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What Reagan deserves

Rep. Patrick Henry's proposal to kick Ulysses S. Grant off the $50 bill and put Ronald Reagan in his stead is sort of awesomely tone-deaf. The proposal here is to send the nation's first black president legislation that would erase the guy who won the Civil War and replace him with the guy who cut a lot of taxes.

But putting the tin ear aside, Henry suffers from insufficient ambition: Personally, I won't be satisfied until Reagan gets the full Lenin, his tomb exhumed and his corpse on display for all to see. No reason communists should get better treatment than the Gipper! But just so everyone's clear, this will be a bit of a pain:

The family of Lenin's embalmers states that the corpse is real and requires daily work to moisturise the features and inject preservatives under the clothes. Lenin's sarcophagus is kept at a temperature of 16 °C (61 °F) and kept at a humidity of 80-90 percent. The chemical used was referred to by the caretakers as "balsam", which was glycerine and potassium acetate. Every eighteen months the corpse is removed and undergoes a special chemical bath. The chemicals were unknown until after the fall of the Soviet Union, kept secret by authorities. The bath consists of placing the corpse in a glass bath with potassium acetate, alcohol, glycerol, distilled water, and as a disinfectant, quinine. This was the process used for all subsequent treatments of Lenin's body and continues to be used even now.

One of the main problems the embalmers faced was the appearance of dark spots on the skin, especially on the face and hands. They managed to solve the problem by the use of a variety of different reagents in between baths. For example, if a patch of wrinkling or discoloration occurred, it was treated with an acetic acid diluted with water. Hydrogen peroxide could be used to restore the tissues' original colouring. Damp spots were removed by means of disinfectants like quinine or carbolic acid.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 3, 2010; 5:44 PM ET
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Actually, we should be putting Barack Obama on the $50 bill, before he accomplishes anything. Just like the Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted by: RandomWalk1 | March 3, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

RandomWalk1, right on!!

Posted by: goadri | March 3, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Eat your heart out, Jeremy Bentham.

Posted by: white965 | March 3, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

the guy who cut a lot of taxes
Remember, Reagan raised taxes in six of this eight years in office, all except the first and the last.

Posted by: UberMitch | March 3, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Ezra here.

Reagan was a confessed traitor. He sold weapons to the enemy. He conspired with a regime that held US hostages, prolonging their captivity for his political benefit. He was a terrorist. He illegally funded a war by insurgents against a democratically elected government. And he started the "borrow and spend" fiasco that has crippled our economy. Reagan tripled the national debt, his greatest achievement.

Posted by: GreenDreams | March 3, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I think Lenin's embalmers really should look into carbonite. The upkeep is much easier.

Posted by: CaptainNoble | March 3, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

randomwalk1 & goadri. Stop using just the right side of your brain will ya.Republicans have been trying forever to name everything after Reagan, now they want to put him on our money? Get a grip it'll never pass, even his son would never agree, no not the crazy adopted one. I'll give you this, he was president, he deserves a place in history but he does not deserve cannonization.

Posted by: jestindam | March 3, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to put his face on the 30 year t-bill?

Posted by: gigafox | March 3, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Reagan signed TEFRA, which has been called the largest peace time tax increase in US history. It should be noted that the original TEFRA that passed the house actually lowered taxes, but the GOP controlled Senate augmented it to make it a gigantic tax hike for the average working American.

As pointed out, Reagan only cut taxes in 2 of his 8 years, raising them the other 6. Of course, he cut the rates for the rich by a tremendous amount (50% down to 28%) and raised them for the poor (11% to 15%), but this was not enough to offset the loss of revenue from the top of the income bracket, hence the insane deficits that skyrocketed during his presidency. Well, some of those deficits were due to the fact that the administration never followed through on its promise to cut defense or identify other areas for savings.

The funny thing is that those most obsessed with him don't seem to even know the effect of the bills he signed into law!

Posted by: nylund | March 3, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Reagan's adoption of the Southern Strategy race baiting tactics and his absolute silence regarding the AIDS epidemic were absolutely morally reprehensible.

I can't believe that it was my beloved California that gave the world both Nixon and Reagan.

Posted by: nylund | March 3, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

The distinguished statesman who represents North Carolina's lucky 10th District, and who has introduced this very serious and useful legislation, is named Patrick McHenry, not Patrick Henry. I'm hoping that Rep. McHenry will shortly appear on the "Better Know a District" feature of the Colbert Report, which will help him build public support for his wise proposal.

Posted by: thehersch | March 3, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, we should be putting Barack Obama on the $50 bill, before he accomplishes anything. Just like the Nobel Peace Prize."
Posted by: RandomWalk1

I wish I'd said that. :)

Posted by: bgmma50 | March 3, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives come up with variants on this idea every few years - I've heard the dime, the $10 bill, the $20, now the $50. Thankfully, Nancy Reagan has always shot them down.

Unfortunately, she's 89 years old and won't be around forever.

Posted by: tyronen | March 3, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

"Wouldn't it be more appropriate to put his face on the 30 year t-bill?"


Posted by: adamiani | March 3, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I don't get... why don't we put him on the dollar coin? Everyone who's really looked at the issue agrees that a dollar coin would be a boon, and if we stuck St. Ronnie on it the Repubs would never let it fail.

Posted by: macthomason | March 3, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Aaaaand this is why bloggers won't be running for office...


JK. Sorta. But anyway, on the issue of Grant: really, Ezra? People are gonna get fired up about Grant being replaced? I mean, maybe, but I'm not so quick to think it is tone-deaf...Reagan is sorta en vogue.

Posted by: gocowboys | March 3, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Reagan began the destruction of The American Empire. His extreme right wing conservatism, with its anti-tax, anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-union, anti-intellectual ideology destroyed California and the rest of the Nation is right behind.

How about Reagan toilet paper???

Posted by: thebobbob | March 3, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

This is a great idea. We could even have Reagan's corpse put on display in some kind of amusement park called "Uncle Ronnie-land".

In keeping with his legacy, the entire venture would be tax-payer funded, but the gate receipts and profits would be retained by a private venture.

Posted by: JPRS | March 3, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

St. Ronnie the Failed on the One dollar coin?

I like it.

BTW, isn't this the same coin the Canadians call the Loonie?

Posted by: grat_is | March 3, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, we should be putting Barack Obama on the $50 bill, before he accomplishes anything."

Hilarious. Almost as humorlessly irrelevant as all the teleprompter jokes.

Posted by: slag | March 3, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

"Wouldn't it be more appropriate to put his face on the 30 year t-bill?"

I was thinking the 1000 Yen, but yours is better.

Posted by: callingalltoasters | March 4, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Isn't a little ironic to be using the government to honor a man who espoused an anti-government ideology? Why not let private industry do the honoring? For example, how a special "Reagan Root Beer" from Coca-Cola? Or rename the American Medical Association's headquarters after Reagan, in honor of the great work he did for them in the 1960s in their fight against Medicare and Medicaid? Or rename Fox News to "Reagan News Network" to honor him?

Reagan got started with tax increases early in his political career. As governor of California, he was partly responsible for one of the biggest tax hikes in state history. In 1967, Reagan signed a nearly $1 billion tax increase (It would be worth $6 billion in today's dollars). One of his biographers, Lou Cannon, wrote about this tax increase in the L.A. Times during one of California's many budget crises:,0,7811600.story

Posted by: meander510 | March 4, 2010 12:54 AM | Report abuse

Henry, Burr, Myrick, Foxx ... yeah, we got some doozies here in NC! We're not as crazy as South Carolina, but we're working on it!

C'mon down, y'all!

Hey Ezra, love seeing you on Maddow. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: HerschelR | March 4, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm all for putting Reagan on the $50 bill, though, frankly, it seems a little premature.

And I'm not sure how tone-deaf the timing is. Obama seems to like compromising, and what could be more symbolic and less substantive than putting a conservative icon on the $50 bill? "See, this will prove I'm not a rabid socialist who wants to round conservatives up into camps. Then they'll love me."

And, if Obama is hostile to Reagan on the $50--and Obama quoted Reagan favorably more than once during his campaign--then it can come back.

Reagan is one of the most beloved presidents since JFK--and nobody has been as generally appealing since. You can poo-poo the effort all you want, but at some point, it's going to happen.

Although Ezra's Lenin's tomb idea will not. Or was that an attempt at humor? It seemed to have some of the elements of humor, without actually being funny.

Just kiddin'. It was a laff riot.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 4, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Don't know the man's name myself. but I've seen it elsewhere written McHenry. I assume you've fallen into the error of confusing him with the famous rabble-rouser and Gov. of Virginia, Patrick Henry.

As for the absurd proposal to put Reagan on a bill, I'm all for his replacing Nixon on the $3 sawbuck.

Still it's nice to know that Republicans are not just tickling their own vanity and proposing something really practical to deal with health care and the Wall Street melt-down. A Reagan-buck, now that would be very soon worth much less than face-value.


Posted by: chrisbrown12 | March 4, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I think we should put his face on air-line tickets.

Posted by: elijah24 | March 4, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you're liberal hackdom is getting close to the sphere of Keith Olbermann everday. You describe Grant as the guy who won the Civil War and Reagan as a guy who cut some taxes?

How about Reagan as a guy who righted the nation's ship after the follies of Carter and won the Cold War. BTW he also won 44 states in '80 and 49 states in '84. If that's not worthy of currency placement, I don't know what is.

Save Barry Hussein's picture for the soon to be printed US IOU vouchers.

Posted by: superman32 | March 4, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

It's actually interesting. Klein and I are both Jews. He was lucky. He was born in America. I was born in Soviet Union. Without Reagan, I would never be free. Unlike you liberal revisionists, I actually lived in the great proletarian paradise, and I remember the mood before Reagan, when it seemed that USSR will endure forever. It was because of Reagan that Soviet Union went bankrupt and millions of people were released from this biggest prison on earth - "The Warsaw Pact". For one Jew - me that meant everything. For Jew Klein it means nothing. He grew up in the world free of Soviet threat. He was never discriminated against because of his ethnicity or religion of his parents. He can afford to hate Reagan. The problem isn't Klein. The problem is the WaPo, which considers it a great idea to let a pretentious snot besmirch a memory of great man.

Posted by: arik67 | March 4, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

One of Rep. Henry's justifications for doing this was that Reagan is consistantly ranked higher than Grant in scholarly Presidential rankings. Hey, you know who ranks even higher? Harry Truman! We could even have a mushroom cloud on the flip side.

Though to make this really nonpartisan, we should be talking about James Polk.

Posted by: HappyRockefeller | March 4, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone actually seen or spent a $50? I've had $100s on a few occasions, given to me as gifts, but I can't recall *ever* even seeing a $50.

Posted by: Beige | March 4, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, we should be putting Barack Obama on the $50 bill, before he accomplishes anything. Just like the Nobel Peace Prize."


Posted by: kingstu01 | March 5, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Was looking at all those proposals to honor Reagan. The description of preserving Lenin was a bit confusing. I thought that was what they did to make Reagan appear life-like while he was in office. Toward the end of that awful second term, Nancy had to stand next to him and tell him what to say. That's where Jeff Dunham learned his skills, wasn't it?

Posted by: Blueboyo | March 5, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

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