Why Harriet Tubman May Not Be On The $20 Bill After All
“It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment," says Steven Mnuchin.
In 2016, President Barack Obama and then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew put forth a proposal to replace President Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill, making the abolitionist the first woman and the first African American on U.S. paper currency.
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After the announcement, many were looking forward to dropping Tubmans. Now, we may not have the chance to.According to the Chicago Tribune, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stated that he hasn't decided whether or not to implement Lew's plan.
The secretary says this is because he does not deem the Obama administration's plan a priority.
"Ultimately we will be looking at this issue," Mnuchin told CNBC. "It's not something I'm focused on at the moment."
Mnuchin's boss, Donald Trump, is a big fan of Andrew Jackson, so it is unlikely that the secretary will face any executive pressure to hurry up and make up his mind.
"Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it's very rough when you take somebody off the bill," Trump said last year. "I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination."
The president has also called Lew's plan nothing more than "pure political correctness."
Andrew Jackson's "great history," of course, is one of ardent support for slavery, the execution and forced relocation of Native Americans and the introduction of partisan politics to the national stage through the spoils system.
Ironically, Jackson also hated what was then the Bank of the United States, and held paper money in disdain. He believed instead in gold, and even issued an executive order mandating that people who wanted to buy government land had to pay in gold or silver. This helped lead to the financial crisis now known as the Panic of 1837.
Given this, Jackson himself likely would have been more than happy to be removed from the $20, although he certainly would hate to see Tubman go up in his place.
Despite all of this, Mnuchin suggested that he sees little reason to break with tradition.
"People have been on the bills for a long period of time. And this is something we will consider. Right now, we've got a lot more important issues to focus on."
Finally, the secretary made it clear that any changes to the $20 or any other bill won't be done to get rid of white supremacists, but to stop crime.
"The number one issue why we change the currency is to stop counterfeiting. So the issues of what we change will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes. I've received classified briefings on that. And that's what I'm focused on for the most part," Mnuchin said.