“Well, farmers never have made money. I don’t believe we can do much about it.”
President Calvin Coolidge uttered this to Robert A. Cooper, chairman of the Farm Loan Board, after vetoing a bill that would have boosted agriculture prices by federal purchase of crops.
Can you imagine the media reaction to such a statement today? “Utter callousness.” “Letting farmers starve to death over their very fields.” “No sympathy for poor or middle-class voters.”
Coolidge, as Amity Shlaes’s new book explains, managed to absolutely reduce the federal budget by the time he left the White House, along with reducing top marginal income tax rates from 58% to 25%.
Yet Coolidge, as our history books have taught us, is known as a “do-nothing president.”
Coolidge had a very underwhelming presence physical. Shlaes describes the man as short, slight, quiet, and humble. Yet he managed to win reelection in 1924, after becoming president in 1923 as a result of Warren G. Harding’s death.
Coolidge’s personality originated in his deep religious faith, which required him to be unambitious and frugal.
Shlaes further posits that today’s politicians today “are weak” while “journalists are sheep.” These two factors have led to congressional gridlock; she concluded that we needed a new Coolidge for today.
Can the United States really elect a man of Coolidge’s caliber in the 21st century? With television and Twitter, I can’t even imagine a candidate that chooses to remain prudently reserved before pursuing a right and just public policy.
Even Ronald Reagan was formerly an actor; he was the “Great Communicator.”
Coolidge, on the other hand, lived his traditional New England virtues, governed with them, and left the White House perceiving it simply as a building that men entered and left.
Limited government conservatives may idealize these qualities, but they need to be reincarnated in a louder man. If they are not, I fear they will be drowned out by the noise of mass media.
Though reserved, Coolidge did use his words wisely. Indeed, we could use the following today:
“I am for economy, and after that I am for more economy.”
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