Getting rid of the penny? It makes cents.

by Beacon Staff • October 25, 2006

Our view: Get rid of it.

America is under attack.

The enemy comes not from the air or sea or across our borders. It doesn't attack with missiles or bullets, and in fact has no goal of destruction at all. Most terrifying of all, the enemy lives in our homes, in our cars and even in our pockets.,At issue: The penny.

Our view: Get rid of it.

America is under attack.

The enemy comes not from the air or sea or across our borders. It doesn't attack with missiles or bullets, and in fact has no goal of destruction at all. Most terrifying of all, the enemy lives in our homes, in our cars and even in our pockets.

The threat is a 2.5-gram piece of zinc, commonly known as the penny.

The debate over the future of the one-cent piece has until recently only taken place among coin collectors, currency experts and nerds in general. However, after feature pieces about the copper-plated coin popped up in The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe and on NBC's "The West Wing" in 2001, penny abolition may be something to really consider.

The argument is a simple and persuasive one: in 2006, the cost of making pennies finally became greater than their value. Due to the rising price of zinc, it now costs 1.4 cents to produce one tiny Abe Lincoln portrait.

According to CNNMoney.com, this means that it will cost an additional $14 million this year for the Mint to make the same amount of red cents it made last year.

It would be unrealistic and overly simplistic to hop on the high horse and lament that this is $14 million that could be better spent on education or health care. Our do-nothing Congress would surely squander the funds.

But given that this extra money is being spent, shouldn't we at least hope it's for something that would at least benefit somebody?

Not only are pennies virtually worthless, they're annoying, a bane on our collective existence. Who among us hasn't reached into our pocket in search of quarters or dimes to buy a ride on the T and angrily pulled out a handful of these red menaces?

As their value decreases, it's less and less likely anyone is even going to pick them up off the ground. Pretty soon, it will only be children who bend down to grab them in hopes of throwing them in a wishing well at their local mall. And with the rising cost of inflation, a penny today will get you a pretty lousy wish.

What of the prices of goods, some will ask? If the penny is eliminated, do we round up or down? Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), a sponsor of failed penny abolition legislation, argues that prices ending in one, three, six and seven should be rounded down, while those ending in three, four, eight and nine should round up.

Research at Penn State University concluded that this would cost Americans $600 million dollars. Sound like a lot? Well, that comes out to roughly two dollars per person.

Saving money as a country is not all about giant federal cuts. You sometimes have to start small, attacking programs that are useless and outdated. The penny is a waste of money and of precious space in our pockets. There's no good reason not to say goodbye to it.

A nickel saved is a nickel earned. It has a certain ring to it.