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Whose face should grace the $1 million bill?

Friday, October 23, 2009

David Reilly at Bloomberg has an interesting (and surprising) take on whose face might be best to grace a $1 million bill in the U.S., should the need arise. For obvious reasons, there was one particular favorite here at this blog and, based on the way the article was setting up, it looked good right up to the point where the surprise came.

Forty years ago, the U.S. government said the $100 bill would be the highest-denomination note. With the Federal Reserve now trying to print its way out of the financial crisis, it may be time to revisit that decision.

Reinstating $10,000 or $100,000 notes -- which existed in limited fashion years ago -- won’t cut it. In today’s, “Brother, can you spare a trillion dollars?” economy, we need to think bigger -- a $1 million bill may be in order.

And picking a person to grace this bill offers a unique opportunity to single out someone who has played a key role in the dollar’s downfall.
...
So whose face should adorn this new bill? Here are some candidates with the winner at the end.

-- Ben Bernanke: The Fed chairman, who once proposed that the central bank drop dollars from helicopters to avert a crisis, has to top anyone’s list of dollar debasers. Under him, the Fed has become the global lender of last resort and has printed money to prop up financial institutions and markets. All the while he has professed having the magical ability to quickly mop up all the excess dollars if and when inflation becomes a concern.
You can kind of see where this was going (at least in my mind) and why hopes were running high right at about this point in the story.

Here's the rest of the list with the surprise at the end.
-- Bernie Madoff: Plenty of folks believe the U.S. has become nothing short of a giant Ponzi scheme. It would only be fitting then to have the Ponzi King front the currency.

-- George W. Bush: By pushing through tax cuts even as he embarked upon wars in two countries, the second President Bush helped run up the federal deficit, which has helped to undermine the dollar.

-- Wen Jiabao: It may be time to acknowledge what seems to be China’s inevitable rise on the global stage. Chinese Premier Jiabo’s visage would also serve as a reminder that China has acted as the U.S.’s drug dealer for years, feeding America’s debt addiction.

-- Henry Paulson: How could the nation not put a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chairman on its currency, especially since the U.S. government is essentially a subsidiary of the investment bank.

-- Richard Nixon: In 1971, then President Nixon broke the last link between currencies and gold, saying the U.S. would no longer redeem dollars for gold. To many, this was the starting gun for the dollar’s decline.

-- Jay-Z: The rapper helped undermine the dollar’s street cred. In his video for “Blue Magic”, Jay-Z waved around 500 euro notes instead of flashing the Benjamins.

-- Barney Frank: The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is emblematic of legislators who care little about long-term, strategic policy, instead favoring short-term tactical politics that undermine any sort of discipline when it comes to fiscal policy.

-- Alan Greenspan: The former Fed chairman’s decision earlier this decade to keep interest rates too low for too long contributed to the credit and housing bubbles. That killed the economy, taking the dollar’s prospects down with it.

And the winner is: A little mirror that allows U.S. consumers to see their own reflection. These consumers, who in most cases are also voters, bear responsibility for the politicians and policy makers who got the dollar, and the country, into its current mess. They also gladly took part in the credit feeding frenzy that led to today’s trouble.

So long as they and the government try to borrow their way out of this jam, the dollar’s best days will be behind it.
I didn't see that one coming, but he's probably right.

By the way, there's quite a collection of one million dollar bills at Google images.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ronald Reagan: For destroying the concept of
fiscal discipline as a conservative value.

Richard Cheney For saying Reagan proved that
deficits don't matter

SD Scientist said...

It is ridiculous that we're even having this conversation, that anyone dares to speak about "dollar debasing", "dollar downfall", etc. etc. when we're barely out of the deflationary spiral and CPI growth is still negative YoY.

The level of economic misinformation among the general public (and, evidently, even among Bloomberg reporters) is very high these days. Who deserves the credit for that? My guess is, Ron Paul is a prime candidate ...

Anonymous said...

SD Scientist, I say all that printed money will come home to roost. There will be no backbone to remove it or to raise rates (since doing so would make the US insolvent).

The problem is US government debt, and last I looked it was growing at breakneck speed. The only option is to inflate it away, but the problem is it will be impossible to reign back in. The dollar is toast IMO and headed to Zimbabwe territory. A $1MM bill is going to be reality I think.

I think Obama should get it just to feed his ego.

Anonymous said...

re: Ronald Reagan. I keep hearing the libs blaming Ronald Reagan for this. The problem with that is Reagan wanted to balance the budget, but the Dems had control of congress for the entire time he was president. He just wanted smaller government as I understand it.

It's the Dems who ran ALL of the deficits. It was only the Republican congress who balanced the budget in the dot com bubble.

I'm not a fan of republicans, but blaming Reagan for the crash now I disagree with.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean "whose face".

Tim said...

Thanks - thinking about "Hu's face" was likely somehow involved in that error.

The Real Deal said...

Whose face? There can only be one:

Alan Greenspan

This man created more money out of thin air in his term than all the money of all other Fed chairs combined. His money diluted the value of existing money a million fold, thus making the issuing of the One Million Dollar bill essential.

Anonymous said...

Why bother to print our own. Zimbabwe must have some old bills that they could loan us.

BTW, a falling CPI is a good thing. It lets consumers buy more. The CPI should fall at the rate of productivity increases, so consumers can buy the extra goods without going into debt.

Inflationist economists have wrecked the country with their mad price/debt spiral.

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