Monday, June 07, 2004

Sound as a Dollar

Former President Reagan passed on this weekend after a long bout with Alzhiemers, and I wish his family and friends the best while realizing that we all must shake our fleshy shackles and pass on as does all flesh. To some degree I owe the course of my career to Mr. Reagan. Were it not for crummy economy of the first two years of his administration, and the gutting of environmental regulations, I might have remained an employed civil engineer specializing in air pollution equipment, and the world would be spared my literary work (but Reagan did some good things, too, so don't be too harsh on him for unleashing me on an unsuspecting world).

The media has been fun to watch all through this, trying to report relatively truthfully about Grenada and Iran-Contra without ticking off the hardcore believers who place RWWR next to FDR in the presidential pantheon. Indeed, there seems to be that sort of over-sensitivity normally ascribed to liberals in the right's protection of the man and his legacy - just waiting for someone to step out of line. The Murdoch press is even going so far to cast aspersions on the Kerry Camp for their blatantly political decision to cede the field for the week and not campaign. So from media there has been a head-nod to truth and pleasant rounding-up of the facts, which I think all of us hope to enjoy once we've passed on. The Berlin Wall fell on his watch, people, give him a break!

And there's a sharp intake of breath that, now that he has left the mortal coil, there will be the onslaught of memorial suggestions for the Gipper. While living, Reagan saw Washington's National Airport named after him - a irony, given that he replaced striking air traffic controllers and Reagan National has one of the nastiest flight approaches in the nation. There are folk who talk seriously about renovating Mt Rushmore for one more face. And there are those driving for putting him on money.

And the last one I whole-heartedly endorse. I can't find a lot of source about who makes the decision of who goes on our coins and currency, but the end results have not been promising.

In coins, there is no argument about Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, the most-popular and lowest-denominations. The FDR dime has been a bit weird (I like the Mercury myself), but Roosevelt was just as charismatic and just as polarizing as Reagan (back in my father's day, Republicans and Democrats celebrated Thanksgiving on different dates, so deep was the national division). The Kennedy half-dollar was a bit overlarge, but spawned in good intentions out a national mourning. The Eisenhower dollar was a manhole cover of a coin, the Suzy B was mistaken for a quarter, and the Saquajawea was pretty and golden, but tarnished quickly. A Reagan dollar coin would be a good thing, and if anyone can make the dollar coin work, it would be Ron Reagan.

In the paper money, again, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln have places held for them. Hamilton was not a president, but he was the first treasury secretary, and the only one most folk will remember, and has the support of most surviving Federalists. Grant was another Republican with a scandal-ridden administration, so we can't say that either fact keeps you out of the running. And Franklin on the hundred - yeah, I'm good with that. Even though he's not a dead president.

[Everything over a 100 is not really in circulation, though they supposedly exist. Larger denominations were moved out of circulation during WWII to keep counterfeiting at bay, and the practice continues to reduce use of untraceable large denomination bills. Besides, we have a lot of (sorry guys) second-tier stars and trivia-question answers at the upper levels, which makes me wonder how they got there - McKinley, Cleveland, Madison (OK, so he's due), Salmon P Chase (no, I'm not making that up) and briefly, Woodrow Wilson. I think we can safely say Reagan rises above this group.]

My personal candidate for a Reagan bill would be the twenty, currently occupied by Andrew Jackson. One of our more "colorful" presidents, he is most famous for the "Trail of Tears" which led to Oklahoma. After that, you're into his destruction of the Bank of the United States for memorable events, and then on to folksy anecdote. And admit it, who would be better for folksy anecdotes than the Gipper?

One killer argument is that twenties are already called "Yuppie Food Stamps", since they are the most common bill in the upper-class wallet (and will usually cover a meal for two). The Yuppies were also a spawn of eighties, and connect strongly with the former president's era. Its a match made in heaven.

So I'm going to put my recommendation forward - put the Gipper on Twenty. He'd be an improvement, and it wouldn't be on some bill that we wouldn't use. Let's give the man a real memorial!

More later,