My quiet way of fighting the big boys: Use cash, boost local economy

“Cash, we don’t have to pay percentages,” says Juan Meza, running the (now former) J&R Tires in Red Bank. “We’d rather not have to pay percentages on money we want to get. Some companies can go up to 4 percent, 5 percent really.”

By David Tulis

We’ve reported the federal government’s continuing war on cash, both a recent proposal about digital transactions and a long-term policy that has kept the largest denomination bill at F$100, which is worth less than F$19 in 1969 dollars.

Supporters of local economy don’t have to play along with the latest iteration of the anti-cash program. Lest they suppose they are being uncooperative in ignoring treasury secretary Jacob Lew’s policy goals, they need to consider how noncompliance with his imperative is really supportive of the American way represented elsewhere in the federal hierarchy.

Chattanoogans should take a stand for family values and old-fashioned American simplicity by avoiding credit and by expressly using Uncle Sam’s hall pass, the $1 banknote on down, with its fellow bills printed in ink with larger numbers. Noncompliance with Mr. Lew’s anti-cash “policy” is gracious favor to time-honored U.S. currency engineering and design. It recognizes the gravitas of the dollar bill as a world leader and a global reserve currency.

Mr. Lew may frown at you, but Gen. Washington, whose face adorns the F$1 bill, will smile.


Gen. Ulysses Grant’s mug appears on private banknotes with the number 50 printed eight times on it, front and back.

➤ Every time you circulate a bill engraved with a 50, you are passing along a legal government-sanctioned memo that declares,

“In God we trust”

Do you feel a twinge of religious feeling in that bit of paper money language? I do. You hand over the bill rather than the credit or debit card to the person on the other side of the counter partly because of the significance of the message. If that claim about God is not passed along in print, that’s one less occasion for it to be potentially read. The phrase, “In God we trust,” does not transfer in debit card speak. All the more reason to avoid that conversation and pack your billfold with many copies of that sermonette as it will hold. Use ones and fives.

➤ One more thing about the F$50 bill. It bears the image of Gen. Ulysses Grant, the one who beat Gen. R.E. Lee and took his sword at the Appomattox courthouse. The mug of Gen. Grant, who held office as federal president and could say absolutely nothing in seven languages, is close to being inspiring if you gaze upon it long enough.

Are you seeing how to promote local economy in practical ways without having to take too bold of a stand?

Alexander Hamilton, namesake of the county in which Chattanooga sits, graces a piece of Federal Reserve paper with 10s engraved on it.

LET’S TRY ANOTHER BILL — let’s see. OK. The green rectangle with “10” printed in the four corners (front and back, eight times altogether — rich). This is the F$10 bill. (The F designates that the bill is only bank scrip, not a representation or claim upon lawful money held at a reserve bank payable to a bearer of the bill on demand.)

On the face of the F$10 bill is the mug of Alexander Hamilton. Do you know that our Southeast Tennessee county is named in honor of this man? Hamilton for Hamilton County. That’s us.

He was the first federal treasury secretary to warm the seat held by Mr. Lew, and one whose great ideas were centralized government, centralized banking, centralized economy and centralized authority. He desired these things to help tame the provincial bigotry, localism and narrow mindedness of people in the aggregating states in the early 19th century. We live today under the system for which he fought, and we should not forget to have a feeling of thankfulness to him.

If we circulate bills bearing his angular good looks, we quietly affirm our allegiance to local economy, something Mr. Hamilton understood only too well.

[Updated, this essay was first published in August 2012. — DJT]