Our leaders in Washington, D.C., face many difficult decisions as they approach the "fiscal cliff."
This isn't one of them.
This is a no-brainer.
The federal government can save billions over time by simply replacing dollar bills with longer lasting dollar coins.
And while they're at it, Congress should stop minting pennies, which cost twice as much to manufacture as they are worth.
The federal Government Accountability Office just estimated that moving exclusively to a dollar coin will save at least $4.4 billion over 30 years.
No, that won't put much of a dent in the federal government's $1 trillion annual budget deficit.
But it does show that some low-hanging fruit is still hanging in Washington as our leaders search for savings. And where our nation can save money without raising taxes or cutting important programs, it should do so — without further delay.
The nonpartisan GAO has been recommending for years that Congress phase out dollar bills. And late last month, the chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Mint told a U.S. House committee that Canada's elimination of a dollar note in the 1980s has achieved popular and financial success.
Despite some initial apprehension, Canadians now love their gold-colored "loonie" dollar coin, which carries a picture of a loon on one side. The coin costs the government less in the long run to manufacture and maintain than a paper bill. So Canada went on to introduced a $2 coin, dubbed the "toonie."
Critics say some of the savings for the government from eliminating dollar bills comes from collectors and ordinary people holding on to coins rather than spending them. But so what? If you don't hoard coins, that won't affect you.
Moreover, the value of an American dollar bill has fallen because of inflation. It's only worth today what a quarter was worth in the mid-1970s.
People walked around with quarters in their pockets back then. So they shouldn't have a problem with walking around with a few dollar coins today — especially if all of those pennies are eliminated.
This small, sensible change should move forward.