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Public Statements

Berkshire Eagle - Anti-Dollar Case Isn't Worth a Buck

Op-Ed

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By Senator John Kerry

Each year hundreds of thousands of American kids tour the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and press their noses to the glass to see sheets and sheets of crisp paper run through the machines on the way to be turned into dollar bills.

I don't think any of them have heard of a very small, but very loud lobby working overtime just down the street to grind those machines to a halt and put an end to the dollar bill itself -- the most efficient and cost effective currency in the world.

You almost have to laugh saying the words "anti-dollar bill lobby" but so it is in today's Washington where it seems there's a lobbyist attached to every issue and interest, and, yes, I'm sorry to report a lot of American currency is today being spent on lobbyists to kill off the dollar bill itself.

Full disclosure about my home state interests: you bet I'm proud that the paper dollar bill is printed on is manufactured at home in Dalton. A Massachusetts company -- Crane -- first made currency paper at its Liberty Paper Mill in 1776 during the siege of Boston. The paper was delivered under armed guard to Paul Revere who engraved currency to help finance the American Revolution. Since 1879 this family run company has been trusted with American currency, painstakingly creating the special blend of cotton and linen fibers that makes American currency so durable.
But if the merits showed that the dollar bill should go the way of the dinosaur and be relegated to a museum, I'd put aside my Massachusetts pride and gladly join with those who say we should replace bills with a dollar coin. The merits show the opposite is true.

Some argue that switching to the dollar coin would save us money. In fact, the opposite is true and their alleged "savings" don't take into account the cost of doing away with the dollar bill. It's been estimated that we would have to produce three coins per dollar bill re placed. Replacing a perfectly good dollar bill with three coins, in the name of some fictitious savings, doesn't make fiscal sense. That's why no fewer than seven different bills with bipartisan support have been introduced in the 112th Congress to address the wastefulness of dollar coins. When the Obama administration launched a campaign to root out government waste, one of its first announcements was to halt the production of the dollar coin, saving taxpayers about $50 million annually.

Opponents of the dollar bill have other equally fictitious arguments at the ready. They ask us to believe that coins are just "better" than dollar bills. How amazingly subjective, and convenient. Fortunately, Amer i cans pride themselves on being their own best judges of what's "better," and Americans disagree with the anti-dollar lobby. No amount of marketing is going to convince people they want to carry around all that change. Ameri cans have said over and over that they prefer to carry dollar bills over coins.

A recent study shows that 77 percent of Americans said the paper dollar is more convenient, and 86 percent said it's more widely accepted. If more than three quarters of this country prefers the dollar bill I would say that's a pretty compelling argument to leave well enough alone. No wonder the Federal Reserve Bank estimates it is holding over $1.2 billion in its vaults. Why would we produce more of these coins just so they can collect dust in a vault? Rather than euthanize the dollar bill, we should halt the production of these coins so that we don't throw good money after bad.

There's another issue that's important to consider, and it's one I've come to appreciate even more since I became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and that is the black market, illegal trade in counterfeit goods. I have traveled all over the world and seen the impact our own currency has abroad, a currency valued above indigenous currency. I've seen and heard just how many try to produce and use counterfeit American currency -- it's a booming black market.

Counterfeiting is a problem that the U.S. Treasury takes great pains to address. That's why it's an alarm bell we should listen to when the Document Security Alliance -- with a membership that includes the Secret Service -- op poses the dollar coin be cause they believe it leaves the U.S. unnecessarily vulnerable to counterfeiting. They estimate that the dollar coin would generate between $400 to $540 million in losses to the American taxpayer. That would be an exponential in crease compared to the current amount of about $20,000 in counterfeiting of the $1 bill, and it's the worst kind of risk imaginable be cause it's a risk we don't need to take.

I'm the first to acknowledge that with an economy recovering from the Great Recession and a nation still at war, there are bigger issues to address than the debate over a dollar bill versus a dollar coin. And on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Finance, Commerce, and Small Business Committees, I'm working to address the big questions every day in Massachusetts and in Washington.

But I'm not willing to stand by while Massachusetts jobs and a Massachusetts industry are under assault from a lobby spending a lot of dollar bills to stop the dollar bill -- surely, for Massachusetts and for common sense, this is one debate we can settle now, and get back to work for the American people. That'd be bad for the lobbyists, but good for Massachusetts and American taxpayers.


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