I’m on vacation this week, taking the little Curmudgeons to Disney World. So I am lightening the blog load by posting some somewhat off-topic items that I wrote in advance. Since I may literally be in Fantasyland when you read this, I am taking as my theme one of my favorite fantasies, that I am King of America and can rearrange things as I see fit. Today, the topic is our paper money and coins.
I hereby decree that soon as possible, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will revert to the paper money designs in use in 1990. The current designs are embarrassing and lack gravitas. How can we get people to take saving and the value of a dollar seriously when the five has a giant purple “5” on the back?
This multi-colored atrocity was put into place because it was thought to be much harder to counterfeit. That may have been a legitimate goal twenty years ago when this nonsense started, but today anybody with a $500 scanner/printer and some expensive paper can make a passable copy of any bill. It won’t be perfect, but it will be plenty good enough to buy lunch at McDonalds.
And if we are serious about getting rid of the $1 bill, possibly the least valuable paper bill currently produced in the developed world, we need to stop printing them. People will get used to dollar coins pretty quickly if the alternative is getting a pocketful of quarters in change. We can reuse the iconic portrait of Washington on the twenty or the fifty, as neither Jackson nor Grant really deserve that much adulation.
We also need to stop making pennies. The fact that it costs the mint more than one cent to make something they then sell for one cent isn’t as funny as it once was. (Okay, so it’s still a little funny.) At the height of the commodity price bubble it actually made good business sense to melt pennies down for their copper and zinc. (Which is illegal, by the way.) We stopped minting half cent coins in 1857. They were then worth about 12 cents in today’s money.