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A Compelling Case For A World Without Pennies

It’s time to make change

Attention coin collectors: The lowly U.S. penny may be worth something someday.


On Wednesday, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Mike Enzi of Wyoming reintroduced the Currency Optimization, Innovation, and National Savings Act of 2017, which seeks to suspend the minting of the U.S. penny, reduce the cost of producing the nickel, and turn the $1 bill into a new coin. While it may seem like a small change (pun absolutely intended), suspending the penny could actually save taxpayers about $16 billion.

“With our country facing $20 trillion in debt, Congress must act to protect the American taxpayer,” said Senator McCain in a press release. “By reforming and modernizing America’s outdated currency system, this commonsense bill would bring about billions in savings without raising taxes.”

That savings would largely come from the longevity of switching paper to coin. According to The March report, a document prepared for this legislation, bills, on average, last around five years, while coins can extend past 30 years. Additional savings would come from changing the composition of the nickel from 75 percent copper/25 percent nickel to 80 percent copper/20 percent nickel.

It may seem like a no-brainer to dump the penny, however, history has proven the little guy is a tough one to kill. As PBS reported, the bill was first proposed by then-Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona in 1991. He also attempted to pass the Legal Tender Modernization Act in 2001 and in 2006, but neither were able to pass.

“Change can be hard sometimes, but switching to a dollar coin could save our country $150 million a year,” said Senator Enzi in the press release. “Our country is in a difficult financial position because we didn’t value the cost of the dollars we spent. We can’t afford to keep that up, and these innovative opportunities are a way to save taxpayer money that is really just being wasted with each new dollar we print and penny we mint.”

Perhaps it’s the nostalgia factor, since the penny was the first currency of any type authorized in the United States, or perhaps it’s because we all love loose change floating around in our pockets—but there’s just something about the penny that makes it hard to live without.

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Center for American Progress Action Fund

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