Pennies In My Thoughts

60 Minutes last night ran a piece on one of my pet nerd obsessions: The penny.

There are some weisenheimers who think it would be a spiffy idea to just eliminate the penny. They argue that it costs more to mint a penny than it’s actually worth and, sillier still, that having pennies in our economy is just time consuming.

What a bunch of assclowns.

Eliminating the penny doesn’t make sense on its face. You see, Jerry, the number “one” is a particularly interesting number in that it is the only unit of measure that represents a single unit of anything. When you say “five,” you’re really using a mathematical and linguistic shorthand, meaning “five ones.” Remove the unit representing a single unit, and what are you counting? What? A nickel is five pennies. A dime is ten pennies. A quarter is 25 pennies. A dollar is 100 pennies. Ten dollars is 1,000 pennies. If you eliminate the penny, YOU ELIMINATE THE MOST BASIC UNIT OF CURRENCY, DUMB-DUMB, and you necessiate by definition that our economy goes from counting in units of “one” to counting in units of “five.” If you don’t think that sounds like a doomsday scenario, you probably work in the Bush administration.

Besides. Arguing for the elimination of the penny because it costs money to mint is, wow, it’s an If It Weren’t For My Horse if I’ve ever heard one. You see, Jerry, metal markets are what we call “volatile.” Yes, the price of copper and other metals are very high today. But prices of those commodities do not stay flat. They could tumble by year’s end. Then you’ve eliminated the most basic unit of the American currency for even one less stupid reason than before. Besides again: I’m sure what it costs to mint all those pennies in a year would pay for a half a day in Iraq.

Look. Anyone concerned with the price of minting pennies should go home and look at your guilty reflection in that overflowing jar on his dresser (this means you, U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy, who admitted in the story that even he has such a jar). Perhaps if more would bother to spend those pennies rather than hoarding them, the Mint wouldn’t have to make so many. And that would be good for the U.S. economy and for individual economies as well, since that jar is just wasted income. And by the way, the cashier at the local mom-and-pop where you get your morning Twinkie? She likes it, too. It means fewer trips to her local credit union for change. Spend your pennies, and you will get to hang on to more of your dollars. It’s that simple.

I told you it was a nerd obsession.

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