The United States is facing grave situations both home and abroad that threaten the very survival of our country as we know it.
Terrorists continue to plot against us. Our standing in the world is tenuous, as many former allies say they want nothing more to do with us.
Halitosis is out of control. The French continue to exist. Rising seas caused by climate change are threatening to sink New Jersey, which might not be a bad idea. Russian officials are trying to replay the Cold War, and Nancy Pelosi continues to show up in Washington.
But of all these dangers -- the many perils that make us lie awake at night, shivering that a chainsaw-wielding Texan is going to chop us to pieces -- one problem stands foremost:
What are we going to do about the penny?
Our neighbors in Canada are ditching theirs, and it makes sense for us to do the same. When’s the last time you walked into a store and saw a Tootsie Roll for a penny? How about a box of matches for one measly cent? Seen any parking meters lately that take pennies?
Heck, you can’t even offer anyone a penny for their thoughts anymore. They’ll turn you down flat, wanting at least a nickel.
Pennies serve no useful purpose. They clog our dresser drawers, take up space in our piggy banks and weigh down our pants pockets and purses.
In 2011, the U.S. Mint spent $120 million to produce $50 million worth of pennies. Hey, that zinc’s expensive stuff.
But it’s mainly a matter of bother and irritation. Pennies are the red-headed stepchild nobody wants.
There’s even an organization dedicated to getting rid of the penny, which is trying to talk sense into the U.S. government, which is akin to trying to talk sense into Charlie Sheen or Rush Limbaugh.
Citizens To Retire The U.S. Penny is headed by Jeff Gore, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
If I were a politician, I might use this time-tested practice: “Some people say an MIT professor who’s dedicating his life to getting rid of the penny might be a bit of an egghead, but I’m not even going to bring that up.”
Get the message?
Anyhow, regardless of how much time Prof. Gore does or doesn’t have on his hands -- sounds to me as if he’s <stat ital> really <end ital> looking for something to do -- his organization makes sense.
Over the years, penny supporters (mainly the zinc industry, of course) have come up with all sorts of myths about eliminating the one-cent piece:
• It will cause inflation
• It will hurt charities.
• People will be stuck with unusable pennies.
• Poor people will suffer if there are no pennies.
None of those are true, says Prof. Gore. Rounding purchases off to the nearest nickel -- either up or down -- would be revenue-neutral, a term coined by Washington policy wonks, and I would add, “Why would you want a coin that’s called a copper when it’s made out of zinc?”
And in the spirit of hard-hitting investigative journalism, I’d also ask penny supporters one more question: “Would you even bend over to pick up a penny on the sidewalk?”
I also have a joke about a woman named Penny, but it’s not appropriate for this space and I would lose my job if I told it.
Oh, well, back to Canada: it’s snowing there now, and no decent Canadian worth his zinc is bending over to pick up pennies off frozen sidewalks.
We could learn a lesson from those guys, eh?