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Ferguson: Heads or Tails, Switch to Dollar Coin Is a Losing Bet

Undoubtedly, America has faced great challenges in recent years, from rising unemployment to a ballooning deficit. In such times, we must strive to maintain the principles and practices that make us Americans, despite these tumultuous circumstances.

It is exactly for this reason we must defend one of the most enduring American symbols — the dollar bill.

Recent attempts by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and other supporters of the Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings Act to replace the dollar bill with the dollar coin are misguided and detrimental to American business and culture.

Dollar coin proponents continually cite a 2011 Government Accountability Office study claiming that a switch will save $5.5 billion over 30 years. However, this savings estimate is flawed by, among other things, its failure to account for the increased conversion costs that would be imposed on the private sector.

A recent study conducted by the independent economics research firm John Dunham and Associates found that the transition to the dollar coin will increase costs to businesses by $201.85 million annually and result in at least 4,300 job losses. Essentially, the switch to the dollar coin would function as an additional tax on businesses and consumers — storing, managing and transferring coins is less efficient, ultimately rendering existing cash registers, safes and wallets obsolete. Moreover, there are no short- or long-term savings for Americans if we replace the dollar bill with a coin.

In addition to the economic costs, Americans do not want a forced conversion to the dollar coin. According to a 2011 Lincoln Park Strategies poll, 77 percent of Democrats and Republicans strongly oppose replacing the dollar bill with the dollar coin.

American opposition to the dollar coin has been exemplified in recent attempts to reintroduce it into circulation. The Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea and recent presidential dollar coins gained little support from Americans and were far more likely to end up in piggy banks than used for business transactions. In fact, only 60 percent of dollar coins are currently in circulation, with the other 40 percent, totaling $1.2 billion, sitting in vaults at the Federal Reserve Bank.

In this era of political and economic turmoil, is Congress really squandering precious time deliberating on such unpopular legislation as replacing the dollar bill? Americans realize that dollar coins are inconvenient and that the public — not the government — should ultimately select the currency that works best for them.

The fact remains that the dollar bill is an integral part of American culture, both in business and in our personal lives. Not only would the transition to the dollar coin result in a net cost to the government, it would also infringe upon our liberties. As we remember the legacy of George Washington on his birthday, let us not forget his most familiar commemoration — the dollar bill. We, as Americans, must act to preserve our dollar bill and renounce any attempt to replace it with an unpopular, wasteful coin.

Do not be fooled by dollar coin proponents touting the cost-savings based on gimmick accounting and long-range estimates and guesses. In reality, ditching the dollar bill will not produce any short- or long-term savings for the government. It will, however, further restrict businesses and consumers, forcing them to adopt an inefficient and bothersome means of commerce.

Tom Ferguson is a currency expert and spokesman for Americans for George, a coalition of groups supporting continued use of the dollar bill.

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