State Rep. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, is spooked enough about the country’s fiscal picture to request that his legislative pay come in the form of gold and silver coins.
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.”
The country’s $16 trillion debt “is a warning sign we can only ignore at our peril,” he wrote. “It is very likely the bottom will fall out from under the U.S. dollar. Only so many dollars can be printed before they have no value.”
Contacted at his Columbia Falls-area home, O’Neil said that he did not contact Legislative Services prior to sending the letter to see if there may be any logistical barriers to providing his legislative pay in gold and silver.
He said he doesn’t know what to expect in the way of a response.
“They might just go to the coin shop and get me gold and silver coins, or they might say I have to do it myself,” he said. “I don’t know.”
O’Neil said he is largely trying to make a point and get “people to start thinking about what will happen if our money collapses. Also, I would like the state to think about the logistics of actually following the Constitution when it comes to gold and silver coin.”
The clause that he cites in the Constitution fell to irrelevance in all states, O’Neil believes, starting with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
“One of the arguing points of passing that was to make money more elastic,” he said.
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.
“Hopefully this will be an example for our Montana citizens and prompt them to also have some of their own wealth in money that has intrinsic value,” his letter concludes.
Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at email@example.com.