by Robert Maynard
Vermont’s own Calvin Coolidge led the nation out of a severe recession with massive tax and spending cuts. In fact, the government was actually smaller when he left office that when he was sworn in. He even used the revenue surpluses generated by his policies to pay down the national debt. There is a now book out now about “Silent Cal” and his leadership that is described in this National Review article:
Shlaes tells how he settled into a routine of meeting regularly with the director of the new Bureau of the Budget, paring down spending any way he could. Coolidge’s Republicans had small majorities in Congress, and many favored big new spending programs — veterans’ bonuses, farm subsidies. Coolidge said no, with vetoes that were sustained.
At the same time, he pressed Congress for tax cuts. After Coolidge won a full term in 1924, the top income-tax rate was reduced from the wartime 70 percent to 25 percent. An economy that lurched from inflation to recession between 1918 and 1922 suddenly burst into robust economic growth. That helped Coolidge achieve budget surpluses every year — surpluses that he used to pay down the national debt.
The Heritage Foundation has a similar article on him and the new book in their online blog:
“I am for economy, and after that more economy,” Coolidge said. “At this time and under present conditions that is my conception of serving all the people.”
By “economy” he meant slashing government spending. And by “serving all the people” he meant allowing people to succeed. The federal budget was smaller when “Silent Cal” left office than it had been when he was sworn in. “His greatest legacy as President is his incredible reduction in spending and taxes and the economic prosperity that resulted from his policies,” writes Heritage visiting fellow Joseph Postell.
He also focused on reducing taxation. When the government of South Africa donated two lion cubs to the U.S., Coolidge named them “Budget Bureau” and “Tax Reduction” to show he was equally concerned with reducing federal spending and the tax burden on Americans.
Political leaders like that are few and far between. I only wish we had someone of his caliber presiding over our current budget debate.