Business and Industry

Who Holds Back the Dollar Coin? We Do! We Do!

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Ever wonder why the federal government's multiple attempts to migrate to a more sensible dollar coin have seemed so half-assed? It's because they are. All four attempts have been sabotaged by paper dollar enthusiasts. At Slate , Christopher Bonanos details one example from the failed Sacagawea coin:

Pressure from bill partisans at the [Bureau of Engraving and Printing] even kneecapped the Sacagawea ad campaign. According to the GAO, "an informal Treasury restriction" prohibited the Mint from suggesting that a coin was superior to a bill—it could say only that a coin was also available. One TV spot showcasing a frustrating vending-machine moment…was scotched, after a combative meeting at the Treasury, on the grounds that it "negatively portrayed the dollar bill."

So who could possible have an interest in lobbying Treasury officials and members of Congress to undermine the government's own dollar coin campaigns? Follow the money! Or rather, just take a closer look at it.

They come, principally, from three groups: the folks at the BEP; Mississippi cotton farmers, whose fibers make up the 100-percent-rag currency paper; and Crane & Company, a Massachusetts paper mill known for excellent stationery and a century-old papermaking contract with the government. Around the time the Sacagawea was proposed, they formed a lobbying group called Save the Greenback, which, according to press accounts, had the ear of Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and, back when he was in Congress, Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts.

And the Hatfields to these McCoys?

The group's archenemy is a pro-dollar-coin lobby called the Coin Coalition, backed by vending-machine and car-wash interests.

There's no more insidious a Washington pressure group than Big Car Wash!

I'm always amused–and a little disturbed–by all the niche interest groups in D.C. Take a walk through downtown Bethesda or Silver Spring, Maryland or Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and you'll see just what a parasite economy the Washington D.C. metropolitan area has become. I used to live near the national headquarters of the floral arrangers' lobby. And across the street used to be the air conditioning repair workers' lobby (I believe they have since moved). When you have a federal government that noses into nearly every facet of day-to-day life, I suppose it only makes sense that anyone with more than a lemonade stand at stake would feel the need to set up an office in Washington.