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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: US should ban pennies, tax rounded-up prices

A few years back, James Rolfe published a profanity-filled rant to YouTube on the subject of pennies — how useless they are, how obnoxious they are to handle, and how they waste both time and space. It’d be hard to say he was wrong.

Pennies can’t buy anything, and it’s a pain in the ass to use them, even when you’ve kept enough of the worthless things in your pocket. Adding to that, pennies actually cost 1.8 cents each to mint, which led Canada to ditch their own version of the one-cent coin.

The only reason pennies still exist is because the zinc industry keeps lobbying for them stay in production. But let’s placate them by using zinc in one of those dollar coins that don’t go anywhere, and then we can kill the penny. It would be an easy and cost-effective way to cut waste in government without cheesing off the Republicans.

Even Congressman Jim Kolbe launched ill-fated 2001 and 2006 attempts to get rid of the penny in which he argued we should round up all prices.

But his idea fizzled out in Congress, perhaps because he wasn’t going far enough with it.

The question is what to do with all those prices that don’t end in a five or a zero. The answer, of course, is to tax them.

Anyone who’s watched “Superman III” or “Office Space” knows about the embezzlement scheme that involves shaving off the fractions-of-cents that get exchanged in financial transactions. Imagine what would happen if we applied the same Richard Pryor-ing to prices.

Every price that doesn’t end in a five or a zero would be rounded up, with those two or three cents taken as tax. Many pennies don’t circulate, meaning that the penny tax would not cost anyone anything. Nobody gives a crap about a few cents individually, but collectively, they could accomplish many things.

In Arizona, it’s possible that a penny tax could fund our schools or preserve and renovate our historical buildings against gentrification.

And at the federal level, not only would the rounding-up tax provide a whole new pool of money, but the cost of printing pennies would serve as its own financial windfall. Sneak in Thomas Piketty’s proposed global wealth tax in this roundup, and we can stick it to Wall Street.

An Arizona congressman first introduced a bill to Congress in 1989 proposing that the penny be eliminated and all prices rounded up. Let’s finally pass the darn thing. Let’s pound the penny, round it up, pick up the savings and we’ll have good luck.

Or, at least, enough money to not underfund our schools and NASA.


Tom Johnson is a film & television studies junior. Follow him on Twitter.

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