Who knew it would be so easy to get rid of the damned penny?
All the Wizard of O’Connor Street had to do was wave his pudgy hand in a federal budget speech and — poof! — the nasty, useless little dingus disappeared. Or will within the year.
Americans look at such a bold act of rationality in awe: Some enlightened members of the U.S. Congress have been trying to get rid of their cursed penny since the 1980s without success.
Although poll after poll shows most Americans would love to ditch the penny, their wishes have constantly been stymied by a well-organized lobby led by Jarden Zinc Products which (not surprisingly) supplies the U.S. Mint with the zinc alloy blanks it uses to make penny coins and by Coinstar, the company with all those coin-counting machines in grocery stores (because half the 40 billion coins the company processes — and makes a profit on — every year are pennies).
But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty did it in a flash. And America noticed.
The punched-out penny was just about the only part of Thursday’s Ottawa budget that got any mention in U.S. national media.
The New York Times, after devoting 10 paragraphs to the Canadian penny’s demise, then took two — count ‘em, two! — paragraphs to summarize the rest of the budget:
“Mr. Flaherty, a Conservative, said that his budget measures would reduce the government’s spending by 5.2 billion Canadian dollars over three years. The cuts include eliminating 19,200 government jobs, less than the government’s critics had anticipated but not as great as many conservatives wanted to see.
“The budget also provides for the retirement age to rise to 67 from 65, in 2023.”
CNN, Fox News, the Washington Post and the rest of the usual suspects were all pretty much on the same wavelength.
For his next budget, Flaherty will hopefully KO the nickel too — although that carries a little more emotional baggage for Canadians, the Big Nickel in Sudbury and all. But the nickel isn’t made of nickel any more than the penny is made of copper and the nickel costs the Mint — ergo the taxpayer — even more than the penny to produce.
And it’s not as if we would be hamstrung in our daily financial transactions.
One cent in 1940 had about the same purchasing power as 25 cents has today. In other words, consumers in 1940 got along just fine without the equivalent of today’s penny, nickel AND dime.
It’s not as if we’re trail-breakers in this regard either.
New Zealand ditched its one-cent and two-cent coins in 1989, went to the one-dollar and two-dollar-coin in 1991 and got rid of its five-cent coin in 2006 while drastically reducing the size and weight of its 10-cent, 20-cent and 50-cent coins at the same time.
(A New Zealand dollar is currently worth 81 cents Canadian, so there’s not a big difference in terms of impact on the consumer.)
So let’s get on with the job and dump the nickel too, rounding out every cash purchase to the nearest decimal point.
Personally, I’d like to go even further because I hate those slippery, slivery, silvery, teensy, weensy, slip-through-your-fingers-and-pocket-holes dimes.
Down with dimes, says I.
Unless, of course, they bring back 10-cent-a-glass draught beer in pubs.
BTW, here’s a link to a wonderful 2008 New Yorker magazine article that will tell you far more than you thought you wanted to know about the awful penny (American-style).