As technology enables smartphones to function like cash, lawmakers seek answers to questions about competing systems for mobile payments and their security and privacy.WASHINGTON — When Abraham Lincoln allowed the Treasury to print money for the first time in the depths of the Civil War, it was a major innovation born of a pressing reality.
The Union was broke.
Now, 150 years later, in admittedly less dire circumstances, Congress is preparing itself for the next big thing when it comes to money — a future in which payments are made with a wand-like wave of a phone rather than the exchange of wrinkled pieces of paper.
"We are, I think, on a precipice of some fundamental change in the way money is exchanged between consumers and businesses," Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said as she opened the first of a string of hearings in March.
Federally backed paper money allowed the Union to keep fighting the war after the government had burned through its coin reserves and a massive loan from banks, and had been reduced to writing IOUs to pay soldiers.