I happened to be the keynote speaker this past Saturday morning for the Model U.N. tournament at Archmere Academy.
When I talk about the United States' unique position in the world, I often offer a different twist on U.S. "exceptionalism"... things most of us never think about, but which differentiate the United States from the world.
For example, the world's ONLY non-metric country. When I was growing up, three countries were non-metric: The United States, Liberia (rather appropriate, given Liberia's unique history!), and Burma/Myanmar. Now we're down to one country. Every once in a while, a financial publication runs an article on the LOSSES to U.S. business from not being metric, but have you heard any prominent politician - right, center, or left - raise this issue? The silence is deafening.
Another example of U.S. exceptionalism: Our coins and currency. For reasons unique to the United States, we are virtually the only nation on this planet which has not eliminated its lowest-denomination banknotes in favor of coins, NOR eliminated its lowest-value coins, NOR fully embraced full colorization of currency - plus the addition of "windows" - to thwart counterfeiting.
Again, it comes down to something in our souls. Even though using dollar coins in place of bills, and eliminating the penny would save Millions - if not Billions (and pennies have increasingly become an annoyance!), I guess many of us have some deep psychological fear that our money would be worth LESS if we phase out pennies and dollar-bills. Alas, a kernel of truth: How many merchants would round down vs. up to the nearest nickel or dime, absent the penny?
And colorization? I get laughter from audiences when I pull out a 10- or 20-dollar bill, showing the subtle colorization, with a ground color of "puke yellow"! Colorization of U.S. currency is proceeding slowly (rather like the proverbial metaphor of boiling a frog slowly!), because we are the only people in the world who refer to our currency by a color - "Greenback". Somehow we are messing with our national DNA by altering our currency too much. Ever think about it?
I reflect on all this because of word from north of the border: The Royal Canadian Mint will stop minting pennies. Already in Canada, you have to use one-dollar and two-dollar coins; the lowest denomination Canadian banknote currently in circulation is the five-dollar bill.
(Then-Congressman Mike Castle got the state-quarter idea from the Canadians; the Royal Canadian Mint had issued provincial & territorial quarters a few years earlier. When I asked Mike Castle if he'd follow the Canadians further -- advocate dollar coins replace dollar bills - he shook his head. NO U.S. politician would dare!)
Here's The DAILY MAIL's treatment of the story about phasing out Canadian pennies:
First, with the sales tax and the fractions created within it, adjustments would need be made in order to go with no pennies. We forget that fact here in Delaware (at least I do) where we always pay what the price-tag says. One would have to round up I suppose if, as in Maryland, you purchased a dollar item at a hardware store and the cost was $1.07....
Second, I used to work with a firm that had as part of its panache that all it's prices were in nickels so it could brag nothing it had was "worthless"... All its prices were rounded-down to say 4.95 instead of 4.99.... (Somehow $5.00 feels like it costs a dollar more than $4.99) ... We got bought out, and the new heads re-did the financials and discovered those 4 pennies across the firm amounted to $2.5 million with no investment. That is the reason I believe, we haven't gotten rid of pennies.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 8:36am
Sorry to see my learned colleague fall into the abyss created by those who don't understand or purposefully try to alter the true meaning of "American Exceptionalism." American Exceptionalism is not mental playdough kneaded into shapes and contortions such as currencies and measuring sticks. American Exceptionalism is the foundation of our country. A "return to American Exceptionalism" would be elected representatives working for the good of the country instead of their own personal gains. They would actually cut spending reasonably without blaming "the other guys" for this contracting economy. They would abandon crony capitalism for political and financial gain. They would serve knowing the true definition of American Exceptionalism is that The United States of America is exceptional in its very bottom-up design: For the People, Of the People and By the People, a government built upon the ideals of liberty, egalitarianism, individualism and populism, not a top-down monarchy or politically elite class.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 9:27am
My, my, my! Mr. Jensen is certainly in a foul mood this morning.
Mike from Delaware
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 10:36am
Good point Kavips, about the sales-tax. So yes, besides paying more at the store for things, because most stores won't roll down to $4.95, they'll roll up to $5.00 and then those states with sales-tax would raise their state/county/city taxes to nickel increments. Even the gas station pumps would have to be changed. They'd charge in 5-cent increments, not penny. There would be much cost and stress created by eliminating the penny.
I do agree with Allan that the penny is a pain, but as Kavips pointed out, it might be more trouble than its worth.
Rick Jensen, American exceptionalism certainly is not a Christian concept. We aren't better than other folks, but we've been blessed with a large nation, with tons of resources, and thankfully our Founding Fathers put together a government that gave us the freedom to be able to make this a great nation. But to use the term American Exceptionalism is arrogant and definitely NOT what Jesus would do or say. We as Americans should be humble and grateful for what God has given us as a people and as individuals, and be better stewards in blessing those who are hurting, etc.. People want to say, "God to Bless America." Got news for you, God has Blessed America, but it wasn't for us to hoard and keep to ourselves. As Christians, the blessing is to be passed on to the lesser than thee, definitely not a Republican principle. To whom much is given, much is expected. The DEMS have different problems, to discuss another time.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 12:04pm
At one time there were half-pennies. There were postage stamps of denominations of one-and-a-half cent, two-and-a-half cents, etc. We learned to get by. But the sales-tax creates a problem.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 12:39pm
Mike from Delaware: Please read Alexis de Tocqueville and Seymour Martin Lipset re: American Exceptionalism. It has little to nothing to do with religiosity and everything to do with the construct of our government. While the phrase does describe a country more attuned to its citizenry, it does not ipso facto arrogantly declare that Americans are "better" than anyone else. That is a construct popular among internationalist liberals who are offended that the United States could be anything other than a hegemonic atrocity steamrolling the peaceful innocents of Syria, Iran, the West Bank, North Korea, etal. And yes, JimH, your powers of observation seem far beyond those of mortal men.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 1:15pm
A more practical question is how do we get rid of the pennies we now have, saved up in the jar?
Banks no longer accept the rolled up 100 pennies that we used to turn in to them. The coin counting machines (Penny Arcade), in my opinion, do not provide a reliable count, so I wouldn't put my money there.
Sure you could 'get rid of pennies' but it would be a major headache for people trying to cash their cache of pennies.
Mike from Delaware
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 1:33pm
Rick Jensen: I understand your point, but THAT's not how most conservative Americans I hear use that phrase. The phrase, no matter the original intent, today has an arrogant sound to it, making it an offensive thing rather than something that brings people together.
The reason I mention faith is most of those conservative Americans tend to be people who say they are Christians, and as a Christian, I find that attitude of so called American superiority to be offensive and definitely NOT what Our Lord teaches.
Their version of this is almost a worship of our government, and THAT is NOT Godly behavior. If you don't see it just as they do, then YOU'RE not a loyal American. You're against America, etc, etc.
So maybe we should say that phrase is being misused today by many Conservative Americans. Somehow, I don't think you'll agree with that statement, but you're entitled to your views, just as I'm entitled to mine.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 1:35pm
In reference to Allan's comments about the color of the money... does anyone actually still use the term "greenback"? Honestly, the only time I hear that term anymore is in these exact conversations.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 3:09pm
Not necessarily "greenback", but referring to currency or dollars as "green"... sure!
I'm afraid Mr. Jensen derailed the discussion by questioning (I think, tongue in cheek), my "twist" on American Exceptionalism, but what hardly anyone has addressed above is the COST to the U.S. taxpayer (or perhaps in an age of numbing deficits, it doesn't matter!) of continuing to manufacture pennies, and not forcing a replacement of one-dollar-bills with coins. (Other countries have done so precisely because of the cost!)
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 3:09pm
Rjensen: I took up your offer to read Alexis de Tocqueville and Seymour Martin Lipset re: American Exceptionalism.... Unfortunately I am only on page 5 since I'm at work. Please check back in 127 days provided I have no interruptions and by then I should have time to respond to your statement.
That said,.... if if were to lead us back to a government that revolves around people who are human beings and not around billions of dollars as its centerpoint, I would be inclined to see American exceptionalism in a positive light.
Mike from Delaware
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 3:17pm
Good point Shawn. I believe our paper money should also have braille or something on the currency to help blind people know what denomination of money they're holding. Also the more complicated the color scheme, the tougher to counterfeit.
There's no need to keep the paper money green. However, one way to do that is to used various shades of green throughout the front and back of the bill. So the dollar bill could be a study of the many shades of green, the five dollar bill could be a study of orange, the ten a study of red, etc.
The reason the dollar coin didn't work is they're too close to the size of a quarter. The half dollar is larger and the old silver dollar coins were gigantic and heavy. Maybe make the half-dollar coin size, the new dollar coin and make the half-dollar in between the size of the quarter and dollar. At least that would make sense, or is that cents (yes I know, that was a terrible pun).
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 3:19pm
Back to coins... I too always hated dollar-coins until sodas in vending machines jumped over a dollar, and I never hand enough change in my pocket. It would have been so much simpler to pop a dollar-coin in the slot instead of taking out the billfold, looking to see if I had a single dollar, rejoicing when I did, pulling the dollar out, smoothing out all the wrinkles, undog-earing all the corners, making sure the face on the bill was pointing the same way the faded diagram showed, feeding the bill into intake slot, taking the returned bill out of the intake slot, repeating steps 5-8 above. repeating the repeating 4 or 5 times.... and then, 2 times out of 5, actually purchasing a soda or other vending item...
With the manufacturing of the coins, it should have been mandated that all vending machines be updated to take them...
We as a nation might have changed our opinion of dollar coins had that scenario occurred....
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 8:21pm
Mike: American exceptionalism is NOT arrogant. Because our founders started this country in obedience to God, it became
an exceptional nation. It's Obama and his band of left-wing thugs who are arrogant. As Christians, we should not be drinking the "America is just another ordinary nation" kool-aid.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 8:23pm
To Rick Jensen: Don't worry. Mr. Pizza will defend you to the death!
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 12:44am
So now having heard of Belarus bashing of the United States for not letting Texas succeed, I now know where Mr. Pizza gets his oats from.... :)
Yes, kavips, I even talked about that story on-the-air yesterday afternoon with Joshua Keating, Associate Editor at FOREIGN POLICY.
Wed, Feb 6, 2013 10:18pm
A lot of room Belarus has to talk about human rights. But as I've said on this blog before, Obama and Lukashenko are two of a kind. The only difference between the two is that Lukashenko was able to get rid of the Belarus constitution simply by using a rigged referendum. Obama has a much steeper hill to climb on that one, but make no mistake about it. If Obama can just get that darn constitution out of the way, he can then turn America into Belarus West.
Mon, Feb 11, 2013 12:04am
I can't see the comparison. You are bluffing. Where is the evidence that Obama - who is the best president we will probably have in our lifetimes - is exactly like Lukashenko?
Yours is simply a blustery statement made up out of very thin air. There is no proof to back that up. Now, is there?
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