March 3rd, 2010
01:01 PM ET
5 years ago

Lawmaker moves to put Reagan on the $50 bill

Could Reagan overtake Grant on the $50?
Could Reagan overtake Grant on the $50?

(CNN) – Should Ulysses S. Grant, the legendary Union general and 18th president of the United States, be bumped from his 96-year stint on the $50 bill?

Yes, according to one North Carolina Republican.

Rep. Patrick McHenry announced that he will introduce a measure that would replace Grant’s face with Ronald Reagan's, just in time for the 40th president's 100th birthday next February.

"President Reagan was a modern day statesman, whose presidency transformed our nation's political and economic thinking," McHenry said in a statement. "Through both his domestic and international policies he renewed America's self confidence, defeated the Soviets and taught us that each generation must provide opportunity for the next."

McHenry says it's only logical for Reagan to replace Grant on the $50 because several historians have ranked Reagan as a much better president than Grant. McHenry specifically cites a 2005 Wall Street Journal survey of scholars who placed Reagan at No. 6 and Grant at No. 29.

"Every generation needs its own heroes," McHenry also said. "One decade into the 21st century, it's time to honor the last great president of the 20th and give President Reagan a place beside Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy."

Franklin Roosevelt's face currently appears on the dime while John F. Kennedy's image is on the half-dollar.

But not so fast, says Dr. John Marszalek, the executive director and managing editor of the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

Calling him a "beacon" of the 19th century, Marszalek said Grant deserves to keep his prominent spot on America's currency.

"His work in battling against inflation and getting the currency on stable footing opened the way for the economy boom of the late 19th century, Marszalek told CNN. "I don't know why he wouldn't be included, except people forget - it’s been a long time."

Marszalek also named a host of other Grant accomplishments, including efforts to promote the rights of freed slaves and native Americans, as well as his post-presidency, two-year tour of the world during which he negotiated the settlement of a dispute between Japan and China.

But the Grant administration was also beset by major scandals - close to a dozen in all — which is a primary reason that Grant had difficulty working with Congress and why many modern historians continue to rank the 18th president relatively low.

Still, Marszalek says Grant's death in 1885 was a "national phenomena" and is "still the biggest funeral any American has had to this day."

Grant supporters can rest easy for now though - the future of the legislation is highly in doubt. It would first have to clear the House Financial Services Committee where at least one Democrat is already expressing his opposition to the move.

"History has made its verdict," Rep. Brad Sherman of California told CNN. "Reagan's policies are controversial. Grant was in favor of winning the Civil War and keeping the Union together. The currency is not a place to score cheap political points."

It's not the first time Republican lawmakers have sought to immortalize Reagan's image on American currency. In 2004, Rep. Mark Souder introduced legislation to put Regan on the dime in place of Roosevelt. Souder dropped the move after Nancy Reagan publicly opposed the measure.

In the years since Reagan's death, GOP lawmakers have also considered, though abandoned, legislation placing Reagan on the $10 bill, in place of Alexander Hamilton, and on the $20, in place of Andrew Jackson.

Ultimately, any change to the nation's currency would require majority votes in both houses of Congress, where Democrats maintain large majorities.


Filed under: Ronald Reagan
soundoff (200 Responses)
  1. Reny

    If they did this I would never use a $50 ever again. I dont want this old racist fool anywhere near me.

    March 3, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. Nimises

    Failed with trickle down economics, failed with Star Wars project, I'm not sure how he qualifies. I guess they will want Clinton on the two dollar bill.

    March 3, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Alan Brown

    Are you kidding me? The number one reason we are in a financial crises is Reagonomics and the lack of regulation begun in the 1980's. He receives too much credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union. They had been going bankrupt for years. Reagan can't hold Grant's jock stap!

    March 3, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. El Gordo

    Ulysses Grant, like Ronald Reagan, was one of the worst presidents in history. Reagan started the nation into its debt binge by increasing the national debt more than all other presidents before him combined – from Washington to Carter. Only two other presidents have increased the national debt more than Reagan, and both of them are named Bush.

    Reagan's administration was characterized by scandal. Reagan himself was in poor mental condition for most of his presidency. He made a complete fool of himself by investing billions in the phony "Star Wars" technology which never produced anything of merit. It was like buying the Brooklyn Bridge from a con-artist.

    Youngsters, do not believe this hype about Reagan. It is lying nonsense. I was alive then and I read the papers. Do some research before you fall for this line of bunk.

    I recommend that Reagan's picture be put on the trillion dollar bill to honor the first president who ever overspent by a trillion bucks or more.

    His only accomplishment was the invasion of Grenada, which is still a democracy.

    March 3, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. Cato

    Yes, let's honor the man who sold weapons to Saddam, bin Laden, and Iran by engraving his face on our currency. I wonder how many of our troops have died by the weapons Reagan sold to those respective clients.

    March 3, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. EIS

    Reagan does not deserve to be on Monopoly money! Most of the fiscal and financial problems that the US has is because of Reagan and the other Supply Side wingnuts. Remember, Cheney said it best "Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." Remember that when the Tea Baggers come out with their Taxed Enough Already signs. By the way, how much will it cost the taxpayer to change the design of the $50 bill? Think about it and then act if you wish. I can still opt out of accepting $50s.

    March 3, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. VernisRobertson

    For what ? He was a bad President . He broke all unions, ship jobs overseas , brought in illegal aliens to the U.S. tax cuts for the rich . His face would look better on a Food Stamp .

    March 3, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. Dumbasrocks [R]s

    Good. Then the $50 dollar bill will look like my toilet bowl. I see Ronnie every morning, and then I do to him what he did to the country.

    March 3, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Joe

    We don't have much of an attention span as a country, do we?

    Our economy is still in the gutter due to a crash made possible by financial deregulation- why are we talking about honoring the guy that started the whole "regulation is bad" narrative?

    March 3, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. T'SAH from Virginia

    Put his picture on the penny because in reality, he was only worth 2 CENTS!!! LOL

    March 3, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. CSD

    Are you kidding? Here is what should be printed on it:

    "The epitaph of the Reagan presidency will be: 'When Ronald Reagan became President, the United States was the largest creditor nation. When he left the presidency, we were the world's largest debtor nation.'"
    –Lester Thurow, MIT professor of economics

    Reagan – A american myth.

    March 3, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. Jim

    Where is the fiscal responsibility associated with creating engraving plates to make this change? There is a time and place for honoring, then there is the money to make it happen. Aren't there more economically sound means of honoring Reagan?

    March 3, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  13. jim atmadison

    The only thing currency-related that should have Ronald Reagan's picture on it is an IOU. Reaganomics destroyed much of the wealth of the middle class the first time around before Clinton managed to get things back under control. Reaganomics under Bush2 pretty much finished us off. He was a simply awful president, particularly in financial matters.

    March 3, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. KelleyPitt

    I dont know. As a democrat it is hard to say that I agreed with all of Ronald Reagan's economic/political moves, but he certianly is a great figure in American history, that can never be disputed. Considering the rough patch this country is going through currently, call me silly, but I think the last thing that a lawmaker should be concerned about is who is or is not on the $50 bill. If Rep. Sherman would pay more attention to the current issues at hand, i.e. trying to find some middle ground with his peers, this country would be alot better off.

    March 3, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  15. shadtree

    I wonder how much taxpayer money will have to be spent to put one of the people responsible for a lot of suffering, on a $50 dollar bill. Reagan was responsible for cutting a lot of deductions that working people were allowed and I had barely heard of homelessness until he became President.

    March 3, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. don

    If Reagan is on any bill it needs to be the $1,000 bill. something the regular person will never see.

    March 3, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. NVa Native

    After 50 years of the US and Russia waging the "cold war" it ended because of the economic collapse of Russia. To give credit to Regan because he was sitting in the oval office at the time is a disgusting display of arrogant politics.
    Charlie Wilson did much more to end the war by funding and arming the Afganistans when Russia invaded.
    Over-all Regan wasn't bad, but he wasn't this great statesman the Repubs want everyone to think he was – remember Ollie North lying under oath to the US Congress in his USMC uniform during Iran Contra "drug money for arms" trial – Ollie recieved three felony convictions, but was given retroactive immunity! Of course now he's where all politician criminals go – Fox media.
    We need to stop being the American Idiot and pay attention to our factual history, not the Fox neo-con fantasy world!

    March 3, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. republicans hate america

    why would he be placed on any bill? he was a terrible president. his philosophy of borrow and spend is why this country is in the gutter now.

    March 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. DS

    That loser deserves no glory. And for those of us who are DC-ers, it will never be Reagan Airport. It's National Airport.

    March 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  20. Bill

    Shouldn't we really put Nancy's picture there? After all, she was basically telling Ronney what to say and when to say it during Reagans last years in office.

    March 3, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. Harley, Las Vegas, NV

    NO WAY! If they're going to put his face on currency, the US treasury needs to make a $1,000 bill just for him. Because if he were still president that's what you'd need to buy a bottle of water!

    March 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. American Patriot

    Sorry, but Benjamin Franklin did more for this country. It would be a shame to replace Franklin– a renaissance man and one of the founders– for this empty suit.

    March 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Beth

    Wtih all due respect to the late Ronald Reagan, what's the point? How much would it cost the taxpayers to make a change like this? If it's something that people feel strongly about, why not at least wait till we've climbed out of this recession and have some "Grants" to burn. We just have so many more important things to deal with right now – like, er, maybe, health care??

    March 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. Robert

    Reagan did do some great things.... which is why it was appropriate that he have an international airport named after him in DC.

    But he came in with a 69 billion dollar deficit and left with it over 400 billion. He played a part in ending the cold war, but did not end it the way Republicans like to pretend he did.

    I truly believe President Carter was just as good a president or better (better in many ways). Most would disagree with me, but I believe history will support that view. He hasn't been given the credit he deserves..

    Anyway, he was an okay president. Frankly, so was Kennedy. Roosevelt (Teddy), Roosevelt (Franklin), Wilson and Truman were the really only great presidents of the 20th century. I'd rank Reagan, Carter, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Clinton on the near great list... Harding, Hoover and Bush II as the worst.....

    March 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  25. republicans hate america

    so with all the turmoil in congress going on right now this is all this lawmaker can come up with to solve the problems of this country?

    March 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
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