Lawmakers (again) propose replacing $1 bills with coins by Steve James NBC
News | July 23, 2013
Hey America, want to save
$13.8 billion over the next 30 years? Get rid of your dollars.
The greenbacks, that is. Let's use dollar
That's the message from a consumer advocacy
group and former presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain,
who has re-introduced legislation to phase out dollar bills.
Eliminating the dollar bill in favor of
the coin would save $13.8 billion over 30 years, says the
consumer group Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
(CCAGW). At a Capitol Hill briefing on Monday, the group
said printing dollar bills may be cheaper than minting coins,
but they last only about four years compared with 30 years
for a coin.
The savings would nearly triple other recent
estimates of the $1 coin’s impact, said Aaron Klein,
former chief economist for the Senate Banking Committee
and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, who
conducted CCAGW's analysis on the savings potential.
"The federal government should always
be looking for ways to save money, and as the national debt
approaches $17 trillion, the implications of Mr. Klein’s
study amount to much more than pocket change,” said
Bill Christian, CCAGW's director of government affairs.
The Government Accountability Office, a
bipartisan congressional watchdog, has produced five reports
in the past 20 years to support the transition to $1 coins.
Its last report, in 2011, said the government could save
$5.5 billion, a conservative estimate according to advocates.
"It seems to me this one common-sense
remedy certainly won't change the equation entirely. But
even in this town, $5.5 billion or $13.8 billion is not
chump change," said McCain, a Republican of Arizona.
McCain has been joined in his legislative
push for the coins by fellow Republican senators Tom Coburn,
of Oklahoma and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, as well as Democrats
Mark Udall of Colorado and Tom Harkin of Iowa.
But they will have a hard sell. Even though
most other countries, such as Canada, Britain and Japan,
have replaced smaller currency denominations with coins,
Americans love their greenbacks and have never warmed to
Maybe it's because many of us are in the
habit of chucking coins in a jar or a piggy-bank. Maybe
we don't like their bulkiness in the pocket, or perhaps
that vending machine won't accept them. The reasons may
not always be clear, but we just don't like them.
It began with the original gold dollar in
circulation from 1849 to 1889, which was tiny, making it
difficult to grasp and easy to lose, a serious problem when
a dollar was almost a day's wage.
So the Mint made them bigger, but many people
didn't like the idea of heavy coins filling up their purses
or making holes in their pants pockets. Then there was the
Susan B. Anthony dollar, which was introduced in 1979. It
was often confused with the quarter, because it was roughly
the same color, size, and design.
That coin was never popular and was quickly
discontinued in 1981, but resurrected in 1999 when Treasury
reserves were low. It still never caught on. Neither did
the later Sacagawea dollar coin, which was used mostly as
change in vending machines, most often in transit systems
and post offices.
This dislike of coins by Americans contrasts
with currencies of most other developed countries, where
denominations of similar value exist only in coin. These
coins have largely succeeded because of a removal of their
corresponding paper issues. But the U.S. government has
taken no action to remove the one-dollar bill, due to intensive