A Dimeís Worth of Difference
By John D. Turner
10 Dec 2003

Another idea whoís time has not come from the Republican Congress. Letís take FDR off the dime, and replace him with Ronald Reagan! So who exactly was the idiot who thought this one up, sure to anger and alienate Democratic voters prior to the Presidential election?

Do the Republicans have people staying up late at night thinking up stupid stuff? Donít get me wrong. I think the idea of having Ronald Reagan on a piece of American currency is a great idea. I believe history will show him to be one of the greatest presidents in the Nationís history. But there remains the problem that unless we invent another coin (or bill), we have to kick someone off in order to put him on.

And of course, there is the lesser problem that he is, in fact, still alive. We normally donít do such things until after the person being memorialized is actually dead, although we have already broken this unwritten rule in the case of Reagan by naming a Nimitz class aircraft carrier after him. (Perhaps having Alsheimers is close enough to dead as not to matter.) Some would think that this, and the plethora of ďRonald ReaganĒ high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools across the country would be sufficient.

So letís seeÖif we were going to kick a dead president off a coin, who would it be? It canít be Washington, Jefferson, or Lincoln, even though they are each also represented on paper money. (Although Jefferson is on the two, which isnít really what could be called high-demand currency.) To even suggest that a modern president (particularly a conservative Republican) would be of similar stature to one of these giants of history is certainly premature. Maybe 50 years from now, if he stands the test of time. So that cuts out the penny, nickel, and quarter, leaving only the dime, and the half-dollar. And no one uses the half-dollar; it isnít even struck as a circulation piece anymore. So by process of elimination, that leaves the dime.

And it has FDR on it, the architect of the ďNew DealĒ, the founder of the modern welfare state, and a Democrat to boot. What better target for conservative Republicans?

This was all so much simpler when we put other than dead presidents on our currency. Changing a design wasnít so hard then. No oneís feathers got all ruffled when all we did was change a pretty picture.

But wait! We do still have a coin in search of a head! We still have a coin without a dead president adorning its obverse, at least since we kicked Ike off of it in 1979. That would be the dollar coin, graced, in its new smaller size first by Susan B. Anthony, and more recently by Sacagawea. Of course, itís also been a coin in search of an audience, but perhaps by adorning it with the likeness of the Gipper, we can breathe some life into its popularity with the American public.

There will still be a segment of the population that objects. The Democrats wonít like it, simply because Reagan was a Republican (and a turncoat Democrat), and the Liberals wonít like it because they donít like Ronald Reagan. Of course, this is to be expected, and would occur even if you made up a new coin, say a 2-cent piece (which we used to have). The feminists wonít like it as they will see it as an infringement on the only ďfemaleĒ coin, albeit of limited popularity, in the fiscal arsenal. Besides, Hillary probably imagines that position for herself sometime after her triumphal eight years in office (assuming she canít get the amendment limiting the term to eight repealed during her administration).

Actually, the Republicanís probably wouldnít like this suggestion, as it would seem to be relegating Reagan to the dusty recesses of a coin little used and ill-regarded.

Still, itís better that the half-dollar.

I personally find the dollar coin, in its present form, to be extremely useful. Twenty-five dollarís worth can be concentrated in a very small roll, and can be pealed off, one by one as needed like a roll of lifesavers. Unlike the Susan B version, it can easily be distinguished in oneís pocket by feel, and there is no danger of accidentally passing one as a quarter. It removes the necessity of pulling out oneís wallet for a purchase of a couple bucks, and it is handy to have around when on a toll road, or when leaving a tip at a restaurant. It is a fiscally responsible coin, with an average lifetime of 30 years (or longer, considering the amount of use they actually get) vs 18 months for a dollar bill. And you donít have to worry about drug residue on one; itís impossible to roll one up to use it for snorting cocaine.

The argument that dollar coins wonít get used is a specious one. Simply make the coins and eliminate the dollar bill. That eliminates the choice. Problem solved. What are people going to do, refuse to spend money? I doubt it. This would also be a good excuse to reinstate the two dollar bill. In fact, perhaps that would be a good place for Reaganís portrait to appear instead! Or you could switch Washington to the two, since you would be removing the one.

In any event, replacing FDR on the dime would, I believe, be a bad move; one that Nancy Reagan, to her credit, has disavowed. I doubt that Mr. Reagan, were he in full charge of his faculties, would approve either. Which makes this move by Republicans seem even sillier on the face of it. Why agitate for something that the object of the agitation would object to, were he able to do so in the first place?

Canít congressional Republicans find something better to do with their time? Like reeling in their Presidentís runaway spending spree on domestic entitlement programs like prescription drugs? Come to think of it, somewhat Rooseveltesce, donít you think?