Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Money Crashers: Should We Get Rid of the Penny?

My latest post on Money Crashes is one I had a lot of fun working on. It's all about the debate over whether to eliminate the tiniest, most worthless coin in our nation's currency, the penny.

Personally, I don't like pennies. Ecofrugality, as you all know, is all about avoiding waste, and pennies are wasteful in several ways:
  1. They waste time, because we have to count them out every time we buy anything with cash (or else the clerk has to count them out to give us our change), and it just holds up the line at the cash register.
  2. They waste natural resources, because we have to mine tons of zinc (and a little bit of copper) to produce more of them every year. (We keep making new ones because most of the ones we already have don't circulate, because they're worth so little.)
  3. They waste the government's money, because a penny actually costs more to mint than it's worth. (Nickels do too, but at least they're somewhat useful.)
However, apparently I'm in the minority in this opinion (as I am in so many other things). Most Americans like pennies and think we should keep making them. So I set out to find out what, exactly, people think is so great about the penny, and whether it's really great enough to outweigh the arguments for ditching them.

I found out, first of all, that the biggest group lobbying to keep the penny is Americans for Common Cents, which is funded by, of all things, the zinc industry. (What a coincidence.) They have come up with a variety of arguments for keeping the penny, such as:
  1. Without pennies, there will be rampant inflation.
  2. Without pennies, stores will have to round their prices to the nickel, and this will inevitably lead to furtive price gouging.
  3. Without pennies, charities will be unable to hold "penny drives" and raise millions of dollars a penny at a time. (Of course, a million dollars in pennies weighs over 550,000 pounds, so doing away with this form of fundraising would be a lot easier on the volunteers.)
In my article, I explore all these arguments in favor of keeping the penny, along with the arguments for dumping it. Although I'm firmly on the anti-penny side of this issue, I did my best to present the arguments for both sides as fully and fairly as possible.

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