Will President Trump Be On Money?

My son earns his allowance by doing chores. Each night he checks them off on a magnetic board, and then each Saturday we tally up how many chores he’s done, and he gets his cash. At this point he has to divide it up into three categories – “give”, “spend”, and “save”. “Give” is money he gives to charity (such as when he bought canned food for a food drive), “save” is money he is saving to buy a large toy, and ‘spend” is money he can just take when we go shopping and use to buy anything he wants. The idea is, obviously, to get him used to the idea of savings and giving to charity now while he’s young.

This time, he’s looking at the faces on the money (coins and dollar bills), and for the first time he’s asking quesitons about who the people on the money are. I’m explaining that, for the most part, they’re presidents. he thinks about that, and thinks about some things he heard at dinner last night, and considers the money he’s holding carefully. “Dad,” he finally asks, “will President Trump be on money?”

“Son,” I say, “I have no idea.”

Will he?

That’s an interesting question. The short answer, of course, is “not right now.”

Why not?

It’s against the law.

United States Code, Title 31, Section 5114(b) states that:

United States currency has the inscription “In God We Trust” in a place the Secretary decides is appropriate. Only the portrait of a deceased individual may appear on United States currency and securities. The name of the individual shall be inscribed below the portrait.

So, unless the law is changed, as of the date this article is published he doesn’t meet the legal requirements. President Trump is, after all, still very much alive.

How about after he dies?

In that case, it’s up to either the Congress or the Secretary of the Treasury. Under the question “Why were certain individuals chose to be pictured on our paper currency?” in the US Department of the Treasury Resource Center, we learn that:

As with our nation’s coinage, the Secretary of the Treasury usually selects the designs shown on United States currency. Unless specified by an Act of Congress, the Secretary generally has the final approval. This is done with the advice of Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) officials.

The law prohibits portraits of living persons from appearing on Government Securities. Therefore, the portraits on our currency notes are of deceased persons whose places in history the American people know well.

The basic face and back designs of all denominations of our paper currency in circulation today were selected in 1928, although they were modified to improve security against counterfeiting starting in 1996. A committee appointed to study such matters made those choices. The only exception is the reverse design of the one-dollar bill. Unfortunately, however, our records do not suggest why certain Presidents and statesmen were chosen for specific denominations.

This is expanded on in the Second Legal Tender Act, also sometimes referred to as the “July 11, 1862 Act of Congress”  Section 2 of that act states:

And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and is hereby, authorized, in case he shall think it inexpedient to procure said notes, or any part thereof, to be engraved and printed by contract, to cause the said notes, or any part thereof, to be engraved, printed, and executed, in such form as he shall prescribe, at the Treasury Department in Washington, and under his direction; and he is hereby empowered to purchase and provide all the machinery and materials, and to employ such persons and appoint such officers as may be necessary for this purpose.

The line “in such form as he shall prescribe” is what gives the Secretary of the Treasury his (or her, although so far a woman has not served as Secretary of the Treasury) the power to decide who goes on US currency. This is a power granted to the Secretary by the US Congress, however, as Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States specifically grants the Congress the power “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”. They don’t tend to get involved with who is on money very frequently, but they have passed legislation specifying the design of coins. Nothing’s stopping them from doing it with paper money, as well.

With all that in mind,will Trump be on our money?

Possibly.

The portraits that currently appear on US paper currency were determined in 1929 and, despite an attempt to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, they haven’t changed since that time. The youngest president to appear on US paper currency is Woodrow Wilson, and he died in 1924. I’m not expecting to see any changes any time soon. But paper currency isn’t the only form of currency out there. There’s also coins.

31 U.S. Code § 5112 governs “Denominations, specifications, and design of coins”. It covers quite a bit of territory and includes subsection (n) “Redesign and Issuance of Circulating $1 Coins Honoring Each of the Presidents of the United States”. Starting in 2007, $1 coins have been issued with the likeness of presidents – four each year, in order of presidential service. The law specifies that only dead presidents may be on the coins and that, once all of the dead presidents have been represented on the law will terminate and the coin design will revert to the “Sacajawea” dollar coin. The last president to appear on one of these coins was Ronald Reagan, on a coin issued in 2016.

That section of 31 U.S. Code § 5112 is now null and void, having served it’s purpose. But a similar law could be passed again and, if President Trump is dead by that time, he would qualify.

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Why Can’t I Have Mom’s Wine?

Technically, this should be an article on a blog titled “Things Asked By One Of My Son’s Friends”. Here’s what happened. We had three couples and a total of five children out seeing the sites in downtown Cincinnati, and we all stopped for dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. The child who asked was intrigued by the single glass of wine her mother ordered. And why not, honestly? Wine looks tasty, and it comes in a cool-looking glass. It’s tailor-made to attract a child’s attention. Especially if you tell the child that she can’t have any.

wine glass
Seriously. It looks cool.

She thinks about that for a moment while hovering over the glass and staring down at the wine, then looks at her dad. “Why,” she asks, “can’t I have mom’s wine?”  I thought it was a good question. So, even though it’s not a question asked by my son, I think I’ll try to answer it.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act

At present, the reason that an eight-year-old can’t have mom’s wine is because of a federal regulation. The 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act doesn’t force the states to enact a legal drinking age of 21 years old, but it pushes them hard to do so. By hitting the states in the wallet:

(a) Withholding of Funds for Noncompliance.
(1) In general. The Secretary shall withhold 10 per centum of the amount required to be apportioned to any State under each of sections 104(b)(1), 104(b)(3), and 104(b)(4) of this title on the first day of each fiscal year after the second fiscal year beginning after September 30, 1985, in which the purchase or public possession in such State of any alcoholic beverage by a person who is less than twenty-one years of age is lawful.
(2) State grandfather law as complying. If, before the later of (A) October 1, 1986, or (B) the tenth day following the last day of the first session the legislature of a State convenes after the date of the enactment of this paragraph, such State has in effect a law which makes unlawful the purchase and public possession in such State of any alcoholic beverage by a person who is less than 21 years of age (other than any person who is 18 years of age or older on the day preceding the effective date of such law and at such time could lawfully purchase or publicly possess any alcoholic beverage in such State), such State shall be deemed to be in compliance with paragraph (1) in each fiscal year in which such law is in effect.
(b) Effect of Withholding of Funds. No funds withheld under this section from apportionment to any State after September 30, 1988, shall be available for apportionment to that State.
(c) Alcoholic Beverage Defined. As used in this section, the term “alcoholic beverage” means:
(1) beer as defined in section 5052(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986,
(2) wine of not less than one-half of 1 per centum of alcohol by volume, or
(3) distilled spirits as defined in section 5002(a)(8) of such Code.

The withheld funds are Federal Highway Trust Funds, which are used to fund road construction and repair. So the states didn’t have to comply, but they’d have to shoulder a greater percentage of the cost of upkeep and construction on the interstates. Unsurprisingly, all of the states increased their drinking age.

Why 21 Years Old?

It seems that tradition, as much as anything else, is the reason the drinking age is set at 21. Well, that and the NMDAA. Here’s what the Alcohol Policy Information System has to say on the subject:

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1919, prohibited the sale of all intoxicating liquors in the United States, superseding State laws on the sale of alcoholic beverages to young people. Following the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933, restrictions on possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by youth and non-commercial provision of alcohol to youth by adults became the norm. Most States applied these restrictions to those under the age of 21, making the minimum legal drinking age the same as the minimum age then required for voting in Federal elections.

LegalFlip.com expands on this:

Prior to passing NMDAA of 1984, there were many studies conducted on the effects of alcohol on younger people. Several studies determined that a youth’s brain is not fully developed until around age 21, and alcohol affects youth’s brains differently than it does adults. In addition, many special interest groups promoted NMDAA. Perhaps the most influential special interest group for NMDAA was Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD claims that the higher minimum legal drinking age has saved thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of lives.

Exceptions

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that there are exceptions to the minimum drinking age laws. The Federal Trade Commission has links to those exceptions for each state. Those exceptions are repetitive and time consuming, so I won’t try to list them all here. I will note that Ohio permits a parent, guardian, or spouse to give alcohol to a minor and allow them to drink it. So really, in this case, the reason that my friend’s daughter couldn’t have mom’s wine was because mom and dad said “no”.