The argument for ending the dollar bill

A pile of euro coins sit on a display of one dollar U.S. notes. There is an ongoing argument among some politicians in America to get rid of the dollar bill and replace it with coins.

United States Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa explains why we should abolish the dollar bill and replace it with coins.

Jeremy Hobson:I did a quick poll of the office this morning and we have 14 one-dollar bills among us -- and zero one-dollar coins. That's something Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin would like to change. They want to replace the dollar bill with a dollar coin, and they've introduced some legislation -- a bill if you will -- to do that. They say it would save around $200 million a year.

Senator Harkin joins us now from Washington. Good morning.

Tom Harkin: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: Well, why do you want to get rid of the dollar bill and replace it with a coin?

Harkin: For a lot of reasons -- not the least of which: it will save us money. The GAO -- the Government Accountability Office -- has examined this six times: 1990, '93, '95, 2000, 2011 and 2012. And every time, they reach the same conclusion: basically, we should transition from the dollar bill and move to a dollar coin.

Hobson: And every time, Americans don't seem to be on board with that. They are given the opportunity to have dollar coins, but they don't want them.

Harkin: That's because we keep the dollar bill in circulation. If we didn't have the dollar bill in circulation, people would get used to the coins. Every modern economy in the world has made this switch.

Hobson: Senator, let me ask you this: when you go to Europe, or Canada, or some place that does use dollar coins, or whatever their currency is -- they have coin denominations -- do you get annoyed by having ten one dollar coins in your pocket?

Harkin: No. I took a vacation in Canada last summer, and quite frankly, I found having the two-dollar coin much better than going around with a lot of dollar bills. It didn't bother me a bit.

Hobson: Then why do you think there's so much opposition?

Harkin: Well, there's opposition from places where they make the paper for the dollar bill. There's opposition from the ink manufacturers that make the ink for the dollar bill, and on and on. I think the facts are on the side of moving to a dollar coin.

Hobson: So, what do you think's going to happen? When will you be able to get this bill through, do you think?

Harkin: We're going to continue to push on this; we have good bi-partisan support, as you know. But just to get the facts out to the public about how much money it will save us, and then it will make it much easier for large retail stores, vending machines, transit agencies -- all the arguments on the side of moving towards a coin. But then again, sometimes logical arguments don't always win in the United States Congress.

Hobson: Senator Tom Harkin is a Democrat of Iowa who has sponsored a bill that would replace the dollar bill, eventually, with dollar coins. Senator, thanks so much.

Harkin: Thank you very much, Jeremy.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

United States Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa explains why we should abolish the dollar bill and replace it with coins.

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