded by aides, everyone’s glued to their phones. They’ve been up all night; the TVs are all talking heads and graphics screaming the end of the world.
A clock shows 5:58 a.m. The Secretary answers his phone almost before it even buzzes:
“Yes, Madam President! (Pause).
No change, ma’am. We budget an hour to mint it, an hour to fly it, an hour to talk the world off the ledge before the markets open. (He looks at the clock; it changes from 5:58 to 5:59 a.m.).
Plus, 31 minutes for whatever inevitably goes wrong. (Another pause).
Yes, ma’am! Understood, Madam President.”
He turns to his aides: “We have the order. Make it happen. God help us all.”
OK, next scene. Dawn is breaking at the U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY.
Lights are just turning on, but a group of cadets in full dress uniforms are already marching on a big concrete parade area called … well, The Area. These are the ones who are always in trouble, walking “punishment tours” to pay their debts to society before the day begins.
We zero in on a few of these young men and women:
A massive hulk of a cadet almost bursting out of his uniform. He’s a gentle giant, but you still wouldn’t want to mess with him. This is TIM, in trouble for … oh, I don’t know, maybe he got caught sneaking off campus to see his girlfriend too many times. (Or his boyfriend; this is 2021 after all.)
Next up, a nerdy-looking cadet in glasses: TODD, who is in trouble for doing some kind of computer hacking thing that everyone thinks is genius but was also probably borderline illegal.
Finally FAITH, barely five feet tall, a prior-enlisted soldier, decorated for valor in Afghanistan, in trouble for … um, let’s say she was making money by running an unlicensed tattoo parlor for other cadets out of her dorm room.
Faith does an about-face and looks off in the distance, maybe half a mile away, at an imposing building that just happens to be…
The U.S. MINT FACILITY AT WEST POINT.
This is a towering vault of a building. Inside, the head of the mint stands in a high-tech room that exudes solemnity; it’s like what would happen if Elon Musk designed a cathedral.
The head of the mint provides helpful exposition. Maybe she’s on the phone with someone? Maybe there’s a school tour? Wait, that makes no sense, a school tour at dawn in one of the most secure buildings on the planet? Why the heck would a tour be…
Never mind. I’ll worry about that in the next draft. For now, please just suspend your disbelief. The head of the mint conveniently looks at a clock (say, 6:45 a.m.) and he or she says something like:
“Congress screwed us. They didn’t raise the debt limit before the deadline, so this is Plan Z. To avoid a government default, a crashed economy, and millions of citizens losing everything they have, we’re literally going to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin.
Then we’ll race it to the vault at the New York Fed, and tell Wall Street: ‘No problem, folks; we’ve got the money.’”
I think it would be funny if actually minting the coin is anti-climatic, and it makes a little “plink” sound, and the next thing you know, we are looking at a literal $1 trillion coin, and it’s no bigger than a silver dollar.
A bunch of U.S. Mint cops race the $1 TRILLION DOLLAR COIN across the fields toward the military academy…
Black Hawk helicopters swoop in and land, right on The Area. TIM, TODD, FAITH, and the other cadets have to race out of the way…
Then, just as the Mint cops arrive with the coin and the guards jump off the helicopters…
There’s a BIG ATTACK, and a highly coordinated GANG OF THIEVES comes out of nowhere, parachuting onto The Area, overpowering the guards, stealing the $1 TRILLION COIN, along with one of the helicopters…
But three cadets—hey look, it’s TIM, TODD, and FAITH!—jump into the helicopter at the very last second. They’re America’s final, Gen Z hope to save the $1 TRILLION DOLLAR COIN and get it to the vault in New York City, 45 miles away—all within the next couple of hours.
The helicopter crashes but everyone survives. The bad guys escape with the coin. Tim, Todd, and Faith keep up the chase; West Point assumes (wrongly) that they were in on the heist. They overcome one impossible challenge after another. It’s helpful for our purposes that since they were in dress uniforms and being punished when all this happened, they probably don’t have their phones or wallets.
They bicker the whole time (but it’s funny), and in the end, they use Tim’s strength, Todd’s brains, and Faith’s raw courage and leadership ability to get the coin ... and get to New York ... and save the day… and the country… and the world financial system… and clear their names ... all before breakfast.
Think Die Hard meets Black Hawk Down. Or else, National Treasure meets The Italian Job. (Maybe I need more recent movie references.)
OK, I know this is all a wild and far-fetched idea.
For one thing, the West Point Mint is just a government building. It doesn’t really look like Elon Musk built it.
Also, as a West Point friend clarified for me last night via text, cadets don’t march punishment hours in the morning; they do it on the weekends.
But the rest of this? The part that seems like it would be really insane and nobody would ever believe it? That’s the part that’s actually true:
The U.S. really is about to exceed the debt ceiling unless Congress raises it before October 18, which looks pretty iffy right now.
The fail-safe, last-ditch, break-glass-for-emergency, “Plan Z” to avoid a calamitous default and tank the economy really is to mint a $1 trillion platinum coin and physically deposit it at the New York Fed!
Finally, as Axios reported last night—which is what gave me this movie idea when I read it around 9 p.m. (not-so-conveniently, since I’d already basically drafted a newsletter on another subject)—there is an actual, feasible, logistical plan to do this coin-minting thing, if needed:
Mint the coin at West Point, since it’s the closest mint to New York City. Conveniently, they already mint American Eagle platinum bullion coins there, so they have the metal and stamps ready to go.
Physically race the $1 trillion coin to the vault at the New York Fed. I assume this would be by helicopter with a heavily armed escort.
Tell Wall Street and the world: “Guys, we know this is really weird, but hear us out…”
Now, I don’t want anyone to panic. My guess is that either (a) enough Republicans will cross over at the last minute to raise the ceiling, or (b) Democrats will end the Senate filibuster and do it on their own, or (c) Congress will find some other Byzantine trick I don’t know about to avoid a default.
They’ll probably do it at the very last possible moment, the way I pay my cell phone bill.
It’s much better for America not to mint the $1 trillion coin, of course. But it’s also better for me as a screenwriter because if we did have to mint it, I think my movie idea would probably go out the window. Too close to home.
Until then, though: Call me, we’ll do lunch, love ya babe, gonna make you a star.
Call for comments: So… can you help me get this movie made? Know anybody? Would you go see it if it actually were produced? And what are your predictions about the debt ceiling? At this point, we have been through so many crises over the last few years that we all have become slightly numb (or more than slightly). But this would really not be good.
(By the way: The comment section was REALLY buggy last night, so I’m not even sure that button above will work. You can also reply to this email with comments and I’ll figure out how to share them if you like.)
7 other things worth your time
Amazon is working on a “smart refrigerator” that would monitor what’s inside and order things (from Amazon). (Engadget)
“The US government is secretly ordering Google to provide data on anyone typing in certain search terms, an accidentally unsealed court document shows. There are fears such ‘keyword warrants’ threaten to implicate innocent web users in serious crimes and are more common than previously thought.” (Forbes)
“American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for their discoveries about how the human body perceives temperature and touch, which could lead to new ways of treating pain or heart disease.” (AP)
The founder of the Telegram messaging app says more than 70 million new users joined during Facebook’s outage on Monday. (Reuters)
Oh great, so much for my movie: Hollywood’s backstage workers have voted to authorize a strike for the first time ever after negotiations broke down Tuesday. (CNBC)
A Florida man has returned a missing moon rock that he bought at a yard sale. (Futurism)
Thanks for reading, as always. Photo credits: First 3 are the US government; the last one was Pixabay. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.