Good for Canada! Pennies suck! You’re next, Nickel!
A bloated deficit. An unbalanced budget. Enormous debt.
It’s an election year, and these are the buzzwords in the air. The United States is $15 trillion dollars in debt, and the hole is getting deeper all the time.
We’ve all heard stories of wasteful government spending. The Department of Defense spent $640 on a toilet seat, and $436 for a hammer. The National Parks Department spent $797,400 on an outhouse. More than $13 billion in Iraq aid has been classified as wasted or stolen, and another $7.8 billion cannot be accounted for.
Sometimes wasteful spending takes place on an even grander scale, one so big and obvious, you have to wonder why it wasn’t addressed before.
Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
Enter the lowly penny and the humble nickel.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Mint, it costs 2.4 cents to make one penny in 2011, and about 11.2 cents for each nickel. In short, we’re paying more than double to make these coins than they’re actually worth.
Make sense? No. It doesn’t even make cents!
This waste of money has been going on for years. The U.S. Mint lost $116.7 million making pennies and nickels last year. Since 2006, the government has lost nearly $360 million making small change.
The Obama Administration recently asked Congress for permission to change the mix of metals that goes into making pennies and nickels, in hopes that a cheaper alternative can be found. The recipe for pennies and nickels hasn’t changed for the last 30 years, even though the Treasury Department has been looking for a cheaper metal blend since 2010.
But for some reason they’ve failed to come up with anything. Why? How about going back to steel pennies like they did during World War II? What about tin, plastic, or a copper-plated chunk of compressed sawdust? How about anything that costs less than a penny to make! (Or five cents, in the case of nickels.) It shouldn’t be that hard to do. Maybe the old adage is wrong—we should take (and make) wooden nickels!
Meanwhile, the treasury has a 1.4 billion surplus in presidential dollar coins that have yet to be circulated. In fact, these coins will probably never be circulated. The dollar coins, which are similar in size to quarters, were unpopular with consumers and business owners, so last year the U.S. Mint stopped making them. Yet another costly failure.
I’m a good American, and I want to help my government any way I can. So I’ll make this offer to the U.S. Treasury: I’ll sell my pennies back to you for two cents each, and I’ll let you have my nickels for ten cents apiece. That’s a bargain! I’m sure many Americans would be willing do the same!
(Shhh! Based on past decisions, I think they might go for it!)
Originally published in Wayne TODAY, January 2012