Monday, March 28, 2011

The Anti-Penny Brigade!

This morning, Yglesias linked to a column about a cost cutting measure that could lead to the end of the dollar bill.  Apparently the country could save up to 5.5 billion dollars over the next thirty years if the single note was phased out in favor of the Sacajawea coin, citing durability issues of the paper dollar.  I have no issue with this personally, as singles take up too much real estate in my already small wallet, though the strip club lobby may have a gripe or two.
But I’d like to take this time as an excuse to talk about the red headed step child of American currency:  the penny. 
American society is obsessed with money.  Greed over extra dollars influences many of our personal day to day decisions, let alone the government’s.  Social classes, a direct result of monetary compensation, dictate government policy, racial and economic biases, neighborhoods, and pretty much everything that fits under the sociological sun.  People horde and save money as if their lives depended on it and, in some cases, it actually does.  Now, last time I checked, the penny was a component of this said currency, but if you go into any ordinary 7-11 convenience store, there’s probably a small tray adjacent to the cash register full of pennies for ordinary customers to create exact change. 
And these errant pennies…are NEVER stolen. 
Think about it: Receiving pennies from the cashier can be such a nuisance that people, rich or poor, may opt to drop their pennies in the tray for someone else to use.  Seriously, think about that.  The idea of ANY kind of revenue sharing in this country brands you a communist.  The concept of ANY kind of “income redistribution” has become so poisonous that it’s severely widened the fissure between America’s two main political parties.  In fact, if I asked a random person for five bucks just because, he’d probably laugh and tell me to get fucked.  So, what does it say about a form of currency that’s summarily rejected by a society that is 100 percent obsessed with money?
Need another reason why the penny is worthless? The actual cost of making one of these small, copper colored zinc pieces is actually 2 cents.  That’s right!  We actually lose money making a coin no one really needs anyway. 
And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a recent anecdote that may change your mind:
The other day I was strolling along Wilshire Boulevard when I crossed a homeless man who frequently sets camp outside of the Staples.  After he inquired as to whether or not I had any spare change, I reached into my pocket and grabbed the only coins I felt: which turned out to be three whole pennies.  My initial reaction was to wince, as I knew giving the homeless man this money might actually be more insulting than just acting as if he didn’t exist at all.  But since I had stopped and made the effort to count my measly change, I reluctantly handed it over, inching my hand towards him with similar caution as I would if feeding a rat to a boa constrictor.  Naturally, he looked at the change with the same disgust as he would if I pooped directly into his hand and, of course, had some choice words for my efforts: “cheap ass.”  And I wasn’t offended.  He was right.
I’m sure, at some point in the history of US currency, the penny served some kind of purpose.  But now with the continued growth of debit and credit cards, is it really necessary? All it seems to do is create possibility for annoying 99 cent stores (dollar store still has a nice ring to it) and the continued existence of the less money illusion (24.99!) that continues to trick me ... even though I’ve seen it my entire life.
I don’t think anyone will miss it.   


  1. What of Lincoln? He was forever the face of the smallest coin, which you want to abolish. Now in a cruel twist of fate, you also abolish the dollar bill, letting Washington off the hook and making poor Abe the new face of the smallest bill! Instead I propose a $500 over-sized coin of color featuring the likeness of our 16th President. The Lincoln.

  2. I'm all for this....if the center is chocolate.

  3. And the Franklin Mint can sell a caramel version.

  4. I have just installed iStripper, so I can have the best virtual strippers on my desktop.