$10 vs. $20?

Points and Counterpoints

Point: Treasury says the only consideration in choosing bills for redesign is the level of counterfeiting threat, so the $10 trumps the $20 and the decision to redo the $10 was made in 2013 and work commenced.

Counterpoint: We can’t argue with security issues. 

Point: Treasury says aesthetic design and whose portraits are featured on the denominations is only a minor consideration. But Secretary Lew acknowledged in his announcement that our paper currency serves as an important symbol of what we stand for as a society.

Counterpoint:  Exactly. Because our money sends a message both at home and abroad about what and whom we value as a nation, we believe wholeheartedly that we have to get that message right, not just as an afterthought to a security overhaul, but in a calculated and timely way. Keeping an Andrew Jackson bill in wide circulation means we celebrate and elevate historic figures who used and condoned violence against personal enemies and populations of marginalized people.

An Alexander Hamilton bill is a beacon for unity, inclusion and prosperity. Even so, does it make sense to celebrate the centennial of women’s political empowerment by having her share a bill with a man, no matter how virtuous he is? We don’t think so. It conveys the message that women are not important enough or independent enough to have a bill of their own. 

Point: The process of securing our currency against counterfeiters is an immense challenge and one shrouded in great secrecy. Entirely new technologies and machinery are invented in the effort to imbue each bill with unique overt and covert features that would be difficult to replicate.

Counterpoint: Perhaps if it was urgent enough, resources could be marshaled to accelerate the research and testing and even tackle two bills at once. If not, why doesn’t the Treasury Secretary announce immediately intentions for removing Jackson from the $20 and a deadline for doing so?

Point: Treasury is required by law to perfect a new tactile feature for paper currency that will aid the visually impaired and it is two years into development and testing. The $20, they say, would have been a poor choice for experimentation because it is much more widely circulated than the $10 (4:1) and must endure repeated abuse from ATM rollers and compression.

Counterpoint: Shouldn’t the bill that gets the most punishing use be the first to pass the test? The $20, after all, will eventually be a tactile bill. Make it first in line. Besides, if it is going to take 10 years to invent new security features for each denomination, it will be 60 years before the visually impaired will truly be able to distinguish every bill in their wallets from one another. By the same token, who knows how long it will be before Andrew Jackson is retired in favor of a better role model – male or female. Are we willing to wait 10 or 20 years?