Silent Cal Had a Lot To Say

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Historians
have trivialized Calvin Coolidge as a do-nothing President nave
enough to believe that “the business of America is business,”
and many have rated him as one of the worst of all time. However,
he produced remarkable results without sacrificing our freedoms.
And given that he was born on the 4th of July, there is no better
time than our Independence Day to remember him.

Under Coolidge,
the top income tax rate of 65% under Wilson was eventually cut
to 20%. The stock market began its unprecedented “roaring 20s”
climb as it became clear through 1924 that Coolidge’s tax reduction
bill would pass.

In both his
first and last year in office, federal receipts were $3.8 billion
and expenditures were $3.1 billion, and in between, he cut the
national debt from $22.3 billion to $16.9 billion.

His policies
took more than a million people off the income tax rolls, and
98% of Americans paid no income tax at the end of his term. As
a result, America prospered under Coolidge. Real economic growth
averaged 7% per year while he was in office (the highest growth
on record), while inflation averaged only 0.4%. Investment, manufacturing
output, and disposable income rose dramatically, and unemployment
averaged 3.3%.

That remarkable
record explains why, after Coolidge outpolled his Democratic opponent
by nearly 2 to 1 in 1924, he would have won in another landslide
if he had run again in 1928.

But unfortunately
for America, he did not. So why is there such a disconnect between
Coolidge’s success and his reputation? In large part, it is because
he advocated individualism, as clearly spelled out in his speeches
(which he composed himself), and the newspaper column he wrote
after leaving the Presidency.

But while
that seems appropriate for someone born on the Fourth of July,
it is so distant from the modern mindset that many now cannot
understand why someone who, as Senator, Governor, Vice-President,
and President viewed government intervention in broad areas of
life as a problem rather than a panacea.

Further,
people have attributed to Coolidge the origins of the Great Depression
under Herbert Hoover, his Vice-President. But they have not done
so because of any evidence that his policies were responsible.

Along with
monetary policy blunders, the Great Depression was triggered by
Hoover’s abandonment of Coolidge’s policies, in favor of disasters
ranging from erecting monumental trade barriers to sharply raising
tax rates.

Never was
this divide between the policies of the two made clearer than
when Coolidge said of Hoover: “That man has offered me unsolicited
advice for six years, all of it bad.”

Calvin Coolidge
may have been called “Silent Cal,” but his record brags for him,
if people would bother to look honestly. Further, he closely reflected
our founders’ insight in what he wrote and said, which we would
truly profit from, given how far we have deviated from those ideas
in modern America.

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