AMERICAN NOTES: The Fine Feel of Money

For 32 million Americans, one of the most anticipated pieces of mail every month is the sturdy brown envelope bearing a Social Security check. But mailing the money creates problems. About 35,000 checks a year get stolen. And the amount of clerical work is overwhelming. Says Treasury Official Les Plumly: "We have to print them, stuff them, seal them and mail them. If we don't find some other way, the sheer volume will sink the system."

So, starting on the West Coast in August and moving along to the East Coast by October, the Treasury will give Social Security recipients the...

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