MATTHEW MORIARTY: Time Has Come to Get Rid of the Penny
On this particular occasion, it is an article in The New York Times published back in late April. It states that it now costs the federal government 1.4 cents to mint a penny.
In other words, it costs 7 pennies to make 5 pennies. Think about that for a second.
Essentially, your government is losing money to produce a coin you would not bother to bend over and pick up if it dropped out of your pocket. This is funny to me.
The reason for this absurd situation is that the price of the metals used to make a penny have increased like Barry Bonds' hat size. According to the Times, the price of zinc has tripled since 2003.
Copper, which makes up the outer layer of pennies, has increased as well. It now costs 0.8 cents to purchase the metal that goes into a penny. The government spends about 0.6 cents minting the coin.
God only knows the annual amount of money your government is losing to make money.
I wish I could sell my pennies back to the government. I've got pennies everywhere. I'm silly with them. I can't walk across the floor of my apartment barefoot without pennies sticking to my feet.
I'll sell them back, eight pennies for a dime. It's a steal.
My first thought upon hearing about this situation was that they should just do away with the penny.
Who needs it anyway? Have you ever bought anything with a penny?
When I was a kid, you could put a penny in a gum ball machine and get a piece of chewing gum that would keep its flavor for all of 12 seconds.
I'm pretty sure those glory days are over.
So, why not get rid of it? The answer is because the penny is the most demanded coin in America. Businesses require it to do business properly. The world, it seems, runs on exact change.
I have no evidence to back this up, but I would guess that 90 percent of all transactions have a penny involved.
Usually, it's a cashier giving you change, sometimes it's you giving exact change, other times it's you or the cashier taking a penny out of the tray, and on very rare occasions it's the cashier saying, "Forget it, it's a penny. What are they going to do? Fire me?"
When I worked the concessions stand at the movie theater, we had the right idea. All prices were in increments of 25 cents. I don't think I ever saw a roll of pennies, and I worked there off and on from age 16 to 20. Sure, it was $4.75 for a Coke, but at least you didn't jingle when you walked away from the counter.
The other problem with pennies is that once they go into your pocket, they immediately leave general circulation. They make their way into the ashtray of your car, a glass bottle in your closet, a piggy bank or the occasional foot pad.
There they sit until they accumulate in groups large enough for you to haul them into the grocery store coin machine. My theory is that these coin machines are owned by the zinc and copper companies.
They collect the coins, melt them down, then sell the ore to the government for a massive profit. That way everybody wins, except for those who pay taxes, of course.
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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