In praise of the penny


It seems like the easy way out. It isn't.

Every few years it seems, somebody -- usually a politician, occasionally a writer -- will come up with the notion that the United States should abolish the penny. It makes sense at first. After all, what can you buy with a penny? Pretty much, um, nothing. It seems like forever since I've even seen bubblegum machines offering their wares for a penny.

And, of course, because nobody uses the penny, and they pile up so quickly when you're given change, they end up infesting empty jelly jars, the tops of dressers, the insides of sofas and other random places.

The latest buzz that the penny should be dropped apparently started from this New Yorker article, which was titled, "Penny Dreadful," with the subhead: They're horrid and useless. Why do pennies persist?

I have to admit, the author makes some good points. I couldn't help but be impressed when David Owen wrote, "During the past thirty years, the U.S. Mint has produced something like half a trillion coins, most of them cents, yet the Mint estimates that only about three hundred billion coins are currently in circulation. This estimate is probably high, since it includes coins that haven't budged from their coffee cans in years." So, what's the big deal? Well, Owen concludes, "Pocket change leaks from the economy the way air leaks from a balloon, and most of what leaks is pennies."

Ah, ha. The penny is responsible for our current economy...