Calvin Coolidge was that silent President who never did anything while in office for 5 years, right? He never passed a flawed universal health bill, he never started a handful of wars, he never instituted a federal “assault weapons” ban, he never blatantly lied while telling the American people to read his lips, and he never started an un-winnable war on drugs–so he is remembered as having done nothing. In reality, Coolidge did what almost every President since has promised, yet failed, to do. Calvin Coolidge cut taxes, reduced unemployment, balanced the budget, spurred economic growth, and suppressed inflation. But because our idea of a leader as someone who has to leave their legacy, instead of someone who responsibly runs the country, Coolidge is pretty much criticized for not jamming some kind of lofty sounding bill down America’s throat.
David Pietrusza is an author and historian who wrote the Daily Caller article about a new book coming out called “Coolidge” by Amity Shlaes. He has also produced a biography of the 30th President often called Silent Cal. Calvin Coolidge should stand as a reminder that an ideal President need not be a celebrity, and really should not be on the minds of Americans on a daily basis. Henry David Thoreau said “That government is best which governs least”, and Coolidge exemplified this. He improved the lives and conditions of Americans across the board, and did more with less–he balanced the budget while reducing taxes. Coolidge’s vision was not an all encompassing nanny state, but a responsible government which is there when needed, but does not bully its way into every aspect of daily life.
A quarter of the federal debt was retired under Coolidge, and only the top 2% of earners payed any income taxes at all by the end of his time in the White House. Predictably state governments grew in size during this same time, taking on more responsibility for governing. When state government are empowered, it is another check in the American checks and balances system, which does not allow one group or person to gain too much power. According to the tenth amendment, states should handle most of what the federal government deals with these days, and localizing government means solutions are more tailored to the problems, and people can participate more meaningfully in their governments. What we really need is to get away from the idea that the government needs to “do something”, because usually when they “do something”, it creates a bigger problem, and the cycle begins anew.
“It is much more important to kill bad bills, than to pass good ones”. -Calvin Coolidge