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Wednesday Water Cooler: The Trillion Dollar Coin, The AIG Crocodiles, Mortgage Applications Up Big

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Wait, are we still talking about the Treasury Department minting a trillion-dollar coin to put off the debate on the debt ceiling for a little while longer? How likely is it that Republicans would make political hay out of such a maneuver for the next decade, castigating the Democrats as the party that simply invents money in order to solve serious fiscal problems? And if we are placing orders for novelty coins, might I request one that properly honors the contributions to American society of Clinton Riggs, the Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer who invented the yield sign? I think that coin should be worth 1.7 gazillion dollars and bestow on the bearer the right to ignore all traffic signals.

You could ponder this, or simply read this smart and funny analysis by my colleague Mark Gongloff, who as you will see is still trying to impress his 10th grade English literature teacher (Way too late to change that grade, Mark).

"Thank You America." That's the slogan from AIG's advertising campaign as it seeks to restore its reputation after . . . um, oh, right nearly destroying the world economy. The insurer, which took $182 billion in taxpayer money at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, is pondering joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the U.S. government that claims the terms of the bailout were too tough.

This is like loading a yacht with crocodiles -- because crocodiles are a great long-term investment, you know, in demand all over the world, especially for some reason in Germany -- sailing to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, then abandoning ship after those crocodiles eat your crew and gnaw a hole in your hull (the hull is the bottom, right?). So anyway, there you are, adrift, with crocodile bites all over your legs, clinging to a deflating life raft, also filled with crocodiles (WHY WOULD YOU BRING CROCODILES WITH YOU IN THE RAFT?) -- when the entire U.S. Navy steams up, pulls you from the water, and deposits you on shore. You survive, are given money to revive your crocodile-export company (provided you take some minor steps to make it a little bit more safe), but then: well, you ponder joining a shareholder lawsuit against your savior.

The whole thing is being orchestrated by former AIG chief, and king of the crocodiles, Hank Greenberg, by the way.

It's been many years since we could say this, but the housing market is helping to drive the economy again. Mortgage applications for the week ending Jan. 4 shot up 11.7 percent according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, Housing Wire reports. Refinancings are also up, as are interest rates on mortgages, though by just a tad. The housing bubble is dead, long live the housing bubble.