As the 2012 presidential election campaign gains momentum and students weigh how to vote, conservative author and economist Amity Shlaes shared her views on the current political climate, comparing them to “forgotten president” Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929).
In her discussion ‘Calvin Coolidge: The President Who Said “No,”’ Shlaes reopened the “What really works in government policy” debate on Thursday night at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.
According to Shlaes, Coolidge was a different breed of politician, following in the footsteps of ‘No’ President Warren Harding.
Upon taking office in 1923, Coolidge adamantly said no to spending. As a result, his administration consistently saw a growth average of more than 4 percent in the debtridden post-World War I years.
Interestingly, Coolidge’s administration was smaller when he left office in 1929 than when he first arrived, a marked difference from the personal committee of ‘advisors’ in the Capitol today.
While fighting off his reputation as a “scrooge,” a “sourpuss” and someone who just didn’t “get Congress”, Shlaes argues that Coolidge was intentionally expressionless and blunt in his efforts to run the U.S government on “normalcy and saying no.”
Effectively, Coolidge believed he could stimulate economic growth through a laissez-faire approach, once stating that “I am for economy and after that, more economy”. Employment, entrepreneurship and tax cuts were all key elements of Coolidge’s economic plan. Counterintuitively, Shlaes argues that Coolidge’s model may in fact be the best suited to such a tumultuous economic period akin to the recent recession.
Having won the 1922 election, Coolidge sought tax-cuts, with growth immediately following after in a more clear and simple system, according to Shlaes.
However, he also blocked an expansion of government, and continued his “boring persona,” which Shlaes argued to be a tactic in providing Congress with “access, but no info”. In times of crisis, such as the post-World War I era, Coolidge simply acted as he did before, showing consistency in his hardline “no” approach.
The “forgotten president” also met with his budget director more than any other director during his time in office, encouraging more cuts. He was rewarded by voters for his role as an “inactive Republican.”
Shlaes believes that America’s current situation is easier than in the 20s, but that it takes a stubborn figure like Coolidge to pull through such a “crisis” with consistency, necessity, “no” and government expansion control.
Once when asked “Who lives in the White House,” Coolidge responded with a cool, “Nobody, they just come and go.”