Pinching the penny

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Missourians who remember the 1950s are old enough to have used the mill, a plastic token worth one-thousandth of a dollar. Mills were used to pay sales taxes, which back then could amount to less than a cent.

The mill disappeared when inflation made it almost worthless and cities and counties started adding sales taxes of their own.

Now a bill has been introduced in Congress to dispense with the penny. The argument is that a penny costs more to make -- 1.4 cents -- than it's worth. Of course, a nickel costs 6.4 cents to produce. But both coins last much longer than the paper money turned out by the U.S. Mint.

Retailers would benefit from rounding everything to the nearest nickel, since the direction of the rounding doubtless would be upward.

The penny would be mourned. Future American generations would be lost when old-timers talk of penny loafers and the penny arcade. Worse, no more chance of being inundated with pennies from heaven.

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