Time to get rid of penny? Maybe - Obama


Mr. Obama reached out to an online audience in a Google+ Hangout chat Thursday, answering questions regarding a broad spectrum of questions from drones and gun violence to the anachronism of pennies and the "chill" factor in Hawaii.

The president was asked why the government has yet to get rid of the penny. Mr. Obama responded by saying he didn't know, but he suspected there was an emotional attachment to the coin.

"We remember our piggy banks and counting up all our pennies, and then taking them in and getting a dollar bill or a couple of dollars," he said. "One of the things you see chronically in government is it's very hard to get rid of things that don't work so you can then invest on the things that do. The penny ends up being sort of a metaphor for the larger problems that we've got."

Experts say pennies cost more to mint than they are worth and are increasingly used less and less.

"This is not going to be a huge savings for government. But anytime we're spending more money on something that people don't actually use, that's an example of something we should probably change," he said. "One of the things that you see chronically in government is it's very hard to get rid of things that don't work so that we can then invest in the things that do."

During the chat, the president also offered assurances that drones, unmanned aircraft used to hunt down terrorists, have never been used against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

"The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States, in part because our capacity, for example, to capture terrorists in the United States are very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan," Mr. Obama explained.

Two years ago, drone strikes killed three Americans in Yemen - U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old-son and al Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan.

Although Congress provides oversight on counter-terrorism programs, Mr. Obama said he and Congress need to find a way "to also make sure that the public understands what's going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are."

The government recently took a big step toward allowing drones over U.S. skies. The Federal Aviation Administration solicited proposals to create six drone test sites around the U.S. The agency also issued a draft plan designed to ensure privacy from the aircraft.

When questioned about gun control, the president defended his proposals to ban certain weapons and bullet magazines and expand background checks on gun buyers.

Also during the online discussion, Mr. Obama criticized Republican senators for stalling the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. The Senate came up short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural obstacle.

Another question for the president asked him to reflect on how being raised in Hawaii influenced him. Mr. Obama called the islands a melting pot, saying he was exposed to different cultures and the climate is conducive to good health.

"The weather is nice all the time," he said. "That kind of chills you out."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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