Maybe Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin is correct when he says the reason for delaying the long-planned Harriet Tubman $20 bill is that he has his hands full at the moment fighting counterfeiting. It’s possible, right? The same way it’s possible that Barack Obama was born in Kenya without knowing it, or the same way it’s possible that President Trump was denied a majority vote of the American people in 2016 because of rampant voting fraud.
In other words, hardly possible.
What is far more probable is that Trump’s notorious petulance kicked in — or at least Mnuchin thought it might, so he made sure the Tubman bill would not replace the Andrew Jackson bill until long after Trump is out of office, if ever.
Tubman was the ex-slave and abolitionist whose image was chosen to bump Jackson’s after an extensive public campaign to redesign the bill. The release date was to be next year, on the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment that acknowledged a woman’s right to vote.
Trump hated the idea. As a candidate, he branded it “pure political correctness,” sounding the dog whistle for his supporters uncomfortable with the notion that women and African-Americans were the equals of white males when it came to establishing this nation of equal justice under law.
The proper place for Tubman, Trump said, was not the $20, but the rarely used $2 bill. You know — out of sight, out of mind.
Besides, the plan for the new bill arose under Obama, and Trump appears to have a pathological need to undo anything his predecessor did, whether it be enacting the Affordable Care Act, combating climate change, protecting public land — or diversifying the nation’s currency.
The New York Times quoted senior Treasury officials as saying that Mnuchin was worried that Trump might cancel the Tubman bill altogether, so he opted to avoid the inevitable outcry by delaying the release of the bill from next year to 2028.
That will mean that Jackson, who led the deportation of Native Americans from their homes in the Eastern U.S. to Oklahoma and other territories, and to whom Trump compares himself, will continue to be in circulation without any competition as long as the current president is in office, even if he wins re-election next year.
It will also mean that for another eight years, the mini hall of fame that is the nation’s paper currency will continue to be exclusively white and exclusively male. That’s shameful. And it’s petty.