If you were hoping to get paid in Tubmans any time soon, you’re better off not holding your breath.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked in an interview with CNBC’s Steve Leisman today whether or not he supported the Obama-era proposal to replace former president Andrew Jackson with abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Mnuchin gave a long-winded deferral.
“Ultimately we will be looking at this issue. It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment,” he said. “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.”
Yeesh. What a long-winded way of saying “Nah, not really.” Is it any wonder Maxine Waters wanted to reclaim her time from this dude?
Liesman, aware that he just got washed down with 22 seconds of a complete non-answer, pressed Mnuchin.
“But surely there are cultural aspects to decisions we make as to who’s on what bills, right?” Leisman asked.
“Again, people have been on the bills for a long period of time, this is something we’ll consider.” said Mnuchin. “Right now we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”
As Think Progress reports, the proposal to replace Jackson with Tubman was first made by the Obama administration in April 2016. Under the proposed changes, the $10 bill would also be altered. Alexander Hamilton would remain on one side of the bill, while a collection of notable suffragettes, including Susan B. Anthony, would be added to the other side.
Currently, there are no women or people of color on any U.S. paper currency.
Jackson has become an increasingly polarizing figure, especially as the face of the $20 bill. He first appeared on the bill in 1928, replacing Grover Cleveland. Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ulysses S. Grant—who appear on the $1, $2, and $50 bills, respectively—Jackson owned slaves. He also profited off their labor. But an extra stain on Jackson’s presidential legacy is his treatment of Native Americans. He was an enthusiastic champion of America’s Indian removal policy, a brutal displacement of Native people from their land that led to atrocities like the Trail of Tears.
But according to The Washington Post, no one is quite sure why Jackson was chosen to appear on the $20 in the first place, though the paper notes that he was a “more of a populist figure, seen as a ‘champion of the working class against the business community.’”
How sweet that renowned champion of the working class Mnuchin—the man whose bank, OneWest, had earned him the title “foreclosure king”—should be the one reclaiming the $20 bill for Jackson.
The $20 bill won’t be reissued until 2030, so Tubman wouldn’t have even appeared on the bill for another 13 or so years. And that decision, as Think Progress noted, could always be reversed by a Treasure secretary. While Mnuchin didn’t explicitly rule out the possibility of diversifying the faces on our money, he’s clearly in no rush to diminish the value of important white men.