No Pennies for Thoughts or Anything Else

Posted on June 6, 2011

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PASHA BELYAYEV and ERIN CARSON

A man in Utah was arrested and charged for paying his medical bill… in pennies. Jason West received a bill he was not happy with and felt the charges were unfair. To show his displeasure and stage a protest, he paid the entire $25 bill in pennies.

He reportedly dumped the bag of 2500 pennies at the reception desk and left.

He was later arrested by the police for disorderly conduct because they said his actions didn’t serve any legitimate purpose.

This story and others like it are raising questions about the legitimacy of the penny as legal tender and the justification of this arrest.

According to the Treasury Department, all US currency is legal tender for paying debts, public charges, taxes, and dues; but private businesses can refuse to accept certain currency as payment.

Some are calling for the phasing out of pennies altogether. Not only are they barely worth anything in the real world, they literally “aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.” Since 2006, it has cost more than one cent to produce a penny because of the increasing cost of zinc and inflation, according to the US Mint.

Jeff Gore, who founded “Citizens for Retiring the Penny,” told NPR, “There’s just a very natural process where we have to retire currency. “The penny used to be a useful coin. But it hasn’t been useful for many decades.”

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