Republicans have spent much of the last twenty years trying to canonize Ronald Reagan and give him a place in US history alongside not only 20th century giants Franklin Roosevelt and John F Kennedy, but even among the Framers. He has an aircraft carrier and highways and even a massive federal building named after him--Richard Simon thinks this last one is ironic, but given the extent to which Reagan expanded the federal government and the national debt, I think it's entirely appropriate.
And it's with that part of Reagan's legacy in mind that I propose the following alternative to replacing Ulysses S. Grant's picture on the fifty dollar bill with Reagan's: bring back the $500 and put Reagan on that instead.
The big problem with the debate about putting Reagan on money is that if he goes on under current circumstances, someone else has to go, and everyone currently on money has their champions, as Simon points out. I'd be opposed to replacing Grant with Reagan not because Grant was any great shakes as a President, but because we'd be replacing the man who led the Union to victory in the Civil War with the one who made the myth of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen standard fare for right-wingers everywhere. No thank you.
There's a cynical part of me which says we should replace Jefferson on the $2 bill with Reagan--after all, Jefferson is already on the nickel, and no one likes the $2 bill except as a curiosity. Cashiers hate it even more than they do the dollar coin. But Republicans would never go for it, unfortunately.
So back to my original suggestion--the $500, complete with Reagan on it. This would appeal to Republican vanity, as the $500 would be the largest denomination in circulation, and the people most likely to carry them around would probably be fat-cat Republicans. And Working class people who suffered the most as the result of Reagan's policies while President would rarely, if ever, be faced with the prospect of seeing his face on money. It's a win-win. Plus, I think we've gone through enough inflation since the $500 was withdrawn from circulation that the objections to the denomination size are largely moot now. So seriously, if Republicans are desperate to put Reagan on money, let's do it this way. They'll finally shut up about it and I'll never have to worry about seeing the thing.