It costs the U.S. Mint 1.7 cents to make one penny – a mind-boggling statistic. And in a 2002 Gallup poll, 2 percent of Americans admitted to throwing the currency away. “The U.S. Mint is spending millions to make garbage,” John Oliver says in this segment from Last Week Tonight. “And that’s not their job – it’s M. Night Shyamalan’s job.”
Oliver spends almost 10 minutes outlining why pennies are useless – and why the U.S. should remove them from circulation. The math itself is obvious, but Oliver also argues several other reasons –including the health scares from the coins being swallowed by dogs to many businesses refusing to accept pennies.
But there are roadblocks preventing the Mint from eliminating the penny, like Abraham Lincoln enthusiasts and lobbyist group Americans for Common Cents.
“Lincoln doesn’t need the penny for notoriety – he’s everywhere,” Oliver says. “We’ve put him on novelty bandages, cup and ball games and creepy Chia Pets. And you know where else we put him? The five dollar bill! You know, the thing that’s worth 500 times more than the penny.”
Oliver ends the segment with a rousing call to action. “Come on, let’s dump the penny,” he says. “Not because we need to, not because it will change a great deal. But because there are certain things we know are impossible to get rid of: terrorism, herpes and Guy Fieri. But the penny is a nuisance we could actually do something about. So let’s do it, America – let’s get the penny out of our pockets, out of our dogs, out of our fridges and out of our asses. We can do this!”