The U.S. Mint is facing a big problem. It is the same problem faced by the Roman Empire as it headed toward collapse.
It now costs the government more money to mint pennies and nickels than the coins are worth!
Consequently, the Obama administration has asked Congress for permission to debase the coinage. It smacks of Diocletian ordering the silver out of Roman coins so the decaying empire could pay its bills and fight its wars for a little longer.
Could America really be nearing collapse?
President Obama’s problem is his administration is losing more than $100 million per year minting pennies and nickels. It costs the mint 2.4 cents to make a penny and 11.2 cents to make a nickel.
But the metal composition of the penny and nickel has not changed in more than 30 years. So what has happened?
The answer: The value of America’s money is being destroyed.
In 1935, one U.S. dollar would buy you 1/20th of an ounce of gold. By 1968, it was down to 1/35th of an ounce of gold. Today, one dollar will buy you only 1/1,750th of an ounce. The same thing happened against silver. In 1968, one dollar would buy an ounce of the silver metal. Today it will only buy you a mere 1/32nd of an ounce.
Talk about debasement.
And the dollar hasn’t plunged just against precious metals. Against copper, nickel and zinc—the metals found in pennies and nickels—it is in free fall too. In fact, the dollar has plummeted against orange juice, whiskey, beans, bullets, pork bellies, single family houses, automobiles, coal, oil, good suits, healthcare, tuition, labor costs—and virtually every measurable commodity. If you can name it, it probably cost more today than it did 30, 10, or five years ago—probably more than it cost last year.
The mint reports that if it replaced the copper-coated zinc penny (it took the copper out of the penny in 1982 because it was too expensive) with a steel one, it would still not be profitable. What’s cheaper than steel? Tin? Nope a penny’s weight of tin would cost more than a nickel. A penny’s weight of aluminum would cost 2 cents. Lead is little cheaper. See the problem?
How about plastic? Anyone for a plastic penny? Clay? Asbestos?
Calls to just get rid of the penny altogether are growing louder. But that will only hide the danger to the dollar for a little longer.
And don’t be fooled. The dollar is in grave danger.
Millions of people, especially retirees, are seeing their life savings devalued. Each year their money buys less and less. Even if they don’t spend a dime, inflation steals it from them.
And since the Federal Reserve is artificially keeping interest rates low (designed to increase big bank profitability, promote consumer borrowing, and thus stimulate the economy) the Fed is driving America’s most vulnerable investors into riskier assets (such as the stock market) in an effort to make their retirement money last longer.
A crisis is looming.
On Thursday, the Associated Press reported: Federal Reserve members “divided over more bond buys.” Apparently, some Federal Reserve officials think the bank should “create” more money out of thin air to finance federal government spending.
When is the money printing going to stop? The dollar has already lost more than 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created to supposedly take care of the U.S. currency in 1913.
Since 2009, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has mushroomed in size. It has spent over $2.9 trillion to prop up the economy. It has lent more than $1.6 trillion directly to the federal government to cover its deficits. It spent a further $836 billion to purchase crummy mortgage-backed securities from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, to keep them from collapsing. And it has lent billions more to the European Central Bank.
This is all money that was created with the click of a button. It is fiat money. Nothing backs it. One second it did not exist. The next fraction of a second it did. The Fed spoke, and it was so.
It is precisely this kind of money “managing” that is destroying confidence in the dollar. What is to stop the Federal Reserve from creating enough money to pay all of America’s bills? If money printing is so good for the economy, why not print more?
The truth is that money printing is destroying the economy.
On February 15, the Federal Reserve said it does not think more quantitative easing (money printing) will be necessary. Two days later it started “Operation Twist.” The Fed is taking $400 billion it lent the U.S. government for short term stimulus and is rolling it over into longer-term (10 to 30 year) loans.
Does anyone really think the Federal Reserve emergency money printing was only temporary anymore?
The dollar supply is being expanded. The quality of the dollars is being degraded.
This is what happens in fiat money systems, like the one the United States has operated ever since leaving the gold standard. Politicians and central bankers can’t keep their hands off the dollar printing presses. There is always another “emergency” that requires more spending and thus more money printing to pay for it. And voters only vote for those who promise to give them more.
During January’s State of the Union address, President Obama barely even mentioned America’s debt and deficit problems. Or the massive society changing cuts that would be required to balance them.
By far, the number one, most important economic issue threatening the livelihood of America is its addiction to debt. This year, America’s federal debt-to-gdp ratio crossed 100 percent; confidence in the dollar is dying; people are going to see their life savings wiped out—and the president gave the issue nothing more than a rhetorical nod.
Instead, all he could talk about was taxing billionaires. Whether or not you believe billionaires should be taxed more is irrelevant—and the president knows it. You could tax billionaires 100 percent of assets (not just income), and America still couldn’t fix its deficit problem! And we haven’t even started on the debt yet.
America may be abandoning its pennies and nickels now. But it will get a lot worse than that. Dollar bills will soon come to resemble quarters. And quarters dimes. Eventually wads of bills will resemble worthless newspaper.
When Rome destroyed its money to pay its bills, it destroyed two of the pillars of its existence: its economy and the faith in its political system. These are the exact two things that America seems to be doing its best to destroy today. ▪