I have $3.27 in loose change sitting in the console of my car.
There are six quarters, two dimes, four nickels, and 137 pennies. The little copper pennies are worthless to me, just the cast-offs of other purchases. I don’t treasure them. They aren’t used to pay my bills. They just sit there. In the dark. Forgotten.
But those meaningless pennies are the object of so much anger when it comes to the Lorain County sales tax increase override this past week. After voters resoundingly said no to a 0.25 percent increase on the November ballot, county commissioners reluctantly pushed it forward anyway.
What a blunt sword to fall on. For all the public’s anger over it, the increase amounts to only an extra penny for every $4 you spend.
That means I’d have to buy $548 worth of goods to use up all the (utterly insignificant and unvalued) pennies ditched in my car.
If I vacuumed under the floor mats, I’d probably find another dozen — that’s enough to cover the extra tax on $48 in purchases. If I cleaned the trunk, I’d bet I’d find another five (there’s another $20 purchase). And if I were to look under the couch, I’d wager another six pennies would show up (hello, $24 more in purchasing power).
Let’s be honest: Most of us won’t even bother to bend over to pick up the odd penny spotted on the sidewalk. That’s how much we disdain them as currency.
There’s even an entire movement to get rid of them completely. Citizens to Retire the U.S. Penny says it makes “cents” to ditch the coins because “inflation has eaten away at the value of the penny to such a degree that it no longer facilitates commerce. In other words, the penny cannot buy anything!”
They are wrong.
Your extra penny on every $4 spent in Lorain County buys plenty, and commissioners are right to impose the tax increase.
Officials are staring down a $5 million budget hole. Fixing it meant either your pennies or the loss of up to a dozen sheriff’s deputies and seven assistant prosecutors.
And here is where all sense went out the window: In November, half of Lorain County voters supported Donald Trump, the self-styled “law and order” president-elect. Time and again on the campaign trail, he threw his support behind the police and said we should be tougher on criminals. The other half supported Hillary Clinton, who pledged billions of dollars for law enforcement.
So why don’t Lorain County voters support paying the barest of tax increases to financially back the deputies who help us in our time of need and the prosecutors who work to put law-breakers behind bars? We’ve covered any number of events where people wept openly in support of “the thin blue line.” But that’s worth less than a penny if we won’t spend good money to keep officers on the streets.
The fact is that both violent crime and property crimes nationwide have dropped drastically in the past 20 years. We don’t want to see that trend backslide.
Yet we’re at a tipping point. As Lorain County fights its drug problem, its poverty problem, and its social ills, the last thing we should do is quibble over an extra penny for every $4 we spend.
To rage against this tax increase is horribly short-sighted and, ultimately, damages us all.