Friday, February 13, 2009

Did We Really Need A New Penny?

Let me begin by saying that I am not a Lincoln-hater. Quite to the contrary. He led our country through one of its most difficult, tumultuous times, and even though in every photograph ever taken of him he seems to have really messy hair, I like him.

But did we need new pennies? Four of them? Yes, yes, I understand that yesterday was the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in a log cabin somewhere in Kentucky, and then his mother died and his father got a new wife they went to Illinois and he read by candlelight and got his lawyerin’ education and debated with Stephan Douglas and became president. And I understand that here, 144 years after his untimely death at the hands of an actor with good timing but bad height judgment, we still want to honor the man known as “The Great Emancipator.” (And I guess now would not be the time to bring up how freeing the slaves was an afterthought. The fact remains that he thought slavery was morally wrong, so we’ll leave it at that and not mention how he actually wanted to ship all the freed slaves to Liberia. But we won’t talk about that.) I say no, we didn’t need new pennies. What we need is for everyone to empty out their coin jars and get the gazillion dollars worth of pennies that are stashed in every house in America back in to circulation. Now THERE’S an economic stimulus package for ya!

Plus, they’re pennies. One cent. You have to gang 5 or more together in order to actually purchase anything (and I am not even sure if 5 of them buys a piece of bubble gum anymore, since my teeth are only slightly younger than I am, and I am no longer willing to sacrifice them to a tiny pink square of a filing killer). So why do we need pennies? Do we need them so that things for sale can be priced at $X.99? What’s the point of that, anyway? Do retailers think that if I see an item for $29.99 I think its $29 and not $30?

Lincoln is also on the five-dollar bill. So why aren’t we making more of them? They are worth $4.99 more than a penny.

I am often confounded by why we as a nation do the things we do, and the manufacture and circulation of these new pennies is one of them. But I do plan to collect all four – in a big jar on the floor next to my dresser.

Copyright (c) 2009 Leslie R Becker

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