The Government Accountability Office thinks we can save $5.5 billion by dumping the $1 bill for a $1 coin. I’d bet we could save even more by dumping the penny altogether.

In what has to have been the most important research of 2011 (so far), the GAO reaffirmed (for the like 4th time) that we should dump the bill and go with the coin.  The $5.5 billion in savings would happen over 30 years, so we’re talking big gains here.

Even the GAO admits the gains are less than they used to be (as I said, they’ve done this study like 4 times now).  This is because $1 bills are lasting longer in their normal circulation and fewer bills are needed as we all do more transactions electronically.  But still, they maintain a replacement is worth it.

This despite the fact that it still costs more to make a penny than it’s worth.  Unless the dollar coin is made out of hollow tin, it will probably cost more than it’s worth too.

But there are other considerations.  I’m not sure if they accounted for all of these since the report is only about saving the government money and I don’t have time to read the 41 page report.  For example, coins do not come from a renewable source.  They can be melted down and recycled, but while they are coins they are not being used as a source of metal for other things.  Bills are made of paper and cotton.  Both come from plants.  We know how to grow new plants.

Then there’s the matter of transporting coins.  I don’t know how the cash-in-transit (Loomis, Brink’s, etc) folks feel about this, but if they have lobbyists I’m sure they’re on it.  Those coins are going to weigh down those trucks.

But I do have some advice for the GAO.  If you’re going to talk about saving money, don’t issue a report with margins taking up 40% of the page.  That didn’t fly in high school, we all know this report was really just 25 pages but you wanted to make it seem like there was more to it.  Granted, the PDF is available online, but this thing is going to get printed 100,000 times and read by 4 people.

While I applaud the economic models designed to project the savings, there’s no way anything is going to change if you tell us Canadians did it first.  Maybe that’s why we keep rejecting this loonie idea.

Photo: lrargerich

categories: economics, government, personal finance, technology