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In God We Trust -- For Revenue

Donald L. Martin

I have long referred to the motto smuggled onto our currency, "In God We Trust", as advertising for the Judeo-Christian deity. In a capitalistic society, there is nothing, of course, wrong with advertising per se. There is a good deal wrong, however, with giving it away for free. The promoters of said Judeo-Christian deity have been enjoying a free ride at taxpayer expense for far too long, and in an age of governmental cheese-paring as part of the new and improved voodoo economics, it is quite fitting that those promoters start bearing their fair share of the costs.

I propose that our government bill for any advertising on our currency at the rate of 1/10 of 1% of the face value of the coin or bill. Obviously, pennies will always be dirt cheap: you have to stamp out 1000 of them to earn $0.01 in revenue, but you would at least get $100 per million, and we turn out many millions of the things per year. Quarters are possibly even more numerous than pennies, and net you $2,500 per million minted, possibly enough to pay production costs on the coins.

It is with paper money that the Treasury can really balance the books: it is far cheaper to print on paper than to stamp out metal objects, and the denominations are much larger. Dollar bills, of which we probably print billions every year, yield $10,000 per million printed, a nice, round number. Twenties would be the cash cow, yielding a substantial $200 K/mil, and probably being our most numerous bill after the single, but fifties and hundreds seem to be increasing of late. To those who might protest that at the high end, the rates are too heavy, I would point out that their longevity makes up for the difference. Singles have a useful life of about 7 months, after which they, and the ad for the superfriend invisible, are shredded. Fives last for a couple of years, tens for several, and so on--the bigger the bill, the longer the ad will "run". Hundreds last for decades before being retired.

Collecting the fees would be a bit cumbersome at first, but with the aid of computer technology, this is not an insurmountable problem. In order to be tax-exempt, churches are registered as such with the IRS, and statistics are kept of the membership of the various denominations. At year's end, all one need do is tot up the number of coins and bills of each value manufactured during the year and do the math to arrive at a sum total. The second calculation is of the whole mass of churched persons who think that it is _their_ god being mentioned on the currency, sorted according to their individual churches, chapels, synagogues, tents, snake handling pits, or whatever. Divvy the sum total up per capita of that sort, and send those churches, etc. their statements.

The first time, each statement ought to be clearly marked that payment is optional; failure to pay, however, will result in that church's membership being subtracted from that whole mass of churched persons above, along with the church's tax-free status. The fees will, of course, be greater for the remainder who do pay, but they will go on enjoying the tax breaks they so richly fail to deserve.

If all refuse to pay, not only will the corporate income and real estate tax revenues swell, but we can throw the currency ads open to bidding. Jews, for instance, might be delighted to foot the bill to see "In G-d We Trust", or perhaps the Hebrew letter tetragrammaton. With all that oil money behind them, Arabs might like "In Allah We Trust." If this were printed in Arabic letters, the fundies wouldn't even notice that the god had been swapped out on them.

For the past couple of years, the Treasury has been issuing "special" quarters, commemorating the various states. This suggests that the technology has advanced sufficiently for die changes to be relatively cheap and short runs feasible. Like the Franklin Mint, they could offer special limited editions to faiths without pockets deep enough for the entire production. Wouldn't it be fun to go through one's pocket change to find a "In Krishna We Trust", a "In Goddess We Trust", and a "In Joo-Joo We Trust" all in the same handful? This could usher in a new golden age of numismatics.

Of course, the real money these days is in commerce, and if the religious are unwilling to pay for their divine promotions, we can rely with confidence upon corporations taking up the slack. I find the sentiment "In Windows We Trust" even more hopefully wan than the unevidenced faith of the Christians, but Bill Gates apparently believes it, and he has the bucks to back it up. Of course, there is no real need to retain the "In _____ We Trust" format: "There's a Ford in your Future" would fit nicely in slightly smaller type, and a simple "STP" logo could be in a larger one.

I do not foresee any objections from the Christians on this eminently fair proposal. Most of them seem to be fiscal conservatives, telling us again and again that there is no free lunch; after enjoying free lunches in the advertising department for so many years, they would surely wish to pay according to their principles.

On the other hand, should Christians and Jews attempt to maintain that the "God" in the slogan really represents all dieties of all people, making the slogan not an ad but a warm, fuzzy blessing for everyone, then we ought to make that explicit. In keeping with diversity (politically correct), let all instances of the phrase "in God we trust" on any governmental production bear an asterisk after the word "god", and below, in a typeface half as large as that of the word "god", list all the supernatural beings to which that word may be held to refer, consistent with the laws of our Nation, provided that the last item of said list be "none of the above" to give us WOAs some standing in the swarm.

Unless we start making saucer-sized pennies and bills bigger than platters (or unless we start printing the slogan in micro type) our currency will probably be hard to read, but nobody will be offended by their favorite mystic personage having been left out.

(c) 2001, Donald L. Martin



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