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News Opinion Op-Eds

Change we can believe in: Scrap the dollar bill

Americans embrace innovation. It is in our DNA. We are always on the lookout for new ways to do something faster, cheaper, better. From the horse and buggy to the automobile; from the rotary telephone to the iPhone, we're always willing to embrace innovation if it will make our lives more efficient and productive. Unfortunately, the federal government's bureaucratic inertia has stood in the way of one such innovation that would save the country billions of dollars while making things easier for millions of small business owners like myself.

Eliminating the $1 bill and replacing it with a $1 coin would save taxpayers anywhere from $150 million to more than half a billion dollars per year, according to two decades of reports from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). This year, the GAO said the switch would save $4.4 billion over 30 years. Any way you look at it, that's not chump change.

I run a business that's about as small as it gets — a car wash in Maryland with four employees, including me. If I did things like the government, I wouldn't be in business very long. In fact, for the past 12 years, I've been using $1 coins as change for my customers. And guess what? People like them. Think about it; if you buy a $12 wash with a $20 bill, would you rather get eight dollar coins or 32 quarters back in change? I see my customers struggling to insert worn-out bills into our bill acceptors. Then I see customers using coins. Guess who's frustrated, and who's washing their cars while the others are still feeding in bills? It's easier, more reliable and helps me run a more efficient business by reducing costs. Indeed, according to the American Public Transportation Association, it's about six times cheaper for businesses with high levels of cash transactions (like mine) to process coins versus bills.

The United States is among the few modern economies in the world that still circulate such a low-denomination paper currency. Today's dollar buys about as much as a quarter did in the 1970s. In Canada, the lowest paper currency is the $5 bill, and in Japan it's the ¥5 yen ($12 U.S.). And yet, year after year, the U.S. government churns out billions of $1 bills to replace the billions of worn-out dollars that are shredded and dumped in landfills — at your expense. Dollar coins, meanwhile, are virtually indestructible, fully recyclable, and have a lifespan of 30 or more years. It's simply a better, more efficient product.

Thankfully, a band of fiscal hawks in Congress are at long last embracing the GAO's repeated recommendations to make this common-sense change. Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Republican Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona, and Rep. David Schweikert, an Arizona Republican, recently introduced the bipartisan COINS Act to eliminate the $1 bill and move fully to a $1 coin. These legislators are true leaders who are unafraid to take on a reluctant bureaucracy and entrenched special interests to find a creative way to reduce the deficit. Now, it's time for more of our leaders to get on board — including our Maryland congressional delegation.

If the federal government is serious about cutting the deficit and restoring fiscal sanity inWashington, D.C., modernizing our currency by switching to the $1 coin is a good place to start. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and ignore years of advice from the GAO just because it's "easier" to do things the old way. A viable $1 coin program puts us on the path toward a stronger, more vibrant economy.

Dave DuGoff is the owner of the College Park Carwash and vice-president at the Mid-Atlantic Car Wash Association.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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