LOS ANGELES -- One of the nation's leading newspapers published a strong editorial endorsement of circulating dollar coins. The L.A. Times recently repeated the familiar argument that replacing bills with coins would save the U.S. taxpayer up to $5.5 billion over the next 30 years.
Yet while today's debt-conscious political climate seems to give dollar coins their best chance ever to replace $1 banknotes, the issue is showing signs of being captured by the traditional Washington left-vs.-right politics. Tea Party members, Republicans and conservatives appear more likely to favor the shift in currency policy, while Democrats and liberals increasingly seem more disposed to favor the status quo.
Addressing the widespread public perception that coins are less convenient than banknotes, the editorial in the L.A. Times' Oct. 4 edition said: "Coins are bulkier, but at least vending machines wouldn't spit them back out at us for having untidy corners or a crease here or there." SEE EDITORIAL
The paper's editorial may indicate that the decades-old cause is now in its strongest position ever to become law, coming as it does on the heels of new proposed legislation in Congress to phase out $1 bills. | SEE STORY
With America trillions in debt, the drive to cut spending and find savings is more urgent than ever before. The amusement and vending industries have long supported broad-based lobbying groups such as the Dollar Coin Alliance that favor phasing out dollar bills in favor of coins.
The dollar coin issue has been a favorite industry cause for about 30 years. But despite persistent lobbing, the project has always run into two heretofore-insurmountable obstacles in Congress.
First, senators and congressmen from Massachusetts, home of the sole factory that supplies paper to the U.S. Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing for printing banknotes, have fiercely opposed any measure that would harm that factory's market.
Second, members of Congress are keenly aware of public opinion polls that consistently show a majority of Americans oppose replacing $1 bills with $1 coins.
In a barometer of just how much the current political climate may be changing in favor of dollar coins, the Times editorial not only endorsed dollar coins, but also suggested the elimination of pennies, nickels and perhaps dimes.
The paper pointed out that due to current metals prices, the U.S. actually loses money producing these coins.
The American Amusement Machine Association has made support of pro-dollar coin legislation its top priority. Betson’s Rick Kirby is heading AAMA’s Government Relations Committee and push on the coin.
Separately, the National Automatic Merchandising Association is working with the U.S. Mint on a questionnaire to evaluate how vending operators currently use U.S. coins and how any changes to U.S. coins would affect vending operations.
Dollar coin proponents still have strong opposition to overcome. Not only does the public continue to prefer dollar bills, but the press and the blogosphere remain largely against dollar coins, too.
In addition, there are early indications that the issue may be becoming politically polarized, with Republicans favoring dollar coins and Democrats opposing them.
The pro-coin legislation in Congress is backed by Republicans, particularly those from Arizona whose metal mining interests would benefit from increased coin production. Two anti-coin proposals now circulating on Capitol Hill are backed largely by Democrats, including both of Massachusetts's senators and a California congresswoman.