Politics & Policy

Who Gives Two Cents About Two Bucks?

A monetary home for the Gipper.

Amid front-page articles in the past few weeks on Iraq and Laci Peterson was passing mention that the two-dollar bill might be reissued. While certainly not earth shattering in its implications, it does provide conservatives with a prime opportunity.

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, it was 1776 when the two-dollar bill was first introduced by the Continental Congress for “bills of credit for the defense of America.” A portrait of Thomas Jefferson was chosen to adorn the bill.

In 1963, the two-dollar bill was reissued, this time with Jefferson on the front and Monticello on the back. To commemorate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, the two- dollar bill was again reissued with the Gilbert Stuart rendition of Jefferson on its face and John Trumbull’s “Signing of the Declaration of Independence” on the reverse.

If the bill is under consideration to be reissued yet again, let’s put Ronald Reagan on its face.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and chairman of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, correctly observed in a speech some years ago that liberals advance their agenda in three time zones — the present, the future, and the past. In other words, liberals not only fight for their causes in the here and now, but also spend a great deal of time rewriting history.

For many years now, the Left has attempted to smear the legacy of the Reagan years and has enjoyed some degree of success. The Reagan years should be credited with the economic prosperity of the ’80s, the return to greatness after a national malaise at home, and the fall of Communism abroad. But to read some of the history books in today’s classrooms, the fall of the Berlin Wall could be more attributable to a masonry problem than the Reagan doctrine of “peace through strength.”

Liberals have successfully named scores federal buildings, highways, schools, and roads after their icons. How many cities lack a John F. Kennedy Middle School? The sheer numbers of stationary objects named for leftists is breathtaking.

There will be naysayers, of course. Many insist that one must be in the next world to be honored in this one. Not so in the state of Byrd, er, West Virginia. So far, anything nailed down in Byrd’s home state has been tattooed, engraved, chiseled, or painted with Senator Robert Byrd’s name.

For that matter, many living members of Congress with far fewer notable accomplishments than Ronald Reagan have their names on a variety of federal buildings, streets, and schools.

Other critics would carp about replacing Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. This could be quite fun, actually. Imagine the conundrum this proposition would put liberals in having to defend Jefferson — someone they have spent the last several years portraying as the evil southern, white, slave owner.

With the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaching, a Reagan two-dollar bill could provide a fitting tribute for the man who ended the Cold War by crushing the “Evil Empire,” returned our nation to fiscal stability, and restored our national pride.

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, as of February 28, 1999, there was $1,166, 091,458 in two-dollar bills in circulation. That creates a lot of opportunity to be reminded of Reagan’s contribution to freedom.

Ironically, my first encounter with a two-dollar bill was in 1968. Ivy Baker Priest, who was the secretary of the treasury under Eisenhower, had returned to California and was successfully elected treasurer during Governor Reagan’s tenure. Priest attended many a state treasurers’ convention and befriended my father, a vice president with Security Pacific National Bank.

Apparently, Ivy Baker Priest was a teetotaler who avoided the many cocktail parties and receptions that were the hallmark of these conventions. Instead, she would babysit me while my parents enjoyed the festivities and then join them later for the dinners and banquets.

In what has to be a cosmic sign, the other day I ran across the signed two-dollar bill given to me by Ivy Baker Priest a lifetime ago.

Certainly this signed bill is a nifty piece of family history to pass on to my young sons. But to be quite honest, I’d rather pass on a two-dollar bill with Ronald Reagan’s portrait on its face. I’d explain to the lads that once upon a time in this country we checked the calendar to see if it was an even or an odd day to purchase gasoline for our cars, taxes and inflation were eroding our economy, Communism was spreading, and we faced a very real nuclear nightmare. At the very least, for my two cents, Ronald Reagan is worth commemorating on two bucks.

Kay R. Daly is spokesperson for the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary and a recent recipient of the American Conservative Union’s Ronald Reagan award.


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