Friday, August 28, 2009

Why The Penny Sucks

Most Conservatives claim that government is wasteful and inherently inefficient if not downright evil and while you can quibble with them on minor points--do Republican legislators seek to make it inefficient on purpose sometimes?--it's hard to argue with their main thesis.

If you want proof that the US Government couldn't find water if you threw it into an ocean, look no further than the penny, which might be the dumbest piece of currency in the world today.

Oh sure, the penny used to be useful. A hundred years ago you could get candy for a penny, or a piece of fruit, or probably a blowjob, if you looked hard enough. If you found a penny on the ground, you would definitely picks it up--especially if you wanted some candy or a blowjob.

Now? You'd leave that penny in the gutter. Not worth it, you'd say to yourself--and you'd be right. Too bad the US Treasury isn't as smart as you are.

See, it costs $134 million to make $80 million pennies. So the government is losing money every time they make a penny, yet they still make them. And it's not like we need pennies to make our economy run either--in fact, businesses don't like pennies either, since they lose money by paying their employees to count pennies and dig them out of the register. That's right, pennies are so worthless that they cost both businesses and the government money. They are so worthless I throw them on the ground rather than have them clutter up my pockets. The only pennies worth any money are the ones minted before 1982, which contain nearly two cents of copper, so you could potentially melt them down and sell the metal at a profit (or you could, if it wasn't illegal).

And we know that pennies are worse than worthless. We've known for years. William Safire wrote an op-ed against pennies four years ago, and Stephen Dubner of the book and blog Freakonomics has been an ardent penny-hater for years. Even the environmentalists have gotten in on the anti-penny act lately, and if tree-huggers are in agreement with William fucking Safire, you'd think we could all agree to put the penny out of its misery like Australia and . Right?

Ha ha! That would require politicians to take a stance on an issue. Even worse, they'd have to explain the issue to their constituents, who probably haven't heard much about the penny "debate." I use quotation marks because there is really nothing to debate here. The only arguments for the penny come from people who don't understand how rounding works, those who don't want to get rid of anything with Abraham Lincoln's face on it (he's still got the five-dollar bill guys, and he was probably gay anyway), and the zinc lobby.

The zinc lobby? Yes, since pennies are made of zinc, the zinc industry has an interest in continued penny production. The zinc lobby is apparently very powerful. That's not a joke, they control much more than we think. But even if we stopped making pennies, zinc would still be in demand thanks to China.

Anyway, America will probably keep making pennies until the Rapture comes and the only people "left behind" are rationalistic secularists who will legalize drugs, make public transportation more efficient, raise taxes on the wealthy and create universal health care before dying in a horrible worldwide firestorm. We're stuck with pennies because Americans hate and fear change of any kind even when it would almost unquestionably make their lives a little bit better, and no politician is going to stick his neck out when he doesn't have to. (Well, Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona has opposed the penny for years, but that's probably because Arizona has a lot of copper mines and the copper industry would benefit if the nickel became our smallest coin.)

And it really does suck that we're stuck with pennies. Because if we can't get behind such an obvious, non-partisan reform movement, how the fuck are we ever going to change our health care system?

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