1672: Women on 20s
This comic portrays a series of press conferences with a US Treasury spokesperson (different from Cueball in the first panel as he has a bit of hair). The panels after the first summarize and ridicule the recent controversy over the upcoming redesign of US currency. The dialog between the US Treasury and reporters is paraphrased for comedic effect, but the events depicted are otherwise factual (including the punchline).
American currency has only once had a woman as the primary portrait on paper currency (Martha Washington was on the $1 Silver Certificate in the 1880s and 1890s), which is widely seen as a real problem. A large-scale petition was organized which advocated replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with a woman, to be chosen by public voting. The Trail of Tears is a reference to the forced re-locations of Native American peoples that Andrew Jackson conducted during his presidency. This is now seen as a human rights violation on a massive scale and is presented as a reason why Andrew Jackson should not be honored on American currency.
The timing of the release of this new bill with a woman was to be scheduled with the 100-year anniversary of Women's suffrage in 2020 and should thus preferably also be on the $20 bill.
The voting process selected Harriet Tubman, a 19th century abolitionist and a major figure in the Underground Railroad system which freed American slaves. Cueball is seen to be clearly pleased and excited about this prospect in the first panel, where he votes for her first, among several other options.
The list shows that Cueball chooses Tubman first representing the generic everyman and thus represents the about one in five that choose her first. But he may select up to three out of the fifteen selected candidates.
- The other two women he chooses are:
- Eleanor Roosevelt, an American politician, diplomat, and activist. She was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, holding the post from March 1933 to April 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt's four terms in office. She became the runner-up in the vote.
- Rachel Carson, a pioneering environmentalist who is most famous for her book Silent Spring.
Since Carson was not one of the options for the final round, where only four were selected (the other two were Rosa Parks, 3rd; and Wilma Mankiller, 4th), it is clear that Cueball was already voting in the primary ballot, where Roosevelt actually came in first.
At this point, bureaucratic and political complications arise. The Treasury Department announces that, instead of replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, she would replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. The reason given is that the $10 bill was scheduled for redesign first. A reporter asks why they can't simply change the schedule, but doesn't get a clear answer.
There is a suggestion from "Steve" to put Martin Shkreli on the $5 bill. Shkreli is a pharmaceutical executive and hedge fund manager who provoked controversy when he acquired the rights to an anti-parasite drug and raised the price by over 5000%, making it unaffordable for many people. He became known as "the most hated man in America". Naturally, Steve's suggestion receives short shrift, not least of which because it's a violation of Treasury policy and US law (as Shkreli is still alive). This may be the same Steve who messed up both 809: Los Alamos and 1532: New Horizons.
The plan to replace Hamilton likely seemed like an uncontroversial decision at the time. He was not especially well known among the American public and few people had an emotional attachment to his legacy. However, this changed abruptly when a Broadway musical about his life came out and become massively popular. By total coincidence, this play creates a flood of interest in Hamilton right at the time the currency decisions are being made and makes replacing his portrait politically complicated. The spokesperson suggests putting both Hamilton and Tubman on the $10 bill, but the reporters are clearly unhappy with this solution, probably because it seems to dilute the recognition being given to Tubman.
Finally, the spokesperson announces that they will put Tubman on the $20 bill, but their schedule demands that they do the $10 bill first. They decide to put a "mural to women" on the new $10 bill to try and contain the tension until the new $20 bill is released. The reporters say that the Treasury has total control over the release of currency, so the simpler solution is just to change the schedule, but they apparently ignore that suggestion.
In the final panel, the spokesperson mentions that Jackson's portrait will still appear on the new $20 bill, seriously weakening the symbolism of replacing him and adding irony since Jackson was a slave owner. This is likely an effort to head off the complaints of traditionalists but is seen here as an unfortunate attempt to avoid taking a real stand.
In the title text Randall reiterates that this is a rare case in politics in which there's a clear and simple solution. The Treasury has the authority to redesign currency, and a petition to Congress could change the release schedule to fit their needs. That makes all the compromises and backtracking unnecessary: they could simply replace Jackson with Tubman and hypothetically release the new $20 bill whenever they choose. Randall appears frustrated with the artificial constraints that are holding back what should be a simple and straightforward process although he does acknowledge that it takes time to evaluate the security of a redesign's resistance to counterfeiting.
The mention of the "weird pyramid eye thing" is a reference to the Eye of Providence, which is an old and somewhat arcane symbol that appears on the US $1 bill. Randall seems to be using this as an example of the outdated and frankly strange design of American currency, the implication that using that on all US dollar bills would constitute giving up on ever having a design relevant to the modern world. Also by replacing all portraits with this image, there would no longer be any gender controversy.
As of 2020, progress on updating both the $10 and the $20 has stalled, with the Treasury stating that no new changes will be unveiled until 2026.
- [Cueball is sitting at his laptop. Above him is the text he reads on the screen, then he speaks, and below that text is the list of women from his computer showing his three picks, each with a gray "drop-down menu" triangle to the right of the names. Below this, is his final spoken line. At the top of the panel is a small frame breaking the top left border with a caption:]
- Website: Petition: Replace Andrew "Trail of Tears" Jackson with a woman on the $20 for the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in 2020.
- Cueball: Hey, good idea!
- Vote for your three picks:
- 1 Harriet Tubman
- 2 Eleanor Roosevelt
- 3 Rachel Carson
- Cueball: Tubman for #1, definitely.
- [An executive from the department of treasury, with a wee bit of hair on his head, stands behind a lectern. On the front of the lectern the top part of the image inside the seal for the department of treasury is visible inside a circle, showing the scales and the tip of the triangular band beneath it. The rest of this image is hidden below the panel frame. There is text written above this image. At the top of the panel is a small frame breaking the top left border with a caption:]
- Treasury Executive: After a flood of public interest, the Treasury has decided to feature a woman on our money!
- Offscreen voice 1: Yay!
- Treasury Executive: She will replace Hamilton on the $10.
- Offscreen voice 1: Yay-- wait, what? Why not the $20?
- Offscreen voice 2: Are we mad at Hamilton?
- Text above the seal: Treasury
- [The executive with a hand on the lectern is seen from the side.]
- Treasury Executive: The $10 was scheduled for the next redesign by a board made up of-
- Offscreen voice 3: Can't you just do the $20 next?
- Treasury Executive: We will review the...
- Offscreen voice 3: *Sigh*
- Offscreen voice 4 (Steve): Put Martin Shkreli on the $5!
- Offscreen voice 5: Shut up, Steve.
- [The executive lifts both hands, the one over the lectern points a finger up. Again seen from the side. At the top of the panel is a small frame breaking the top left border with a caption:]
- Later in 2015...
- Treasury Executive: Wow, some musical came out, and now suddenly Hamilton has tons of fans.
- Offscreen voice 6: So do the $20 next. Problem solved!
- Treasury Executive: Maybe he and a woman can share the $10!
- Offscreen voice 6: Are you serious.
- [The executive, again with a hand on the lectern, is seen from the side. At the top of the panel is a small frame breaking the top left border with a caption:]
- Treasury Executive: We've decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20.
- Offscreen voice 7: Perfect! Happy ending.
- Treasury Executive: -After we do the new $10.
- Offscreen voice 7: What?
- [The executive again from the front behind the lectern. On the front of the lectern, only the text and the very top of the circle around the image can be seen.]
- Treasury Executive: We'll put a mural to women on the back of the $10. Hopefully, that will tide you over until we get to the $20?
- Offscreen voice 8: Seriously? How is this so complicated? Just say "We're putting Harriet Tubman on the $20," then do it.
- Text above the seal: Treasury
- [The executive with hands down behind the lectern is seen from the side.]
- Treasury Executive: We'll do the $20 ASAP, but we can't change the-
- Offscreen voice 9: C'mon, your hands aren't tied here. You're the freaking Treasury. This is the one thing you're definitely in charge of.
- [The executive lifting a hand above the lectern is seen from the side.]
- Treasury Executive: Oh, and we're putting Andrew Jackson on the back.
- Three offscreen voices: What.
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One (potentially) legitimate concern I have seen expressed regarding the proposed rollout date for the redesigned $20s is that we may not be using paper money anymore by then! Raj-a-Kiit (talk) 13:01, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
The weird creepy looking eye thing is the Eye of Providence. And now that Randall mentioned it, I somehow have an intense emotional need to see a series of US currency with the Eye of Providence as the featured portrait on every bill....
220.127.116.11 14:46, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
- I think the humor of the Eye of Providence reference (which is on the US$1 banknote BTW) is that it's often referred to as a sign of the Illuminati. The Illuminati is often used in conspiracy theories, so replacing all of the faces with that sign specifically would not so much enrage people as much as people would be calling Illuminati takeovers. Ergo to not trigger the conspiracy theorist paranoia in our country (i'm US American, BTW) that would likely never happen. Also our $1 bill, which is the only bill to have the Eye of Providence(& no building on the back side) hasn't been changed since like the 1960s, because of vending machine lobbyists. So the anachronisms of that IMO is really annoying.
Siv3nIvy (talk) 09:25, 29 April 2016 (UTC)
The real question: why can't the Treasury leave the $10 bill alone, redesign the $20 bill (with Harriet Tubman on both sides), and release that redesign in the 2020s as planned? There is no rush here, so long as it is done. 18.104.22.168 15:34, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
There's been a furor over here in the UK about (losing) a woman from our paper money. (Not the Queen, at least not just yet, although having just turned 90...) Only the other day, though, they announced the new £20 note (JMW Turner, the painter) set for release (as a polymer note) in 2020... And I couldn't help feeling that the fallout from the referendum, if not other events, might easily make this matter moot. One way or another ;) 22.214.171.124 16:33, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
What is the "Security" issue referred to in the title text? 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I'd assume he's referring to security features meant to prevent/deter counterfeiting. 188.8.131.52 21:12, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
I don't get what all the fuss is about what picture is on the money. I don't even know what picture is on any of the euro bills. *Grabs a 10, 20 and 50 from wallet.* I still don't know. Tharkon (talk) 23:06, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
- Luckily, someone explained it on wikipedia: Euro banknotes: the 5 euro note has a generic rendition of Classical architecture, the 10 euro note of Romanesque architecture, the 20 euro note of Gothic architecture, the 50 euro note of the Renaissance, the 100 euro note of Baroque and Rococo, the 200 euro note of Art Nouveau and the 500 euro note of modern architecture. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:51, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
- Though now they are no longer entirely generic, as one guy in the Netherlands decided to build the generic bridges that are depicted on the euro notes, and now the structures depicted on the notes actually exist. (See the references in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro_banknotes#Bridges .) -- Pne (talk) 12:28, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
The explanation claims "The current rule about changing the $10 next before they can change the $20 comes from Section 16 of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and the Treasurer is powerless to work against it." However, I've just read through the text of that Section of that Act several times, and I can't find any wording to justify this claim. If this is a valid claim, could someone point more explicitly to where the Act restricts the order in which bills can be redesigned? Rhwentworth (talk) 02:27, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
This just in - Treasury decides to print a new $9 bill with Andrew Jackson on it. -184.108.40.206 04:43, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
This whole controversy is one reason why there are no real objects on the Euro notes. The individual nation's currencies did have real persons (including women - at least in Germany) or real "things" in a wider sense on them and changing them was often as complicated as depicted here. The current pictures on the Euro notes represent specific architectural styles (e.g. Gothic or Baroque), but the buildings and facades shown don't exist. I don't know if this should be part of the explanation as a side note or something, but I felt it would be nice to know, that other states or organisiations had similar struggles and actually found a compromise. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 07:48, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
Can we add a category about Comics Featuring Steve? GizmoDude (talk) 21:28, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
- I think that three examples (where it is just a name, for someone not shown) is too little for a new category. If you can find other places where it is similarly used then maybe. But be careful when searching since a "Steve" search will find real people like Steve Jobs and Seven Spielberg for instance... And please do not make a page out of it like you did (deleted the square brackets). If there would be a category it would also not take that form. Kynde (talk) 14:16, 27 April 2016 (UTC)
- Would 944: Hurricane Names count in that category? If so, there would be four Comics Featuring Steve. Besides, there are many categories with only 2 members (10 of them), and 20 with three. 625571b7-aa66-4f98-ac5c-92464cfb4ed8 (talk) 13:59, 7 March 2017 (UTC)
Can we add a category about Comics Which Make Absolutely No Sense To People Outside the USA? Kev (talk) 22:54, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
- Since Randall is American I think those of us not from the US should just accept that he will make local oriented comics from time to time, and then just enjoy that we can find the explanations here ;-) Kynde (talk) 14:16, 27 April 2016 (UTC)
I have very little information as to which parts of this comic are true or false. This page could seriously do with citations. (E.g. what broadway musical? I have no idea.) 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Hamilton is a real Broadway musical featuring a race-bent Andrew Hamilton, completely done in the style of modern hip-hop. It's considered to be groundbreaking if suffering from some severe historical inaccuracies (the most obvious being the titular character's race). Riomhaire
One thing I feel the need to add here is that the Trail of Tears was a human rights violation due to the chiefs, not due to Andrew Jackson. While it still wasn't exactly the morally right thing to do, relocating the tribes along the Trail, the chiefs did not include their slaves in the "census" they gave to the army, resulting in a huge supply shortage. Had the chiefs considered their tribes' slaves people and counted them in the number that was given to Jackson and the army, the Trail of Tears would have been a Trail of Discomfort and Frustration instead. Riomhaire
- The humans rights violation was the forced relocation of people off their own land by people who want to take it? With no compensation (At the time) and plenty of violence throughout? Also, while that is the bad thing he was known for, Jackson was insane in many other ways, too. I’m not even going to go into the last part. It still would’ve been a trail of tears if they were given heaps of gold and fed well. Netherin5 (talk) 13:46, 21 March 2019 (UTC)
Surely part of the humour here is the reporters being totally unconcerned about something as important as the security of currency and instead making a massive fuss over something largely irrelevant (i.e. what picture is printed on the notes)? 18.104.22.168 18:48, 19 July 2021 (UTC)
- The press conference wasn't about security features. It was about the design of the notes. Why would putting Tubman on a bill make it less secure? Nitpicking (talk) 14:39, 29 January 2022 (UTC)