A “Levy’s Wry Column” by Bill Levy
© Bill Levy 2013
There has been a great deal of recent conversation about eliminating the penny. Several foreign nations have already done this. Many merchant and retail groups have been lobbying to get rid of the penny for years. There has been talk of legislation to round cash purchases to the nearest nickel. An article in the New York Times declared, “Once a symbol of thrift and resourcefulness, pennies are now striking many people as anachronistic and a nuisance.” But before we ban the penny, we should attempt to be as sensible as possible.
Pennies have always been a significant part of the American Experience. Throughout the years, American culture has been broadened and brightened by penny arcades and penny serenades. Pennies have been responsible for such unique American institutions as baseball centerfielders, Thanksgiving centerpieces, and, of course, Playboy centerfolds.
The penny has shaped the American character. For example, American men have generally been less aggressive than European Continental males because we’ve had pennies to pinch. Also, American teenagers would probably never have had the energy for rock and roll if they were weighted down by silver-dollar loafers.
No one can deny that there are bad pennies and that pitching pennies, gambling at penny arcades, and kissing pretty pennies have hindered some youngsters’ moral development. But if pennies become extinct, we would lose so much. We would lose the optimistic hope that there are “pennies from heaven” and “honest pennies” among us. The thought-provoking phrase “penny for your thoughts” would become obsolete. Without the possibility to become penny-wise, many of us could become pound foolish, and too many of us are overweight already. The thought of the United States of America without the penny is nonsense. With all the problems facing our nation today, we need all the sense and cents we can get.