Pennies

The United States loses millions of dollars a year on an inconvenience.

Today, making a single penny costs more than its own face value. Coming in at 1.5 cents to manufacture, the penny brought a loss of 46 million dollars to the U.S. Mint in 2016.

A cost of 46 million would be somewhat forgivable if the penny were somehow useful. However, pennies are little more than extra weight in our pockets. Due to their lack of practical usage, pennies are thrown away by the millions. Despite the public’s abhorrence to pennies, however, they remain part of day-to-day life, inconveniencing Americans and losing the U.S. millions of dollars in the process. Because of its lack of functionality and myriad negatives, the penny should be discontinued as a form of American currency.

Though pennies are used for the sole purpose of purchasing goods and services, they’re far from being helpful in everyday transactions. Pennies can’t be used in vending machines. Even with a cup holder full of pennies, one can’t even buy themselves a bag of chips. In downtown Lincoln, when one finds the perfect parking spot, they have to dig through the mass of change they’ve saved over the years only to find an ungodly amount of pennies. Too bad pennies can’t be used in parking meters either.

Despite the impracticality of pennies, the U.S. Mint continues to make more of them each year. The insanely high cost of making pennies alone should be enough to warrant its discontinuation. Still, the United States would rather continue to waste money than take the time to employ this change.

One could argue that the United States has more pressing matters to attend to than eliminating the penny, such as economic inequality, the insane cost of attending universities and the ignorance surrounding climate change. However, our inability to split from the penny is indicative of a much larger issue: we can’t accomplish the simple and obvious because there is no political agenda to be pushed.

Hot button topics like Supreme Court nominations raise money, drive donations and energize political involvement in the masses. Something as seemingly inconsequential as the penny, however, drives no political agenda. Issues like gun control and climate change rally masses of people and give lobbyists something to pour money into. But the penny doesn’t create a tsunami in an ocean of people. Rather, it creates a small ripple that fades into nothing. As such, politicians have little reason to care about it even as it loses our country millions of dollars a year.

Consumers, self-titled economists and interest groups alike make attempts to argue that a world without pennies would have many negative effects, such as price increases.

But eliminating the penny wouldn’t raise prices at all; ask countries like Australia and New Zealand, who have gotten rid of their one cent equivalents with no problems. Keeping the penny does nothing to actually bring stability to low-income people; it only wastes money that could go toward government programs to help them.

Another argument that takes the side of the penny is that it serves to honor President Lincoln. This argument is ridiculous as it prioritizes the portrait of a man who once served our country more so than it does the country he led. No man wants to be the face of a coin that costs his country 46 million dollars, especially one he led for years.

The only good thing about the penny is that the hatred we all have for it is shared and mutual. Republican or Democrat. Man or woman. No matter the ethnicity of the user, the penny remains worthless.

For once, the people have a clear-cut verdict. The penny is not worth the money and effort we give it. But Congress is blind to its constituents. They only care about the issues they can propel and spin into a political agenda, not making laws that could save money.

We could give Congress the benefit of the doubt and say they would never get rid of such a uniting force such as the hated penny. But Congress must realize that the common ground we find in the penny is not enough to keep it around. It is still useless.

We all want to be rid of pennies. We all hate them. But a government that would rather lose millions of dollars than end something that incites disdain from the entire nation is perhaps the only thing more useless than the penny.

Lauryl Hebenstreit is a freshman psychology major. Reach her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com or via @DNopinion.

This article was modified at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 to correct the amount it costs to manufacture a penny.