A Fistful of Nickels

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Economists like Paul Krugman love to talk about the desperate lot of those who somehow can’t board the carousel of capitalism. No brass rings for them. And according to Paul and his pals, these faceless uncountables are multiplying. Every day the hoard of the rich grows and grows while the poor have less and less dough. Furthermore, say Paul and his Chicken Little friends, the rift between the rich and the poor is now a chasm.

I thought of Dr. Krugman when I went to the grocery last week. There’s a clunky machine by the door. You throw in your change and it somehow magically counts it and pays you in green currency – real money. That way you don’t have to count a pound of coins – a tedious job – and roll ’em up into coin wrappers.

Remember how it used to be? Mom or Pop sitting at the dining room table wrapping pennies and nickels, dimes and quarters. And happy to do it. He)’, that ashtray full of coins – look at all the quarters – must be holding five or six bucks.

Now we’ve got a machine. But even machines don’t work for free. He won’t complain about his working environment and he’ll never sue for gender harassment, but he will charge you 8%. That’s when I thought of Paul. Middle-class patrons of a neighborhood grocery store are willing to pay 8% to avoid the tedium of coin counting. The carousel of capitalism is rolling merrily along. Jump on, there’s room for all.

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