Garland Tucker published an op-ed last month on the search for a modern-day Coolidge. He considers, in particular, the ties that bound Coolidge with another iconic president, Ronald Reagan.
As the 2012 election approaches, the stakes could not be higher. By most accounts, the Republicans hold that rare opportunity to un- seat an incumbent president. Whom they nominate will determine the outcome of the election and, if their nominee is elected, the success of the next four – or eight – years. While history can never precisely predict the future, it can – and should – be a guide.
The two most successful Republican presidents in the last century were Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. There were striking similarities between these two men and their presidencies. Success for both was marked by significant reductions in income tax rates and domestic spending, strong economic growth in the private sector, re-election by huge margins, and the trust and affection of the American public.
Tucker, author of a great book on Coolidge, ends with some pointed advice for modern Republicans as they search for someone to lead the 2012 ticket:
Today, the country longs for a candidate of such character, vision, discipline, experience, common sense, civility and humor. If the GOP can nominate a candidate for 2012 in the Coolidge-Reagan mold, the party – and the country – will be well served.
Amity did a commentary item for Marketplace radio yesterday, suggesting Coolidge as a model for current policymakers. I’ve included an excerpt below.
Coincidentally, I did an interview for Marketplace on Friday, exploring the history of tax rates. My comments on Coolidge ended up on the cutting room floor (to use an anachronistic metaphor), but I suspect Silent Cal readers might be interested in the subject anyway.
Anyway, here’s the excerpt from Amity’s commentary. Link to the audi and ful text is at the end:
As presidents go, Calvin Coolidge is an unlikely hero. Conservatives focus on him far less than they do on Ronald Reagan, and after all, Coolidge served a long time ago, from 1923 to 1929. Coolidge said “no” so often that he was trashed as lazy even by his own peers. Today, Coolidge is held in such low esteem by most Americans that if they remember anything, it is his nickname: Silent Cal.
But Coolidge did three things that stand out today, especially from our budgetary perspective. The first was to monitor federal spending — personally, with his own pencil, and intensely. As president, Coolidge met with his budget director every Friday at 10:00 a.m. Once cuts had been made, Coolidge made more. Coolidge monitored every penny spent down to the salt and pepper on the dinner table. The housekeeper at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Miss Riley, managed to cut her outlays from $11,667.10 one year, down to $9,116.39 the next. “Very fine improvement,” the president wrote in a note to her.
More at: Looking to President Coolidge for budgetary perspective
C-Span has posted more video from the October symposium sponsored by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. In today’s episode, David Pietrusza speaks on Coolidge’s political philosophy.
Coolidge delivering his first State of the Union address on December 6, 1923. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Today marks the 87 anniversary of Calvin Coolidge’s first State of the Union address. The speech also marked another “first” — the dawn of the radio era in presidential rhetoric. According to the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, Coolidge’s address was the first to be broadcast by radio — a move that reflected the soaring popularity of radio receivers. In 1923, there were 2.5 million receivers in private homes across the nation. Three years earlier, there had been fewer than 5,000.
The speech itself is remembered for its indication that Coolidge would continue the policies of his predecessor, Warren Harding. Reflecting my abiding interest in 1920s-era taxation, let me offer this quick selection:
For seven years the people have borne with uncomplaining courage the tremendous burden of national and local taxation. These must both be reduced. The taxes of the Nation must be reduced now as much as prudence will permit, and expenditures must be reduced accordingly. High taxes reach everywhere and burden everybody. They bear most heavily upon the poor. They diminish industry and commerce. They make agriculture unprofitable. They increase the rates on transportation. They are a charge on every necessary of life. Of all services which the Congress can render to the country, I have no hesitation in declaring to neglect it, to postpone it, to obstruct it by unsound proposals, is to become unworthy of public confidence and untrue to public trust. The country wants this measure to have the right of way over any others.
Forgive me for pointing out (again), that Coolidge was willing to walk the walk when it came to fiscal conservatism. He never suggested tax cuts that weren’t “paid for” with spending cuts. As he put it (and I test your patience by repeating it, yet again), “the taxes of the Nation must be reduced now as much as prudence will permit, and expenditures must be reduced accordingly.”
Contemporary deficit hawks should emulate that kind of honest, candid budgeting.
The full transcript of Coolidge’s speech is available from the Miller Center.