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Connolly: Keep the Change — Let Us Keep the Dollar Bill

The late Baltimore newspaperman and essayist H. L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple — and wrong.” The proposal to eliminate the one-dollar bill and replace it with a dollar coin is just such an answer.

First, numerous public opinion polls clearly show that Americans favor the dollar bill by a wide margin. Polls performed by Luntz Global, Associated Press-Ipsos and Gallup largely confirm the obvious: The public doesn’t want to be forced to fill their pockets each day with heavy, inconvenient coins.

According to Luntz Global, 83 percent of those polled prefer the bill to the coin. Polling data from AP-Ipsos and Gallup reflect similar disdain for the dollar coin at 75 percent and 73 percent opposed, respectively.

All of us remember the disastrous experience with the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. In fact, the Treasury Department recently decided to end its successor, the failed presidential coin program, saving taxpayers $50 million a year. Some 1.2 billion in unused one-dollar coins are collecting dust in a tomb-like warehouse.

Why switch to dollar coins if nobody wants them? Only in Washington would someone propose expanding a government-sponsored social experiment that has already failed so miserably.

Second, the claim that forcing Americans to ditch their dollar bills for coins would save taxpayer money and reduce the deficit is specious on its face. No Congressional Budget Office data exists to support the claim, and a March 2011 Government Accountability Office report says that switching to a dollar coin could actually increase the deficit in the near term. In fact, substantial transport and storage costs for clunky coins could exceed any supposed long-term savings from production costs.

Finally, switching to a dollar coin would impose a stealth tax on businesses, especially small businesses, as well as American consumers.

A recent study by John Dunham & Associates showed the switch to a dollar coin would cost American businesses
$202 million per year to retrofit cash registers and vending machines and to make other necessary adjustments. Just as many businesses are starting to see growth as our economy recovers, this misguided proposal would cost time and money that otherwise could be spent to create jobs.

In studying the switch to the dollar coin, the GAO estimates that it would have to replace every two bills with three coins because most of us don’t like to be saddled with a pocketful of change. Rather than use change to make a purchase or put it in the bank to accrue interest, we generally put our coins in jars or in piles on our dressers. According to economists, the result of this “coin jar effect” is nothing more than a tax on the American public because the money is neither spent nor invested.

So we have a proposal that is wildly unpopular, produces no real deficit reduction and would hurt small businesses and consumers.

The decision seems pretty clear and simple. Maybe Washington will make the right choice this time.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) is a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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