Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It's All About (Getting Rid of) the Benjamins

You are no doubt aware, Dear Readers, of many of the slang terms that are employed to describe our currency, usually in reference to the person on the front: the dollar bill is often called a "George," the five a "Ham" (short for Abraham Lincoln), and the hundred-dollar bill is often called a "Benjamin" in honor of Benjamin Franklin. The hundred-dollar bill is the largest bill in general circulation in the United States, and has become a symbol of wealth and greed, as in the street slang expression "it's all about the Benjamins."

But there is a fairly serious move afoot now to do away with the venerable Benjamin, for a number of reasons. The most important is that it has become the bill of choice for criminals, who must move hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Most of us never need to think about the logistics of moving that much money, but it's quite a problem. A single $100 bill looks like this:

A million dollars in $100 bills looks like this when stacked in packets of $10,000 (each packet has one hundred hundreds) ... you could probably fit it into a normal suitcase:

But a hundred million dollars in $10,000 bundles looks like this when stacked on a standard cargo pallet:

Now, imagine you are a drug kingpin who needs to move many hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars ... and you need to use $50 bills ... or, worse, $20s. The volume would be far beyond your ability to easily and safely transport.

So, one reason for doing away with the Benjamin is to make life difficult for criminals. If you're interested in a more detailed analysis of how eliminating the hundred dollar bill (and the five-hundred euro bill as well) can serve the war on crime, you can read this study by Peter Sands of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government - Making it Harder for the Bad Guys: The Case for Eliminating High Denomination Notes

Another reason for doing away with high denomination bills like the Benjamin is that it's often difficult for small businesses to make change for such large bills ... not to mention the merchant's suspicion that they may be counterfeit, and consequent reluctance to accept them at all.

You can read a good article on this issue (where I got the idea for this post) here. And if you're interested, you can go back to August of 2014 and read my earlier post on the topic. As the motto of a committee to which I once belonged said, "No Horse Too Dead."

Have a good day. Spend those Benjamins while you've got 'em.

More thoughts tomorrow.



allenwoodhaven said...

Not being a criminal, I'd be happy to have a huge stack of $20s though I'd accept $50s and $100s without a problem...

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I would take pay in Georges, if needed. No, I'm not a stripper!

Never thought about the sheer effort to move piles of dollars.

Mike said...

The bank my dad was working at years ago had a request for for a $10,000 bill for someone's birthday present. He called me up and told me to come and see it. It came from the Fed rubber banded between two pieces of thin wood so it wouldn't get messed up. I still (sort of) remember the serial number. It was like A00000250B. Ten thousand dollar bill number 250. No I didn't get to touch it.

I never get anything higher than twenties from the bank.

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

I never get any bills higher than $20 too. Too much anxiety about being ribbed if I carry larger ones.