A penny for your thoughts?

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“A penny saved is a penny earned,” said Benjamin Franklin. Today, with inflation, to follow this founding father’s advice, we must obliterate the penny.

Each year 8 billion pennies are minted, according to a recent 60 Minutes episode. These pennies total $80 million, but cost $130 million to make. Pennies are mainly composed of copper-coated zinc. Over the past five years, these metals have doubled in price as inflation continues to increase. The metals in the penny are worth more than the coin itself.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would like to eliminate the penny or at least change the metal content to steel. It’s not likely to be a change we will see during President Bush’s final year in office, but perhaps the next president will bring positive changes to the way the government spends money.

Especially during a recession, it doesn’t make sense to have coins more valuable than their face value laying at the bottom of fountains and littering the streets. The U.S. Treasury declared it illegal to melt down coins, says 60 Minutes, because in a similar situation in India. People there found it more lucrative to transform rupees into razors rather than to use them as currency. Then, the government ran into a shortage of coins. Before it reaches that point, the U.S. government should take action and discontinue the penny. They should urge people to cash in their pennies. Then, the government should sell the metals for more money. To boost our fallen economy, the U.S. government needs to be more cost-effective than they currently are.

One argument against the eradication of the penny is that the loss may harm college students, the impoverished and the elderly who make every cent count. Also, people are afraid that it would hurt penny drives for Katrina victims, homeless programs and medical research.

Yet, minting pennies costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year. That money could be going to either tax refunds or government programs to help those in need. Many countries have discontinued their one-cent currency and have citizens living happily. Denmark withdrew their 1 and 2 퀌�re (cent) coins in 1973; then, their 5 and 10 퀌�re coins in 1989. Their citizens enjoy free health care, free childcare, free elder care and well-paying jobs. Plus, the Danish government pays citizens’ schooling through university level.

Also, several overseas U.S. military bases have ceased tendering pennies. While balancing their checkbooks, these people have noticed that rounding to the nearest nickel evens itself out. One item may cost a bit more, but that same amount is saved with another purchase.

The second reason that people don’t want to relinquish pennies is nostalgia. Abraham Lincoln is one of the most celebrated presidents in history. The U.S. Mint is currently designing two 2009 limited edition pennies to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Abe Lincoln’s birthday and the 100th anniversary of Abe Lincoln being printed on the penny. Then, the 2010 coin is planned to be a completely new design, but still with Abe Lincoln’s face.

Although it’s beneficial to remember honorable deeds of our former leaders, there must be a more cost-effective way. As a majority, people are resistant to change at first. But after implementation, people can see the positive results and adjust their opinions.

We can remember important leaders in American history like Thomas Edison and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. without their faces on coins. With this recession bringing business closures and layoffs, the U.S. government should concentrate on what would be best for the all citizens. Nostalgia just doesn’t put food on the table.

Eliminating pennies would save taxpayers millions of dollars each year. It’s just bad business to continue manufacturing an item that has more losses than gains financially. We need to realize that pennies belong in our memories, coin collector’s books and in history books. They do not belong in our jeans pockets, purses or under our sofa cushions.

The U.S. half cent was retired in 1857 when it had the same purchasing power of today’s dime. The penny should have been retired years ago.

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