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EDITORIAL: E pluribus Reagan

The president who won the Cold War deserves a greenback

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The Treasury Department loves redesigning our money. A new $20 bill began circulating a decade ago, the $10 was changed in 2006, and the $5 was modified in 2008. In October, Ben Franklin will grace a new $100 that includes features that are supposed to make the work of counterfeiters harder.

If the Treasury wants to change things, maybe it's time to put a new president on the paper. In a poll released last week, CBS News and Vanity Fair magazine posed an interesting question: Which recent chief executive deserves the honor of a place on the currency?

Ronald Reagan was the runaway favorite, with 38 percent. President Obama took 19 percent, but the questions were asked in April before the blizzard of scandals littered the landscape. He may yet sink to single digits. Bill Clinton scored 15 percent and Jimmy Carter 11 percent. The two George Bushes finished out of the money.

The Gipper's smiling visage has already graced two U.S. postage stamps, the first in February 2005, soon after the 40th president's death in June 2004, the second in 2011. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Mr. Reagan's death, so putting him on the money would be a timely tribute to the man who pulled the country back together, the economy and the military back from the brink, won the Cold War and brought down the Berlin Wall without firing a shot. Best of all, he restored American pride in the country. His sunny "Morning in America" replaced Mr. Carter's dour "malaise."

Nobody wants to evict George Washington from his place on the dollar bill, or Thomas Jefferson from the $2 (which has never caught on anyway, except at racetracks), Abraham Lincoln from the $5, Alexander Hamilton (the first Treasury secretary) from the $10, or Benjamin Franklin from the $100 note. Putting the Gipper on the $100 would require "the street" to no longer conduct its business in "Benjamins," but deal out "Ronalds." Bills bigger than the $100 note are no longer in circulation, but the $500 bill could be revived with Mr. Reagan replacing William McKinley, a sound-money Republican replacing a sound-money Republican.

A $500 bill with the Gipper on it would be a useful reminder of how things used to be, even if only a few of us would ever get to see one.

The Washington Times

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