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$10 duel: Bernanke defends Hamilton, disses Jackson

Bill McColl

Ben Bernanke is weighing in on what has become a kerfuffle over Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s plan to put a woman on the $10 bill, demoting America’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton.

Writing in his Brookings Institution blog, the former Federal Reserve Chairman says he’s “appalled” by the decision, arguing:

Hamilton was without doubt the best and most foresighted economic policymaker in U.S. history…as Treasury Secretary Hamilton put in place the institutional basis for the modern U.S. economy. Critically, he helped put U.S. government finances on a sound footing, consolidating the debts of the states and setting up a strong federal fiscal system.

Bernanke is instead joining a chorus of others who think the woman chosen should go on the $20, knocking out Andrew Jackson who was, according to Bernanke, “a man of many unattractive qualities and a poor president.”

Among those Bernanke cites in his blog are investment banker and former auto bailout czar Steven Rattner, who writes in the New York Times that Lew should keep Hamilton and “evict” Jackson...and Hamilton biographer Richard Brookhiser, who's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal is entitled, "First Aaron Burr, now Jack Lew, referring to the former Vice President who shot and killed Hamilton in a New Jersey duel.

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Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer is amazed at all the attention this has generated.

“So many people are calling for that switch-er-oo,” he says. “Jack Lew is actually under pressure.”

Lew explained the reason for the decision was because the $10 bill was the next in line for a redesign. However, Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Task says it shouldn’t be that difficult to switch gears.

“Bernanke says he knows it takes a lot of inertia to change a decision like this,” Task notes. “But I don’t think it would be hard to do.”

Bernanke notes that considering Jackson fought vehemently against a national banking system, he likely wouldn’t shed a tear over having his mug removed from the currency, anyway.

Given his views on central banking, Jackson would probably be fine with having his image dropped from a Federal Reserve note.

And Task jokes that’s why Bernanke feels the way he does.

“Jackson didn’t like the Fed,” he says. “Get him out here!”

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