Canada Says Goodbye to the Penny

12/15/2010 06:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Canada is saying goodbye to the penny.

I guess it's not a "done deal," but a story I read on December 15 suggests that pretty much everyone in Canada is in favor of getting rid of the penny. After all, the government spends 1.5 cents to manufacture a penny, so it sure makes good economic sense. And since retailers and customers alike don't want pennies, the coins are hoarded and so must be replaced. According to an article in the Victoria Times-Colonist, the Canadian mint spends about $130 million annually to keep the penny in circulation, and it has to make 1.2 billion new pennies every year to replace the ones that go missing. Canada won't be alone, by the way: Australia and New Zealand dumped their penny in the 1990s, and they don't seem to have suffered at all. The Scandinavians began doing away with their smallest denomination coins in the 1970s.

And in case you haven't been keeping up, the thrifty Canadians banished their one-dollar bill way back in 1987, replacing it with a golden coin called the Loonie. The two-dollar bill passed away in 1996, and while I thought the coin that replaced it should have been called a doubloon, they dubbed it the "Toonie" (a portmanteau of "two" and "loonie," according to Wikipedia). All in all, these moves demonstrate a practical sense of fiscal responsibility that we in this country have been unable to achieve. Each time these ideas are brought up in the US, we balk and flinch and scream about the end of the world. Never mind that changing our ways might save us some money -- and remember, we have a deficit that is NOT growing smaller -- we just can't seem to bear the thought of giving up the penny or using a coin instead of a paper bill. Given that commerce has reached the point at which we will soon be able to wave our cellphone at a cash register to complete our purchases, doesn't it seem pretty silly to insist that our government continue to waste precious resources on coins and paper bills that we don't really need?

Once their penny is declared officially dead, I know how the Canadians could make a little extra money. The government of Canada could sell all their old pennies to us. After all, we seem firmly committed to keeping our precious penny, even though we've been repeatedly told that minting a penny coin costs more than the penny is worth. Maybe Canada can sell us their surplus as a discount.

Note to the 534 spineless Members of Congress (and you know who you are): You could fix this problem in minutes. Before you go home for Christmas, even. After all, you're not really doing much besides bickering and procrastinating. Do something positive before the session goes into recess. And Merry Christmas!