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Dollar Fight Is Paper Vs. Metal

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Americans for George, a coalition that wants to prevent the dollar coin from replacing the dollar bill, is stepping up its lobbying efforts as Congress considers phasing out the paper dollar to save money.

Crane and other companies involved in greenback production kept a low profile until this fall, when they set up a counter coalition dubbed Americans for George.

“With [Kolbe’s] strong relationships and ties they are able to push bad legislation along,” said Doug Crane, Crane’s vice president. “We needed to get the word out better than we had been.”

One-dollar notes represent nearly half of Crane’s U.S. currency business, and replacing them altogether would mean the loss of about 350 jobs, said Crane, who planned to be in Washington, D.C., today to attend a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on the future of currency.

Randy DeCleene, a spokesman for Americans for George, said the group is considering placing more advertisements in the districts of lawmakers who are supporting, or are considering supporting, the bills this spring. In the meantime, the group is pumping out favorable polls that show overwhelming public support for $1 bill.

“The general public had no idea that this was actually under consideration,” he said.

Coin supporters seem to have the Government Accountability Office in their corner. The office has issued six reports in the past 22 years concluding that replacing the dollar bill with a coin saves the government money because it costs less to produce new currency than it is worth.

Greenback allies point out that the switch would cost the government about $531 million in the first 10 years. They also note that the savings projected in the GAO’s February report — $4.4 billion over the next 30 years — are $1.1 billion lower than the office predicted last spring, in light of new data on the lifespan of paper notes. The Treasury Department now estimates that dollar bills last an average of 56 months, compared with the 30 years a coin lasts.

The Dollar Coin Alliance argues that its cause is stymied by a bureaucratic power struggle between Congress and the agencies that print and manage currency.

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve have long opposed making the coin the sole $1 product, citing its weight (just more than 8 grams), the public’s stubborn attachment to paper currency and the costs to the banking industry, retailers and others who would have to update their systems and practices if dollar bills were phased out.

But Congress can mandate the end of the $1 bill, and the Dollar Coin Alliance is heavily pressuring lawmakers to make the change.

The budgetary threats looming at the end of the year, including the impending $1.2 trillion sequestration and the extension of the Bush tax cut, could work to their advantage, said Shawn Smeallie, a lobbyist with American Continental Group who is representing the Dollar Coin Alliance.

“You have a triple witching hour coming in December,” he said. “I think they are going to be considering anything and everything at that point.”

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