U.S. Senator John McCain spoke out Monday at a rally sponsored by Citizens Against Government Waste and the Dollar Coin Alliance, urging a Senate vote on his COINS Act, which would discontinue the $1 bill in favor of the $1 coin as a cost-saving measure. The act, which is cosponsored in the Senate by Democrats Tom Harkin and Mark Udall, and Republicans Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn, would phase out the dollar bill over a period of four years, which is approximately the time a dollar bill spends in circulation before needing to be replaced.
“At a time when our military is being forced to reduce its ability to defend against threats to our security because of sequestration, it makes sense to me that Congress would agree to make common sense steps like the COINS Act to reduce our debt,” the Arizona Republican said. “A four year transition from the $1 bill to the $1 coin could result in billions of dollars in real savings that we should all be able to support.”
The Treasury Department estimates a dollar bill lasts between 1.8 and 4.8 years before wearing out, while a dollar coin, made of manganese-brass, can last for 30 years before being withdrawn from circulation. Estimates of the savings to the U.S. government range from $5 billion to $13 billion over the 30 year life of the coins. Meeting the demand for the coins would cause no problem for the Treasury Department, which has $1.4 billion in dollar coins of various years in inventory.
Advocates note that most other developed nations have already retired their lowest paper bill, with concomitant savings. The Canadian “Loonie” $1 coin is now a cherished part of everyday life in Canada, but it took the removal of the Canadian $1 bill to get people to accept it. “You have to phase out the paper dollar to make the coins successful,” said Jim Kolbe, co-chair of the Dollar Coin Allaince.
Supporters also note that the gold-colored coins are the same size and weight of the old Susan B. Anthony dollar coins (about three times the weight of a quarter), and carry the same electro-magnetic signature, meaning existing vending machines are able to accept them.
I include Presidential dollar coins in tips at restaurants, and use them as gifts to small kids when I’m making a public appearance, to make people more likely to remember me.