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Archive for Saturday, March 1, 2008

Treasury secretary not big fan of the penny, would like to end it

March 1, 2008

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— A penny for your thoughts? Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson thinks the answer to that question should be not much. In fact, if he had his way, he would like to get rid of the penny.

Asked Friday whether he thought the penny should be eliminated, Paulson agreed that it would make sense, saying, "The penny is worth less than any other currency."

However, he quickly added that he didn't think it was "politically doable" to eliminate the one-cent coin and it wasn't something he planned to tackle in the final year of the Bush administration.

"I've got enough challenges to take on," he said in an interview on the "Spike O'Dell Show" on Chicago's WGN radio.

The administration is pushing an effort that would give the government the authority to change the metal content of all the nation's coins as a way to save money. That proposal, which was introduced in Congress last year, was prompted by the sharp jump in the price of copper and other metals in recent years.

The measure, being sponsored in the House by Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and by Sens. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has not yet been enacted into law even though Mint officials estimate it could save significant amounts of money.

"Metal prices have been fluctuating so wildly in recent years that the Treasury and the United States Mint need the flexibility to react quickly, if necessary, to change the materials used in the nation's coinage," said Mint Director Ed Moy.

The Mint produces between 7 billion and 8 billion pennies annually and officials said if they were allowed to alter the metal content in just the penny and the nickel it could save taxpayers up to $100 million.

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