Spend One for the Gipper

The obviously pre-orchestrated calls for the minting of U.S. currency affixed with the face of late President Ronald Reagan are designed to further induce a state of national amnesia about the Reagan legacy. With this monetary canonization we are asked to forget the Reagan administration’s secret wars; their lying to Congress; environmental destruction; the still-crippling levels of deficit spending on military programs; massive cuts to education, public health and mass transit; as well as the numerous attacks on the poor and defenseless in the name of compassion.

The most popular proposals suggest that Reagan’s profile should replace Franklin D. Roosevelt’s on the dime or Alexander Hamilton’s on the ten dollar bill. But these suggestions fall short of the potential to appropriately commemorate President Reagan on U.S. currency.

To best honor the Reagan legacy I propose that the U.S. mint produce two versions of the one-hundred dollar bill. The first version would continue to bear the likeness of that great American Benjamin Franklin (if for no other reason than it might lead some future generation to read his wonderful autobiography and learn of his efforts to reestablish one of his lost fortunes by demonstrating swimming tricks in the Thames, or that he shamed the likes of Bill Gates by refusing to copyright the stove baring his name), while the second version would have the familiar scowling likeness of Ronald Wilson Reagan.

The treasury department could issue the Franklin notes to banks and other institutions engaging in privately funded enterprises, while the Reagan notes would be issued by the treasury department to all recipients of America’s military industrial funding. Once issued, both the Reagan and Franklin dollars could be spent anywhere and by anyone, but they would serve as visual markers of the extent to which the American budget is tied to military-corporate subsidies.

Downtown businesses in my community once stamped the bills in their registers with the words, “this dollar supports downtown merchants” in order to effectively proclaim their economic importance in the community.

But the issuing of the dual Franklin/Reagan bills could educate Americans about the costs of our record deficit spending on military and intelligence programs. The flood of these Dutch Dollars could create a state of cognitive dissonance among the throngs of Americans who have been led to think that America’s taxes are being predominantly spent on social welfare programs not military-industrial programs. The Reagan military-industrial-C-notes could help commemorate Reagan’s lasting contribution while simultaneously educating Americans of the devastating extent of his legacy of military industrial corporate welfare schemes.

I’d be willing to consider other variations on this general theme, including issuing Reagan Dollars as payment to those on all forms of corporate welfare, or even better, issuing Reagan dollars as payment for the U.S. Black Budget-this is perhaps the best tribute to the Gipper given his devotion to expanding this portion of federal spending.

One benefit of this approach would be that when a sitting President was discovered to be issuing high levels of Black-Budget-Gipper notes their indiscretion could be politely overlooked just as Reagan’s was by adapting to their own use his wonderful hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar-statement that, “a few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” This model sentence could honor the Reagan legacy by providing a Teflon shield for the exposed covert actions of future administrations.

Someday, as Reagan Black Budget Dollars flood the economy, we can hear future presidents argue that, they didn’t know they were funding death squads, secret wars, or the development of foreign WMD programs or the subversion of elections-and all will be forgiven and forgotten with the utterance of Reagan’s magic words.

DAVID PRICE teaches anthropology at St. Martin’s College in Olympia, Washington. His latest book, Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBI’s Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists has just been published by Duke University Press. He can be reached at: dprice@stmartin.edu

David Price is professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University. His latest book is The American Surveillance State: How the U.S. Spies on Dissent, published this month by Pluto Press.