It’s not often that one can take issue with the argument that Barack Obama is needlessly dividing the country, but this might be the exception. The US Treasury has decided to honor Harriet Tubman, the woman who helped innumerable slaves escape to freedom, by putting her face on the $20 bill, replacing President Andrew Jackson. Right now, more people are concerned about finding their next $20 bill than are emotionally invested on whose face will be peering back at them when they get it. Greta van Susteren, however, argues that Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew are dividing the country between … whom, exactly? The legions of Tubman and Jackson fans?
Fox’s Greta Van Susteren ended her show tonight by going on a mini-rant about how the government is “dividing the country” by putting Harriet Tubman on the $20.
Yes, Van Susteren tonight said the Obama administration “went stupid” by creating a “completely unnecessary fight” by kicking Andrew Jackson off the bill.
For my money (heh), the decision to put Tubman on the $20 made a lot more sense than kicking Alexander Hamilton off of the $10, although he may end up sharing that denomination in the future. Hamilton founded the US financial system and belongs on our currency more than most. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln tower over the rest of America’s presidents in history, and speak to the character of this nation. Benjamin Franklin was our founding philosopher and foreign-affairs genius who helped secure our independence. Everyone else is negotiable, including Jackson and Tubman.
Besides, we’ve honored Jackson for many years on the currency. Why should allowing others to share some honor be controversial, especially someone as storied and inspirational as Tubman? Don’t forget that Jackson’s image wasn’t the first to grace the $20, as David Frum reminded us today:
Not to draw invidious contrasts, but Buffalonians took it like men when Cleveland came off the 20 pic.twitter.com/GLSVbD7fEE
— David Frum (@davidfrum) April 21, 2016
Van Susteren had a suggestion as to how the Obama administration could have avoided “dividing the country”:
Give Tubman her own bill. Like a $25 bill. We could use a $25 bill. Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate. That’s the smart and easy thing to do. But no, some people don’t think and would gratuitously stir up conflict in the nation. That is so awful, and yes, dumb.
Well, that’s been tried — remember the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin? It flopped, as people couldn’t easily distinguish it from quarters and thought it was contrived. That cost the Treasury a lot of Jacksons, as they ended up with 520 million surplus coins after halting production in 1981. A $25 bill would be even more contrived, and it would end up creating more work in retail stores, banks, and so on in separate handling of the currency from $20s and $50s.
Some may object to the change and defend Jackson, and some others may argue that Jackson didn’t deserve the honor in the first place too. It’s an interesting, if esoteric, argument. Most of the country will remain much more interested in their ability to acquire $20s and keep the government from getting them back. On that score, the Obama administration’s class-warfare policies have certainly divided the country, and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton promise more of the same. Maybe we should save the outrage for where it actually matters.
Addendum: For what it’s worth, I haven’t heard any complaints from conservatives about this change yet, although I’ve been traveling a lot the last two weeks. I heard more when it came to the question of replacing Hamilton.