WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) -- Just hours after the U.S. government announced plans to wipe former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's likeness off the $10 bill -- to be replaced with a prominent American woman -- some critics say the department picked the wrong bill to switch genders.
The Twenty, they say, not the Ten, was the clear choice to take back to the drawing board.
Early Thursday, the Treasury Department said Hamilton will be replaced by a still-to-be-chosen woman, who will appear on the Ten beginning in 2020.
"In 2013, we selected the $10 note for redesign based on a number of factors," the Treasury says on its website. "The next generation of currency will revolve around the theme of democracy. The first note, the new Ten, will feature a notable woman."
While it is nearly universally agreed that a woman's appearance on a U.S. dollar bill is long overdue, critics say the Treasury erred badly by not opting to take the current Twenty -- and its famous portrait of the historically suspect Andrew Jackson -- out of circulation.
"It's almost a day later and I'm still angry that the Treasury Department is planning to remove Alexander Hamilton from his role as cover boy on the $10 bill," economic policy expert Binyamin Appelbaum wrote in a discussion with New York Times finance contributor Josh Barro. "I'm all in favor of honoring a woman, but it's obvious the government should instead remove Andrew Jackson from the Twenty."
"Mr. Hamilton was one of the best economic policy makers in American history," he added. "Mr. Jackson, in addition to being a terrible person, was one of the worst."
Appelbaum argues that Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury Secretary, was instrumental in the creation of a national currency in the United States -- while Jackson hated paper money.
"Either the folks at Treasury have a dark sense of humor, or they know nothing about the two men," Appelbaum said.
"Jackson is a weird president to put on money because he didn't even want the government to issue paper money," Barro concurred. "But I'm more surprised that he remains on the bill despite his policy of Indian removal, which was an atrocity and which he pursued in defiance of the Supreme Court.
"Democratic politicians in Washington are prepared to line up against the Washington Redskins and even try to revoke the team's trademark, yet a Treasury Department in a Democratic administration is content to continue putting Jackson's face on money. It's bizarre."
Several other news outlets and writers are also scratching their heads over the selection, while advocating Jackson's replacement instead of Hamilton's -- including the Washington Post and New York Daily News.
"This had better be a stealth campaign by the U.S. Treasury to gain support for removing Andrew Jackson from the Twenty and replacing him with a woman. Otherwise, it's unforgivable," the Post's Alexandra Petri wrote. "We must not let this stand."
"U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is a graduate of Forest Hills High School. He must have missed its class in American history," the Daily News opined. "Because Lew has made the astonishingly boneheaded decision to demote Alexander Hamilton from his place of veneration on the $10 bill while continuing to accord Andrew Jackson full honor on the Twenty."
The Treasury says on its website that the Ten was chosen for multiple reasons, which are largely rooted in security and counterfeiting concerns. When choosing a note for redesign, the Treasury says several factors are considered -- including unique and technologically advanced security features to deter counterfeiting, facilitation of the public's use of the bill, accessibility and usability, and public confidence.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will have the final say regarding the new $10 bill's design and he will decide which woman will appear on the note. Lew has said that Hamilton will remain on the new Ten -- possibly in smaller form or, he acknowledged, there might be two $10 bills -- Hamilton on one and a woman on the other.
"Hamilton was one of the good guys. He wasn't just a founding father but one whose contributions were particularly related to money," Barro said, adding that the Treasury's explanation "seems like kind of a nonsense rationale to me. Can't Treasury redesign the Ten and the Twenty at the same time if it wants? The Mint certainly seems to put out special-edition quarters whenever it feels like it."
The Treasury, however, indicated that redesigning both bills at the same time is not necessary.
"Currency is redesigned to stay ahead of counterfeiting. The Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee recommended a redesign of the $10 note next," the department said.
Lew said the Treasury is seeking the public's input regarding the new Ten's design and which iconic American woman will grace the front.
"My guess is that Treasury picked Hamilton because it was looking for an easy target," Appelbaum said. "George Washington (on the $1), Thomas Jefferson ($2) and Abraham Lincoln ($5) are all demigods. Ulysses S. Grant ($50) should be in the pantheon. Benjamin Franklin ($100) is an icon, and they can't remove him or it wouldn't be all about the Benjamins anymore."
Incidentally, Andrew Jackson used to be on the $10 bill until he was "promoted" to the Twenty in 1928. Hamilton, meanwhile, has appeared at one time or another on every American currency note except the $1 and $100 bills.
Critics are further confused why the Ten was chosen since it has been redesigned more recently (2006) than the Twenty has (2003). Both the $10 and $20 note have been redesigned and outfitted with modern anti-counterfeiting improvements twice since 1998.
"Jacob Lew, the Treasury secretary, announced Mr. Hamilton's demotion while standing in front of [a] statue [of Jackson]," Appelbaum said. "There's no need to pick the absolute best people and keep them there forever. But we should probably avoid honoring the worst ones."