Paying the bailout piper

“It’s difficult to quantify the costs” of the $700 billion “mother of all bailouts,” says Daniel Gross in Slate, not to mention the taxpayer money put up for Bear Stearns, Fannie and Freddie, AIG , and to insure money market funds. It is “almost certain” that these bailouts will cost tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars, but it’s hard to know, because nobody with any authority has said how they plan to pay for them. Some sort of bailout is probably “of vital importance to the nation’s economy,” but like all important national projects, we have to pay for it. And unless “the laws of mathematics are repealed,” that means raising taxes or cutting spending. So, which will it be, and what are the details? Nobody’s saying.

Drop the penny down a well

The U.S. Mint is “giving the 100-year-old Lincoln penny a new look,” says the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, but why bother? Instead of the Lincoln Memorial, the penny’s back will have images meant to evoke scenes from Lincoln’s life. Lincoln, “born to poverty, knew the value of a penny back when it had real value.” But it doesn’t anymore, and it costs more than a penny to make each copper-covered cent. The penny has “outlived its usefulness,” and it should be phased out, just like the half-penny was in 1857, and just like the penny itself was on U.S. military bases in Europe in the 1980s. Sure, there were “some complaints—for a few months.” It’s time to get rid of the penny. Lincoln would agree.