The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It Makes No Cents

Looks like the penny has been redesigned. The Los Angeles Times comments:
In honor of the upcoming bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, the U.S. Mint is giving the 100-year-old Lincoln penny a new look. The front will continue to show his profile, but the Lincoln Memorial on the back will be replaced by images that are intended to evoke different aspects of his life, such as a log cabin and young Abe sitting on a log, reading. This is expected to create a big buzz in the coin-collecting world, but in truth, the only makeover the penny needs is a disappearing act.

The shiny copper veneer of pennies made after 1983 hides a heart of zinc, and even so, depending on the value of the metals involved, the cent sometimes costs more than a cent to make. Lincoln, a self-taught man born to poverty, knew the value of a penny back when it had real value, and most likely he would have found its continued existence wasteful and downright silly.

Except as a coin to rummage around for in your pocket or purse -- hoping to come up with the right change lest the cashier dump more pennies on you -- the cent has outlived its usefulness. Phasing it out would require simply that we round amounts off to the nearest nickel, which might sound frightening to those who watch their pennies. No doubt there were similar fears when the United States stopped coining the half-cent in 1857. Even back then, the copper was worth more than the coin itself.

On its face (no pun intended), the redesign of the penny is innocuous enough. But at a deeper level, it’s an important indicator of the utter inability of our government leaders to make rational decisions, of their slavish adherence to polling data, and of the undue influence of lobbyists in virtually every aspect of our lives.

The penny is obsolete. You can’t buy anything with it. It costs 1.2 - 1.4 cents to make a penny, meaning that the government loses money on every cent that is made. You constantly hear, “You can keep the pennies” at cash registers across America. Small stores leave bowls of pennies at the register to help make change—they wouldn’t do that with dimes or quarters. And yet, rather than phasing out the penny, the US Mint redesigns it.

Why? Our congressional “leaders” are either too lazy, too stupid, or too influenced by copper and zinc industry lobbyists to stop making this coin. Oh, and since 2/3 of Americans want to keep the coin (according to a metal industry lobbying group), Congress argues that it’s the right thing to do. Real leadership there.

And these are the guys we entrust with “oversight" of the current credit industry bailout. Incredible.