GOP Debates the New $10

By Matthew Wittman

The ongoing discussion about changing the personages who grace US currency is one that we have covered before (here,  here, and here). This spring, the Women on 20s movement effectively sparked a renewed national discussion about the lack of women on US currency (beyond of course the lightly-circulated Sacagewa dollar coin). Although the goal of that campaign was to replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill, in June Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew made a surprise announcement that the ten-dollar bill, which was already in the process of being redesigned, would feature a woman. The rather general message was simply that a “notable woman” would feature on the bill and the American public was asked to share its ideas about who it might be here. Despite this solicitation for public feedback, the decision will ultimately be made by Jack Lew and opposition to removing Alexander Hamilton at this point seems moot.

The tremendous response to the announcement and discussions about the varied possibilities have been ongoing. The winner of the popular Women on 20’s poll was Harriet Tubman, with Eleanor Roosevelt coming in a close second. The poll we ran here on Pocket Change was won by Amelia Earhart, with Helen Keller just behind. Anecdotally, the name I have most often heard is Rosa Parks. In short, it seems like there are a number of different possibilities and it has been heartening to see this numismatic issue enliven the public interest. It was also fascinating to see it addressed at last night’s GOP debate on CNN. Although moderator Jake Tapper condescendingly introduced it is a “lighthearted” topic, he asked the Republican candidates directly: “What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?”

Their responses were interesting and the video below is cued to the segment if you would like to watch:

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Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump rather lamely suggest their wife, mother, and daughter respectively. Jeb Bush looks to conservative icon Margaret Thatcher while John Kasich sees Mother Theresa as an inspiration, though neither would seem to be appropriate for US currency. Of the more considered responses, Mario Rubio advocates for Rosa Parks as “an everyday American that changed the course of history.” Citing his own work with the Red Cross, which she of course helped found, Scott Walker puts forward Clara Barton. Chris Christie observes that “our country wouldn’t be here without John Adams, and he would not have been able to do it without Abigail Adams.” It was somewhat surprising to me that the only candidate who did not accept a change as a fait accompli (perhaps because of the way the question was framed) was Carly Fiorina. Fiorina seems to think the proposed change is a meaningless “gesture” and does not “think it helps to change our history,” linking her opposition to her feeling that “women are not a special interest group.” 

The range of responses show just how compelling and open the question of whose portrait will feature on the new ten-dollar bill is at present. And it is a discussion that we will continue to follow with interest here on Pocket Change.

Matthew Wittmann

Excerpt from the full transcript (via Time) is below the fold:

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN’s Republican Presidential Debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. We have a few last questions for you. Two of them a little lighthearted, the other one more serious. We’ll start with one of the more light questions. Senator Paul, I’m going to start with you and we’re just going to go down the line.

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department announced that a woman will appear on the $10 bill. What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?

PAUL: Ooh, that’s a tough one. You know, I’m big on — that we were — and I love what Carly said about women’s suffrage. I think Susan B. Anthony might be a good choice.

TAPPER: Governor Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: That’s an easy one. I’d put my wife on there.


I’ve been married to her 41 years. She’s fought cancer and lived through it. She’s raised three kids, five great grandkids, and she’s put up with me. I mean, who else could possibly be on that money other than my wife. And that way, she could spend her own money with her face.


TAPPER: Senator Paul (sic).

RUBIO: Senator Rubio, you mean?

TAPPER: I’m sorry. Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: I know we all look alike.


TAPPER: Just the senators.

RUBIO: The — Rosa Parks, an everyday American that changed the course of history.

TAPPER: Senator Cruz?

CRUZ: Well, I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, I’d change the $20. I’d take Jackson off and I’d leave Alexander Hamilton right where he is as one of our Founding Fathers.


And I very much agree with Marco that it should be Rosa Parks. She was a principled pioneer that helped change this country, helped remedy racial injustice, and that would be an honor that would be entirely appropriate.

TAPPER: Dr. Carson?

CARSON: I’d put my mother on there. You know, she was one of 24 children, got married at age 13, had only a third grade education, had to raise two sons by herself, refused to be a victim. Wouldn’t let us be victims, and has been an inspiration to many people.


TAPPER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Well, because she’s been sitting for three hours, I think my daughter, Ivanka, who’s right here.


TRUMP: Other than that we’ll go with Rosa Parks. I like that.

TAPPER: Governor Bush.

BUSH: I would go with Ronald Reagan’s partner, Margaret Thatcher. Probably illegal, but what the heck?


BUSH: Since it’s not going to happen. A strong leader is what we need in the White House, and she certainly was a strong leader that restored the United Kingdom into greatness.

TAPPER: Governor Walker. WALKER: First of all, I got to say to Carson, Huckabee, thanks a lot for making the rest of us look like chumps up here, but, I’d pick Clara Barton. I once worked for the American Red Cross, she was a great founder of the Red Cross.

TAPPER: Mrs. Fiorina.

FIORINA: I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it’s a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history. What I would think is that we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group. Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation, and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.


TAPPER: Governor Kasich.

KASICH: Well, it’s probably not, maybe, legal, but, I would pick Mother Theresa, the lady that I had a chance to meet, a woman who lived a life so much bigger than her own. An inspiration to everyone when we think about our responsibility to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

TAPPER: Governor Christie.

CHRISTIE: I think the Adams family has been shorted in the currency business. Our country wouldn’t be here without John Adams, and he would not have been able to do it without Abigail Adams, so, I’d put Abigail Adams on the bill.