Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Kid Dynamite Goes to Washington

I was fortunate enough to be included in a group of bloggers who were invited to Washington DC to sit down with senior Treasury officials for a discussion on current policies and future regulatory reform. I just got home, and I will be writing up the event as best I can ASAP, given the constraints that I cannot name specific Treasury officials, or even anonymously quote directly from the meeting.

Still, I expect the recap to be a quality post, and urge you to check back here for it.

Here's a little warmup story: I had a few minutes to kill before the Treasury meeting, so I ambled into a tour at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), which actually prints US currency. I had laughed earlier, looking at their website, when I read "You'll see millions of dollars being printed during a tour of the BEP." Millions? That's so 1998.  Millions don't bail out GMAC, bay-bee! Anyway, the tour starts with a little video about the BEP, including a line about how the employees show up every day to "print money and ensure that the U.S. economy remains strong." I chuckled out loud - drawing glances from the Joe and Joan SixPacks that made up the rest of the tour. I thought it was a joke - even the BEP can't think that printing money equates to a strong economy can they? The ironies didn't stop though - the tour guide explained how they were testing out a new printing press that could print even larger sheets of bills (I think the new press does sheets of 50, compares to sheets of 32 for the old press) - so that the BEP can print even MORE money, FASTER! They are printing so much f'n money that they need a newer higher tech press! AIYAHHHH!

The guide then claimed that 95% of the money printed was to replace old and damaged money taken out of circulation, and that only 5% was new money. This seems like a dubious stat to me, but hey - what can I say.

Looking down over the room where the bills are stacked before being fed into the cutting machine, there is a sign that says "Have you ever been this close, and yet so far?" Impressive that the BEP actually TAUNTS the poor American schlubs who will never see stacks of money like this again. One worker jokingly pulled an uncut sheet of hundy's off the stack and pretended to hand it to one of the tour guests - who was of course secured behind a closed in glass catwalk.   He had good intentions, though, drawing wide eyes from the little girl on the rail.

next up:  The Treasury



Sam said...

Congrats on moving up to the big leagues. "Yves" did her piece, waiting for your take.

Josh said...

KD - with the amount of digital money out there I'm wouldn't be surprised if their 95% was to replace old bills was correct. Most money doesn't exist except in the magical world of computers.

Kid Dynamite said...

yeah - i was wondering if when i went into the BEP i was just going to see the guy from the Apple commercials sitting behind a computer, "printing" digital money...

asphaltjesus said...

That 95% number is pretty good.

Why? Primarily because the logistics of paper currency (distribution cycle/destruction cycle) are very expensive.

Also, that bigger press is a very big deal. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it is. The precision required to successfully run an even larger sheet with the modern secure printing features means everyone involved in getting that press to run is at the very top of their game.

You would have to have some kind of interest in the nitty-gritty of production (litho!) printing and even then I'm sure it's a hokey tour.