Here’s a New Year’s resolution for the U.S. Mint (you know, the people who make coins): Stop making pennies! It costs 1.5 cents to make a penny. Under the category of fiscal responsibility, this seems like a place to become more prudent.
How many households, over the turn of the year, sat around the kitchen table and determined where they could become a little more financially sound? My lovely bride and I remembered that we have a refrigerator and pantry. And check this out — they’re both chock-full of food that we can eat. Eating out a little less will save us hundreds of dollars this year. Hundreds of dollars adds to nicer vacations when the time rolls around. Smart, right?
The federal government is at a standstill. After years of analysis and cutting corners, a 2014 report to Congress said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Ain’t nothing we can do. There is not a composition of metal out there that would cut the costs of a penny to below a penny.” That means that as a society, “a penny for one’s thoughts” is forever to cost us more than the thought is worth. There is only one solution. Stop asking for “one’s thoughts” and you’ll be ahead of the game (on multiple fronts).
Hmmmm? What about getting rid of the penny? Most of them are in coffee cans, bottles, shoeboxes, drawers, couches, car floors and consoles. As best I can tell, most of us save up pennies to turn into dollars and then start the process all over again. Kids don’t want pennies. Inflation has hit allowances hard. Kids have progressed with inflation to needing something in the category of silver coinage or paper. Show a kid a penny, and they’re as disappointed as finding a sweater under the tree at Christmas.
In fiscal 2015, the U.S. Mint facilities churned out 9.16 billion pennies. Do the math. That means 13.74 billion pennies cost the American taxpayer $45.4 million more than they were worth (if I did my math right).
Because every municipality in our great country is getting slivers of a penny for sales tax revenue, my guess is that the penny (or the facsimile thereof) is here to stay. Unless, of course, as we move to electronic payment systems, we can electronically store the little copper-colored coins and get credit when they accumulate to some greater amount. Transacting currencies electronically may serve to cut some costs.
Only the federal government can run something so inefficient and get away with it. Here’s a math word problem for fifth-graders around the country. “If a penny costs 1.5 cents to make, and the U.S. Mint makes over 9 billion pennies, why do we keep making these little copper portraits of Lincoln?” The answer, of course is, “Who’s Lincoln?”