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Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, recently made the news with her proposal to put cheaper metals into U.S. coins. Evidently, the federal government has allowed the value of money to fall to the point that it now costs more to make a coin than what the coin will buy.

Before 1964, the value of a dollar was one ounce of silver (a silver dollar), a dime was 1/10th of an ounce, and a quarter was a quarter of an ounce. Having a physical reality upon which to peg the value of money did not allow the government to spend as freely as it wished, so money became based on the “good faith” of the government, which seems to be in short supply given that it now takes $8.27 to buy what a dollar did then, and $15.77 (as I write) to buy a newly minted silver dollar.

Ah, the solution appears to be right around the corner. Instead of passing legislation to bring some sanity back to government spending, the good senator will push to put cheaper metals into the coins.

It will save $150 million over 10 years!

I believe that averages out to be $15 million a year. The Department of Education, a thoroughly unneeded government playground for new-age pedagogy, crazed activists, unions and hangers-on, costs $70 billion a year. In that magical 10-year period, that is $0.7 trillion.

So, let’s give Ernst’s savings to the 3.2 million public school teachers. Each would receive a $5-a-year raise. Instead, let’s get rid of the Department of Education and give that to teachers. This would provide a nice $23,000-a-year raise.

Perhaps Congress could save some money by looking at defense spending as a matter of actual defense instead of a mechanism to buy votes by keeping people employed in their districts.

The F-35 fighter jet comes to mind. It has billions of dollars in overrun fees. The plane has major problems that call into question its ability to perform any mission that requires more than just routine maneuvers, and it is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over the program’s lifespan.

If we save up all of Ernst’s coin savings over 10 years, it would buy one (yes, one) F-35B jet fighter that evidently doesn’t work all that well.

Maybe instead of grandstanding and playing games, Congress could stop running a federal deficit and balance the government’s budget.

If they did that next year, Ernst’s coin savings could be used to pay down the national debt.

Every year it would be $15 million less, and in only 1.5 million years it would be paid off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of the government saving a little money now and then. Fifteen million dollars a year is welcome, except for one thing: Congress has shown its absolute dedication to one rule: Give them an extra dollar and they will spend it, and they will spend it in such a way that it must be spent every year thereafter.

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Dennis Clayson is a marketing professor at the University of Northern Iowa. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.

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