March 3rd, 2010
01:01 PM ET
4 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. Anonymous

    I think it would be more appropriate to put Regan on a larger bill, such as one representing $1000. Honoring Regan on a larger bill would be much more representative of his economic philosophy. Wealthy individuals would use the large bills, and smaller denominations would then trickle down to others.

    March 3, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  2. Anthony

    Awww they should give him the $3 bill, Reagan actually increased taxes and tripled the national debt, and the country is poorer for it. Those are facts overlooked in the rewriting of history. He was a great comunicator and everyone knew where he stood, he compromised with the dems, which is totally contrary of the conservative thinking today, which is completely arrogant. Giving him the $50 bill makes him out to be more then he was. Good president but not great. If there was no gorbachev the soviet union would still most likely exist.

    March 3, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Jim In Washington

    Reagan was non compus when he was alive, and an unpleasant memory now that he isn't. The "facts" aduced to support this plan are even sorrier than the plan itself. Maybe someone put something in Mr. McHenry's tea?

    March 3, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  4. Lacrosse Mom (the real one)

    Mr. Regan was one of the best leaders this country has had in a long time. God Bless him. Our current head of state could stand to take a page or two (or three, or four...) from his book.

    March 3, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. American Patriot

    Ah, a first i thought he was replacing Franklin. Now I realize that it's Grant– the general who saved the Union– who is to be replaced by this empty suit. My mistake. And America's mistake, if it ever happens.

    March 3, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  6. Patrick

    Not only no, but in the words of Congressman Bohner, "Hell No"

    We are Reaping what Regan has sown in the current financial crisis and now we want to put him on our currency? That's beyond stupid. I'd sooner put Milton Friedman on the 50 than Regan. At least Friedman's ideas had some backing and he stuck to them, even if I don't agree with them.

    Get it straight, Neocons: Regan was NOT a great president. He incited Americans to go to war with each other in the name of Social Darwinism and the definition of God while Grant put an end to the fight that threatened to rip America apart.

    March 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Aristotle

    I think the $1,000 dollar bill would be much more appropriate! Given the history that Regan's dismanteling of regulations and safeguards led us to the present economic crisis and the shifting of wealth away from the middle class into a much smaller percentage of the population. Perhaps Rep. McHenry has amnesia, Regan was no friend of democracy. Does he not remember Regan's subversion of our Constitution?

    March 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. Tulsa

    hey "American Patriot", before you call yourself something you are not, get a history lesson, or at least LOOK at a $50 bill. Moron.

    March 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  9. CTSadler

    Awww... The Carolinas... American politics new nuthouse.

    March 3, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. Jivetalkinphil

    I vote for George W Bush on the $4 bill, it was his favorite.

    March 3, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Zach K

    As a Democrat, I say go for it. Reagan was a more effective president than Grant ever was, and this would be a good tribute to the 40th President.

    It would be a "Well"thy Investment.

    March 3, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  12. Jo Ann

    This is absurd, and I don't agree, he already has an Airport named after him. It didn't earned that much for that honor, this is only one man's opinion. Take a poll, and let the Americans decide.

    March 3, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Treynor, Monroeville PA

    He is kidding right? This country still has not fully recovered from the eight dark years of Reagonomics and he wants to honor Mr "I don't remember" by putting his portrait on the fifty dollar bill. I didn't realize that they had legalized marijuana in North Carolina because he (and a lot of other republicans) must be smoking something other than tobacco. Hey guys don't be stingy, pass it along. Those of us still recovering from eight years of w and darth could use some relief.

    March 3, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. Brian

    Why not re-introduce larger currency... with inflation $100 (our max denomination) sure isn't what it used to be. Let's bring back the $500 bill and put Reagan on it.

    March 3, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  15. VO

    Can anyone take a guess at how much something like this would cost the tax payers to implement? I bet we could all do great things with that kind of money, or at least think of better ways to spend it. I bet even planning and proposing something like this has already cost more than most of us make in a year.

    And really, in the middle of a financial crisis, people out of work and these lawmakers want to spend their time and our money re-decorating the 50.00 bill?

    Where are all the financially smart politicians, we need them to help stop this kind of juvenile thinking. In this case they would let their Reagan fetish cost us money when we can least afford it. And I dont care who your dero is Democrat or Republican, this is not the time, grow up, get practical and make sacrificies like the rest of us have to.

    March 3, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  16. Jason from Jersey

    What is this unhealthy obsession with Ronald Reagan?

    March 3, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. Dar

    COME ON! Can we work on getting jobs back to the unemployed before we worry about such a stupid idea like this. How about instead of slapping ronnies face on the fiffty, why dont we just slap the stupid face of Patrick McHennry for bring up such a dumb idea while our country needs help.
    Both Dems and Repubs can be so short sited and self centered at times. I dont know how these people get elected. Just like Odumbo got elected i guess, stupid people voting on even dumber person that fooled us all.
    Think about what your next vote could mean people, look at the canidate for what they stand for or have stood for and then vote for what is right for the country. North Carolina should not even consider this dork next term. This guy is such a joke.Gezzzzzz

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    March 3, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. Jo Ann

    My mom, (god rest her soul) always said, "Reagan was a poor President as he was an Actor, he couldn't do neither right".

    March 3, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. Brian, NJ

    To American Patriot:

    Benjamin Franklin is on the $100 bill, not the $50. If you are such a patriot it would help if you knew some basic facts.

    March 3, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Pete

    It bears pointing out that Grant actually defeated an actual enemy on an actual battlefield. Reagan wasn't even President when the Soviet Union collapsed because the Afghan War destroyed its economy.

    March 3, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. Cynthia Slaughter

    Not sure if anyone remembers but Ronald Reagan is why we have a huge homless population today. When he cut all those social programs for poor people they were left homeless.

    March 3, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. janetlaw

    I guess I won't be using 50's then....

    March 3, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Kevin with the Indiana militia

    Over my dead body. Leave it up to a southerner & honest Abe will be next.

    March 3, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. noneofyourbusiness

    Rep. Patrick McHenry: "What a right-wing, partisan tool!"

    March 3, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Not deserving

    He may have been a nice enough guy but the man who made Sadaam Hussein "our dictator" selling weapons to him, engaging in talks when Rumsfield was liason. Deficit going up 8 billion dollars, lowering taxes for the rich. His trickle down economics definitely was that only the kind that runs down ones legs.

    March 3, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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