03/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Lincoln Plan

Take one, leave one. So, why retire the penny? Why not celebrate it even more? Here's the only tender we recognize as community property. How appropriately tender that is. It's already a non-denominational charity all by itself. Something that honest, that do-good-able should not simply be dismissed from duty like the half-penny before it. Instead, how about we start thinking, 'don't take one ... just leave one . . . or actually just leave up to four, without really ever taking any at all'. If the expression is 'pay it forward' how easy then to do that with a coin we all love, not for its inherent value (for it has none), but for its symbol and potential (having much) -- even while unseen and, finally, light in the pocket.

There have recently been proposals to round up and round down this beloved institution to the nearest nickel -- down when a purchase cost is less than the last 5 cents and up when more than the last 5 cents -- to eliminate the reason for the actual penny existing and to save the cost of minting it as well as the aggravation in spending it. Until now the presumed equal balance between up and down costing just meant no real loss to consumers, business, or government; although some arguments have been put forward that the evenness is a myth and the actual cost of doing this weighs heavily on the spender. So then, if that's the case, why not roundly make sure any reconsideration really puts us up against it. . . . and spend them all, out of sight, out of mind, but all the time, so the pennies are always still virtually here. It can't make us any more broke than we already are, having now no paper money to spend either. A discarded penny currently seems accepted as no sense of perceptible loss to the individual at all, even in this economy. Lots of us don't mind now to just un-pinch the penny whenever we can; and surely, every one of us wants it emptied from our overburdened household knickknack bowls anyway.

So, to be bold, and risk the contradictory hoots of 'regressive taxer' and 'repressive spender' it's proposed here to consider only the continual spending of pennies, only the rounding of them up, never having them in hand but always having them in mind. The purchase cost of anything under the last 5 cents goes up to the nickel. The purchase cost over the last 5 cents goes up to the dime. This rounding up always occurs after local sales taxes have been applied, allowing for as much variable amount final penny-upping as possible. A new $20,284.46 car costs $20,284.50. A candy bar costing $0.84 costs $0.85. The rounding up applies to personal, business, service and all other purchases. Cash register computer technology can easily do the math. Millions and millions of purchases each day instantly pennied and parlayed. And here's where the 'all other purchases' makes this penny ante pot grow significantly. The rounding up would also apply to each individual daily stock share and other similar monetary market item traded. If there is an average of 4.5 billion stock shares traded daily, that means having 45 million dollars daily from the stock market. If all other individual purchases total approximately 300 million per day that's another 3 to 8 million dollars a day. The daily penny revenue is over 50 million dollars. 50 million x 365 days (fudging for weekends) is close to 20 billion dollars per year. If the financial and business sector purchases are even more than the approximate allowances listed here the revenue is even greater.

Anyway, that translates to something like a lot of healthcare. A lot of saving by spending. What if the fault of increased medical costs really wasn't the 'lawyers, doctors, insurance companies' -- what if it was really that copper minted in the penny. . . and then us having no way to unleash the potential of its spending power unless we tanked it. What if, as such, a new domestic Lincoln Plan was unleashed like the old international Marshall Plan? What if we all paid for our own well being in a small way all the time? What if we went to a single-penny plan? How better to still honor Mr. Lincoln's memory, still talk in common cents, and still help us spending the little we don't have instead of the lot we don't have. A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny spent is a penny wise.