I want it gone. It’s outdated, it’s worthless and it jumped the shark 10 years ago. It’s small and brown and it’s not a midget UPS driver. Ladies and gentlemen, I, David Fuad, being of sound mind and disposing memory, do hereby make, publish and declare this the Abolish the Penny Manifesto. Pennies are well past their prime; they’re utterly useless. I use one as often I use a pickup line at a nursing home. The penny is like Marilyn Monroe – worth something 50 years ago, but if you saw it today, there’s no way you’d have sex with it.
When was the last time you were glad to get a penny? I’ll bet sometimes you even throw them in the trash. Imagine that – we’re so goddamn rich, we’re throwing our money away! Convenience stores have those little dishes you can just toss your extra pennies in if you don’t want them. I actually throw dimes in there, but then again, not everybody can afford to roll like I do. We’re lucky; as a general rule, if your currency isn’t even worth your time to pick up off the ground, you’re doing pretty well. Of course, if you’ve cut your fingernails recently, forget trying to pick up any change at all.
The penny is a Steve Buscemi in a sea of Brad Pitts; it sticks out like a pork chop at a Bar Mitzvah. Every other coin compared to it is a glittering, luminous jewel, a dazzling symbol of the strength and resilience of the American economy, or something like that. The penny is an impostor – it’s not made of what you might think. “Why, copper, of course,” you smugly think to yourself. In fact, copper comprises only 2.5% of a penny – just enough on the outside to fool the average simpleton. A penny is actually 97.5% zinc. Just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, I’ve-got-50-pounds-of-it-in-my-backpack zinc. I’m on to the United States Mint’s dirty tricks.
The website for the Mint proudly proclaims that they are a “self-funding” agency, actually producing income for the government, instead of simply spending it. How miraculous. A quick note to our friends at the Mint and the Treasury: You print money, morons. If you’re not making money, you’re fired.
The Abolish the Penny movement has surfaced before, with supporters on both sides. There’s the anti-penny Coin Coalition, which is backed by an overweight alliance of vending machine companies, video arcade owners and the soft drink industry. On the other side of this contentious issue is the advocacy group, Americans for Common Cents (and, apparently, Bad Puns). The pro-penny people press penny production’s profitability, while the counter-coin crowd claims concealed charges cheat consumers. There’s a whole debate on both ends of the spectrum about inflation, but I argue that any inflation caused by prices rounding up to the nearest nickel will be counteracted by my ‘WGAS’ Theory of Economics: “Who Gives A Shit?” Besides, if you factor in the randomizing effect of sales tax, you should come out even – the number of times a price is rounded up should equal the number of times a price is rounded down.
I also have a small issue with the man on our penny. Nobody can deny that Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents and for that he is quite rightly fondly remembered. Here’s the thing: I don’t want to suggest the guy wasn’t good looking, but, in the 1860 presidential election, the Houston Telegraph endorsed Stephen Douglas over Lincoln and had this to say: “Lincoln is the leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs and arms and hatchet face ever strung on a single frame. He has most unwarrantably abused the privilege which all politicians have of being ugly.” Ouch. That’s a mouthful, too. Can you imagine insulting people today like that? “I’m gonna kick your ass for unwarrantably abusing the privilege of looking at my girl!”
I’ll be honest. Calling Lincoln ugly is a cheap shot – I’m not saying we need to put somebody like Scarlett Johansson on our coins, but … actually, I’ve changed my mind. The penny can stay if we put her on it.
David Fuad is a senior law & society and psychology major.