This is not a new idea, but it is one that Congress has ignored for far too long. Seven times over the last twenty-two years, the Government Accountability Office — Congress’ own budget watchdog — has advocated modernizing our currency to the dollar coin, citing the significant budget savings that can be achieved with this one simple change.
GAO’s recommendations go back thirty years, and if Congress had taken their advice the first time, we would have already saved taxpayers more than $10 billion. At a time of record deficits, that is savings that we cannot afford to ignore.
This is not a unique or untested idea. In fact, the United States is one of the last industrialized countries that still use a note for such a low denomination of its currency. Canada moved to a dollar coin twenty-five years ago. That transition has not only gone smoothly — but Canada realized savings ten times their initial estimates.
The few who criticize this idea will say the American people don’t want this. They are wrong. In Washington, we too often underestimate the American people. They know how serious our budget issues are, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices necessary to put our country on a sound fiscal path. In this case, Americans favor the transition from the dollar note to the dollar coin by a 2:1 margin when you share with them how it can help reduce our deficit.
Support for this modest proposal continues to grow. Our coalition, comprised of small businesses, mass transit agencies, budget watchdogs, trade associations, and private companies, has spent the last several months educating the public and members of Congress on the benefits of the dollar coin.
We continue to build support for the Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings (COINS) Act (H.R. 2977 and S. 2049) — introduced earlier this year by a bipartisan group including Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Congressman David Schweikert (R-Ariz.). The list of cosponsors continues to grow and we’re confident that after learning of the budget savings benefits during today’s hearing, more members will sign on to support this change.
Now more than ever, our government needs to get serious about the federal debt. Why then are we ignoring the billions that can be saved through this one simple proposal? Why are we watching other countries reap these benefits and not taking advantage of the budget savings benefits for ourselves? If we are to get serious about the debt, agreement around a modest proposal such as this should be an easy first step and a basis for further cooperation.
The math is simple. One change — involving no tax cuts, and no program cuts — provides billions in savings for deficit reduction. Congress can no longer afford to ignore the dollar coin.
Kolbe is a former Republican Congressman from Arizona. Penny is a former Democratic Congressman from Minnesota.