Rep. Polis Asks Treasury To Ban Dollar Bills, Mocking Senator's Request To Ban Bitcoins

from the you-win dept

Last week, we wrote about the technologically clueless grandstanding Senator Joe Manchin’s bizarre request to the Treasury Department and the Fed that it figure out a way to ban Bitcoin. Almost everything in Manchin’s letter was ill-informed, right down to his ridiculous assertion that we need to copy Thailand and China (who haven’t really banned Bitcoin) to get ahead of this “trend.” Of course, as we noted, along with a whole bunch of factual inaccuracies, almost all of Manchin’s complaints applied equally to cash.

So, in response to a totally technologically clueless elected official, up steps Rep. Jared Polis, perhaps the most technologically knowledgeable elected official out there, with a counterproposal. He basically rewrote Manchin’s letter, but replaced Bitcoin with the dollar bill, highlighting the sheer absurdity of Manchin’s request.

I write today to express my concerns about United States dollar bills. The exchange of dollar bills, including high denomination bills, is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly subject to forgery, theft, and loss. For the reasons outlined below, I urge regulators to take immediate and appropriate action to limit the use of dollar bills.

By way of background, a physical dollar bill is a printed version of a dollar note issued by the Federal Reserve and backed by the ephemeral “full faith and credit” of the United States. Dollar bills have gained notoriety in relation to illegal transactions; suitcases full of dollars used for illegal transactions were recently featured in popular movies such as American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club, as well as the gangster classic, Scarface, among others. Dollar bills are present in nearly all major drug busts in the United States and many abroad. According to the U.S. Department of Justice study, “Crime in the United States,” more than $1 billion in cash was stolen in 2012, of which less than 3% was recovered. The United States’ Dollar was present by the truck load in Saddam Hussein’s compound, by the carload when Noriega was arrested for drug trafficking, and by the suitcase full in the Watergate case. 

Unlike digital currencies, which are carbon neutral allowing us to breathe cleaner air, each dollar bill is manufactured from virgin materials like cotton and linen, which go through extensive treatment and processing. Last year, the Federal Reserve had to destroy $3 billion worth of $100 bills after a “printing error.” Certainly this cannot be the greenest currency.

Printed pieces of paper can fit in a person’s pocket and can be given to another person without any government oversight. Dollar bills are not only a store of value but also a method for transferring that value. This also means that dollar bills allow for anonymous and irreversible transactions.

The very features of dollar bills, such as anonymous transactions, have created ubiquitous uses from drug purchases, to hit men, to prostitutes, as dollar bills are attractive to criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement. Due to the dollar bills’ anonymity, the dollar bill market has been extremely susceptible to forgers, tax fraud, criminal cartels, and armed robbers stealing millions of dollars from their legitimate owners. Anonymity, combined with a dollar bills’ ability to finalize transactions quickly, makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse fraudulent transactions.

Many of our foreign counterparts already understand the wide range of problems that physical currencies can have. Many physical currencies have enormous price fluctuations, and even experience deflation.  20 years ago Brazil had an inflation rate of 6281%.  In 4 years (2001 to 2005), the Turkish Lira went from 1,650,000: $1 to 1.29 to $1. In 2009, Zimbabwe discontinued it’s dollar. Before it was eliminated, the Zimbabwe dollar was the least valuable currency in the world and their central bank even issued a $100 trillion dollar banknote. A person would starve on a billion Zimbabwe dollars and it took an entire wheelbarrow full of $100 billion dollars in notes to purchase a loaf of bread.

The clear use of dollar bills for transacting in illegal goods, anonymous transactions, tax fraud, and services or speculative gambling make me wary of their use. Before the United States gets too far behind the curve on this important topic, I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.


Jared Polis
Member of Congress ​

This is, to put it mildly, absolutely hilarious. I imagine that we’ll see some traditionalists bitch about a Congressional rep using satire to mock a colleague, but that’s just silly. This makes the point better than any boring letter or speech would ever do. And, considering that Rep. Polis has no problem wearing this on the House floor, I get the feeling he really doesn’t care at all what “traditionalists” think of his actions around Congress.

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Comments on “Rep. Polis Asks Treasury To Ban Dollar Bills, Mocking Senator's Request To Ban Bitcoins”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Don't give them ideas

I have recently found out that older dollar bills are worth less (you have to pay 20%-30% of their face value to exchange them for real money), so I guess it is sort of already happening.

Soon, they’ll require you to register before carrying more than a certain amount of dollar bills (say US$ 10,000).

Then they’ll start confiscating your dollar bills if you try to use them to buy certain categories of more expensive items (like a car or a house), because terrorism.

Where will it end?

(am I doing satire right?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Please please keep this Representative out of the policies of the White House. I shutter to think of what would happen should he learn of DMHO (dihydrous monoxide) or of carbon monoxide and its’ associated dangers as claimed by the White House.

edpo says:


“Dollar bills have gained notoriety in relation to illegal transactions; suitcases full of dollars used for illegal transactions were recently featured in popular movies such as American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club, as well as the gangster classic, Scarface, among others….”

Abscam might have hit too close to home to use.

Manfred Manfriend says:

Traditionalists???? Which traditions are those?

Traditionally the best way for a politician to score points and win voters was to engage in better rhetoric than their opponents! I wish this were still the case as it gave life to many a brilliant quip and inspired a bright and lively debate in the halls of government. Perhaps the need to be quick witted even acted as a filter to keep the wheels of state moving by punishing the slow and dim whenever they opened their mouths to spew inanities?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Something Overlooked

PACS and SuperPacs are to help politicians get elected, so in some sense, they are already where the bribes go.

True bribes usually go to the politicians pet charitable foundation. The one where they, or some close family members, are in charge of raising more funds. The one where 90% of the money is used to raise more money. Most of that 90% usually goes to employ the people in charge of raising the money. The best thing about it, not only do they not care about paper trails, but the bribe is tax deductible.

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