dollar coin WSJ editorial

Actor William Sommerfield, dressed as George Washington, stands in front of a poster of a $1 coin bearing the likeness of America's first president. The coin was part of a special series featuring presidents.

Associated Press archives

Here's an easy way to save billions without cutting federal programs or raising taxes:

Simply ditch the $1 bill.

The federal Government Accountability Office estimates the federal government could save $5.6 billion over 30 years by phasing out the $1 bill and replacing it with a new $1 coin.

The new coin would be easier to spot and use than the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin, which was often mistaken for a quarter. 

It's true that minting coins costs more than printing paper bills. But coins last for decades, and the average paper bill wears out in little more than three years.

Saving $5.6 billion by phasing out the $1 bill won't balance the federal budget or pay down America's enormous debt. Far from it.

But you have to start somewhere at saving money and then build momentum from there.

Most Western economies have moved to the equivalent of dollar coins to similarly save money, according to USA Today. The United States should, too.

As with any change of even the slightest proportions, opposition from vested special interests has emerged. Some members of Congress from paper producing states oppose phasing out the $1 bill, arguing it could cost their local producers jobs. 

The armored-car industry also is objecting on grounds that heavier dollar coins will cost them money in lower gas mileage.

Congress — including and especially Wisconsin's delegation — needs to stay focused on the big picture. Our delegation should encourage the "supercommittee" in Washington to adopt this relatively small yet meaningful switch as the supercommittee strives to find $1.5 trillion in savings. 

Phasing out the $1 bill could build momentum to additional savings of much bigger proportions.

If our dysfunctional Congress can't do something this easy to save money, how will it ever tackle our nation's soaring budget deficits and federal debt?