Pennies are unique for all the wrong reasons. For starters, money rarely makes people sad when they get more of it, but pennies do. It’s just more change you know you’ll have trouble using.
More significantly, there are nearly 3 billion pennies currently in circulation, yet for the last three years, pennies have actually cost more to manufacture than they are worth. (As the joke goes, one cent can’t even buy you a penny anymore.)
These may sound like trivia for cocktail conversations, but pennies could be seriously weighing down our economy precisely at a time when the economy can’t afford it.
According to one recent study cited in The New York Times, the penny “accounts for about 58.4 percent of all coins circulating out there, but only contributes 7.5 percent of the value.”
This has prompted several organizations to rally for getting rid of the penny all together. Citizens for Retiring the Penny argue that pennies are not only a waste of money to produce, but a waste of time when used in transactions. They cite one study which claims that handling pennies costs customers and cashiers at least 2 extra seconds per transaction. There are lots of transactions in this country, so it adds up. Is it really worth the time?
The United States Mint is slowly reacting to these arguments, gradually reducing the amount of pennies in circulation over the years. In 2007, there were more than 7 billion pennies. This dropped to just more than 5 billion in 2008 and dropped again this year to the current total of 2.98 billion.
Even Obama voiced his frustration with the penny while campaigning for president. “We have been trying to eliminate the penny for quite some time -- it always comes back," Obama said. "I need to find out who is lobbying to keep the penny."
Perhaps once he finishes dealing with health care and the war in Afghanistan, he will turn his attention to this little problem. All it would take is an executive order.
In the meantime, some merchants have already taken matters into their own hands, refusing to accept pennies. As it turns out, private businesses have the right to decide what currency they will accept as payment, according to the Treasury department.
Really, there is only one problem I can see when it comes to getting rid of the penny. What will we throw into wishing wells? Nickels? Will that buy me five wishes or will they just be more expensive. If it’s the latter, I’m going to need something in writing that guarantees my wish will come true.
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