Given the nation’s $16 trillion budget deficit, the dollar coin is a “smart investment for our country,” Harkin said.
Even so, Caskey said the estimated savings were too small to have any real impact on the deficit in the long term.
The dollar coin is a good investment for Iowa, which is home to PMX Industries Inc., the company that’s responsible for making the sheets of metal used to produce copper coins. Harkin’s communications director, Kate Cyrul Frischmann, said it was the financial benefit to the country that attracted the senator to the issue, and that Harkin had co-sponsored legislation calling for a study into the dollar coin before PMX set up shop in Iowa.
In addition, Arizona produces roughly 60 percent of U.S. copper. Schweikert’s communication director, Rachel Semmel, said that wasn’t a factor in his decision to sponsor the bill.
The Dollar Coin Alliance spent $410,000 in the first half of this year to lobby for the coin; at the same point last year, it had spent $300,000, according to lobbying disclosure reports.
Paper manufacturer Crane & Co. has paid $120,000 toward lobbying against the introduction of a dollar coin; in 2011 it didn’t spend anything on lobbying. Doug Crane, the company’s vice president, said Crane didn’t plan to lobby further on the issue.
Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican from Crane’s home state of Massachusetts, said in a statement that, “Even with the dollar coin already available, Americans still overwhelmingly choose to use the dollar bill.” Eliminating the dollar bill is “the wrong thing for the American taxpayer and would cost Massachusetts hundreds of jobs,” he said.
The issue has been elevated to a higher level this year, said Tom Schatz, the president of Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that monitors federal spending.
“This is the first Congress in many, many years that has even had legislation introduced,” he added.
To some, the transition is unavoidable.
“In my view this is something that inevitably will happen,” said Jim Kolbe, a former Republican congressman from Arizona who’s the honorary chairman of the Dollar Coin Alliance.
Even so, the legislation has made little progress in this election year. The bills await committee hearings.
But is it all too little, too late? As Caskey pointed out, consumers are starting to use credit cards more often.
He added that the public won’t want to make the change to coins without being told of the savings the U.S. economy would gain.
The only way to make it happen is to take dollar bills out of circulation, Caskey and Kolbe said.
“You’ve got to force people to make the transition,” Caskey said.
That’s what countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom did when they made the transition, and Harkin said that’s what the U.S. should do if it were serious about changing to coins.
“If you look at other modern economies around the world that have phased out some paper bills, you see that people quickly adjusted to the switch,” he said.