"Zinc lobby" preventing retirement of penny


Worthless pocket clutter that it is—often thrown in the trash!—America should likely do away with the one cent coin. Ah, but that would mean less profits for the zinc trade.

Beside national inertia, the main reason the penny is still with us is that business interests want it that way. President Obama, when he was campaigning in 2008, said he would like to rid the nation of this unnecessary burden. "I need to find out who is lobbying to keep the penny," he said. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbyists, has the answer: it's Big Zinc sidekicked by the vending industry. Together, they form a powerful penny lobby.

The interesting part is how many cute stories, about smalltown America's fight to save the penny, that the lobbyists get in print.

In few such accounts is it noted that the ACC is run by the main lobbyist representing the zinc industry, which supplies most of the metal used in pennies. The "report" was merely a short statement from the group citing various opinion polls, most of them completed from 12 to 20 years ago. The most recent was conducted in 2006 — by Coinstar CSTR 0.00% , a business that is built largely on the fact that Americans must periodically haul huge, penny-filled cider bottles to vending machines if they want to turn the coins into usable currency. (Coinstar also owns Redbox, the movie-rental outfit). The link provided by the ACC to Coinstar's survey is broken, and there is no information on the company's site about the survey, which, according to the ACC, found that two-thirds of Americans want to keep the penny. That's the number several media outlets cited in their accounts of the "new report."

If you want to turn a journalist's bullshit detector off, send him ready-to-post free content about what he thinks is a trivial issue.