The current currency face-off

By Former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” That prose by William Shakespeare over 400 years ago was in reference to a life or death decision from Hamlet. In 2015 the same question is being posed about Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson. This one deals with banishment! The United States Secretary of the Treasury has declared that it is time to have a woman’s face on American paper currency, and he is 100 percent correct. The question is which denomination, and consequently which American icon’s visage will be deleted in the year 2020.

Secretary Lew has said that it should be Alexander Hamilton who has graced the ten dollar bill for so many years. Others have weighed in saying drop Andrew Jackson from the twenty dollar bill to make way for a woman. Interesting debate.

Most Americans cannot say exactly who Hamilton was and why he was essential to the founding of our fledgling republic. As for Jackson, many remember he was a President, but few can say in what years, or what he accomplished. So who is gonna get the hook?

Without going into the merits of either American legend and the whys and wherefores of their relative fame, let me suggest a different approach. Why do we have to choose at all? Whichever one is chosen for extinction will cause an endless debate and no doubt hurt feelings. I can imagine that the kinfolk of Tennessee will howl if their favorite son is yanked and likewise some folks in New York will not take kindly to seeing Mr. Hamilton get bounced. And surely we have better things to argue and angst about. So I say again why do we need to choose at all?

So let’s think out of the box. The answer is quite simple…in fact there are two answers. Where is it written that a twenty dollar bill or a ten or any other can only be printed with one person representing that paper currency? Why can we not print some bills with Hamilton and some bills with another person, say Rosa Parks or Eleanor Roosevelt?

Or if you don’t care for that idea why not print a new denomination of seventy-five dollar bills or two hundred dollar bills? I know that we tried to have a one dollar coin some years ago with Susan B. Anthony on that metal. The reason why that did not work out is that not only do people carry less cash around these days, but they really hate coins. They are too bulky and make too much noise. But paper money is here to stay even if credit and debit cards are used in increasing frequency. If I want $450 in my wallet, would I rather have nine fifties or six seventy-fives? I for one would take the six bills so that my wallet does not bulge so much.

I also have no objection to going to the bank and getting one hundred dollars in cash with five old Hamilton tens and five crisp new lady tens. So really don’t we have better things to worry about over the next five years? And oh by the way how did Ulysses S. Grant evade the great currency face off debate?

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