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更新时间:2016-10-13 18:15:47 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why Doesn’t the United States (Finally) Get Rid of the Penny?

Canada stopped making pennies in 2012, and with good reason. Coining pennies is a money-losing proposition, and people don’t really need them anymore.


The same is true in the United States. Printing paper currency is hugely profitable for the federal government: The $100 bill is one of the nation’s most valuable exports. Quarters and dimes are moneymakers too. But it costs $1.43 to produce 100 pennies. Last year, making pennies cost taxpayers almost $39 million.


And for what? The federal government makes and distributes coins to facilitate commerce, but not much can be bought for less than five cents. Thanks to the magic of inflation, what cost a penny in 1950 requires a dime today.


Average American workers earned nearly a penny a second in 2015. It’s literally not worth their time to bend down and pluck one from the sidewalk.


In effect, eliminating the penny means all retail prices would end in zero or five. Some prices would rise a few pennies; some would be rounded down. Prices that end in 99 cents are common, and penny proponents have argued that eliminating pennies would amount to a one-cent sales tax. But Robert Whaples, an economist at Wake Forest University, actually examined this claim in 2007 by looking at pricing data from a chain of convenience stores. He reported that the savings from prices rounded down would roughly offset the cost of prices rounded up.

从结果看,取消1美分硬币意味着所有零售价格都将以0或5结尾。有些商品的价格可能会涨几美分;有些则可能把零头抹掉。支持使用1美分硬币的人士称,以99美分结尾的价格非常普遍,所以取消1美分相当于收1美分的销售税。但维克森林大学(Wake Forest University)经济学家罗伯特·霍普里斯(Robert Whaples)在2007年对这种说法进行了检验,方式是查看一系列便利店的价格。他发现,商品价格去零头节省的费用,基本可以抵消化整增加的费用。

Indeed, consumers might actually benefit. Retailers like prices that end in “.99” because people tend to underestimate the actual price. When people see “$4.99,” they tend to pay too much attention to the 4 and not enough to the 99.


Yet Americans like the shiny copper (though not much copper) coins. In a 2014 poll, 71 percent of respondents said they do pick up pennies. And 43 percent said they would be “disappointed” or “angry” if the government stopped making them.


Aaron Sorkin posited through an episode of “The West Wing” that the government keeps making pennies because Abraham Lincoln is on the front, and lawmakers from Illinois, in particular, are reluctant to eliminate a ubiquitous tribute.

编剧亚伦·索尔金(Aaron Sorkin)在《白宫风云》(The West Wing)的一集中做出了这样的推断,即政府继续制造1美分硬币,是因为它的正面有亚伯拉罕·林肯(Abraham Lincoln)的头像,伊利诺伊州的议员尤其不愿意取消这种无所不在的致敬方式。

President Obama, however, does not number among the sentimentalists. He said in 2013 he saw no reason to make pennies. “It’s one of those things where I think people get attached emotionally to the way things have been,” he said.


He also offered what is probably the best explanation for the continued production of pennies: Congress struggles to accomplish even the most obvious tasks.


The penny, Mr. Obama said, is “a good metaphor for some of the larger problems that we’ve got.” The government, he said, has a poor track record of getting “rid of things that don’t work so that we can then invest in the things that do.”