The Herald: Let’s keep the dollar bill

December 15, 2012 

Yes, we know that replacing the dollar bill with a dollar coin would make good economic sense. But Americans have made it abundantly clear that they don’t like the coins, whether they feature the visage of Sacajawea or Susan B. Anthony.

Officials with the Government Accountability Office, which serves as the official congressional auditing agency, have prepared a new report outlining how $4.4 billion could be saved over the next 30 years by doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with coins. And the federal Mint is preparing a report for Congress showing how changes in the metal content of all U.S. coins could save money, too.

A House subcommittee hearing this month focused on a plan to gradually take dollar bills out of the economy. One proposal would be to take bills out of circulation as they wear out and then not replace them.

Granted, $4.4 billion is real money, whether in coins or bills. But by federal standards, it’s not a lot of money, especially when spread out over 30 years.

Nonetheless, it is hard to dispute the economic argument for dollar coins. First and foremost, they are virtually indestructible.

Canadians made the switch to dollar coins – known as “Loonies” because they feature a picture of a Loon – without much grousing. In fact, the coins were so well received that the government introduced a $2 coin, now known as the “Toonie.”

It should be noted, however, that while the government gave consumers new $1 and $2 coins, it got rid of the penny altogether.

Americans are not as likely to be so accepting of the disappearance of the dollar bill. Congress has tried to get consumers to voluntarily adopt the dollar coin, and they haven’t gone for it.

Men, especially, don’t like carrying around a bunch of heavy coins in their pockets. And the dollar coin is too easily mistaken for a quarter.

The way the world of commerce is going, this whole debate could be moot in a few years. We are becoming, more and more, a cashless society, and soon we might not need either bills or coins.

With the increasing number of smart phones in use, even credit cards might soon become obsolete – or at least old fashioned – as people use their phones to make transactions. Clearly, the world is moving away from paying for things with real money.

But until technology ends the use money entirely, we hope the government will keep greenbacks around. While the change to dollar coins might save billions over time, it would be more expensive to produce the coins over the short haul.

And it would require a transition Americans have bluntly demonstrated they don’t want. Let’s forget about dollar coins and focus on better ways to eliminate the use of money altogether.

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