OLD GLORY HAS LONG HAD its own congressional lobby, ready to protect it from the mere possibility of desecration with a constitutional amendment if necessary. Meanwhile, an equally profound (if less valuable) symbol of the nation gets no respect. In fact, one member of Congress plans to propose abolishing it.
We speak, of course, of the most basic unit of U.S. currency, the penny. Not even the graven image of the 16th president can redeem it as otherwise patriotic Americans curse or discard it as they reach into their pockets and hope to emerge with shimmering engravings of George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, even Thomas Jefferson -- anything but a rusty, off-orange Abraham Lincoln and a few pieces of lint.
No doubt outraged by this disrespect for one of our greatest presidents, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) is writing a bill that would retire the 1-cent coin. As much as we're eternally grateful to Honest Abe for all he's done, Kolbe is right. It's time to retire the penny.
Kolbe's reasoning actually rests largely on the complex process of minting coins. Currently it costs more to make a penny -- 1.23 cents, to be exact -- than a penny is worth. Consequently, the U.S. Mint by the end of this fiscal year will spend about 10.7 billion cents to produce 8.7 billion cents.