Election 2012

It’s time for a little Calvin Coolidge in our economic approach

It's time for a little Calvin Coolidge in our economic approach

“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein

Many politicians have cited Einstein’s quote, but Americans don’t seem to be listening. Philosopher George Santayana famously noted that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  Sadly, our history books have followed a scripted narrative, omitting much important information that the American people need to consider this year.

Since the early years of the 20th Century, Americans have chosen various approaches to governance.  They have elected Republican presidents but given them Democratic-controlled congresses – for example, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and, for part of his administration, G.W. Bush. They have elected Democratic presidents to serve with Republican majorities in one or both houses of Congress – for example, the last few years of Woodrow Wilson’s administration, Harry Truman, part of the administration of Bill Clinton, and a Republican House during the final two years of Barack Obama’s first term.

There were, however, several periods during which Democratic presidents enjoyed huge majorities in both houses of Congress as shown in the summary chart below: [1]

            President    House of Representatives    Senate
Franklin D. Roosevelt  Democrats:  70 percent  Democrats: 66 percent
       “ “     “   “   “   “  Republicans: 30  Republicans: 34
Lyndon B. Johnson  Democrats:  61  Democrats:  65
       “    “     “     “  Republicans: 39  Republicans: 35
Jimmy Carter  Democrats:  66  Democrats:  60
    “  “    “   “  Republicans: 34  Republicans: 40

During the first two years of Barack Obama’s first term, the breakout was as follows:

Senate:  59 percent Democrats   41 percent Republicans

House:   59 percent Democrats   41 percent Republicans

From these charts, we can see that there have been several Democratic presidents over the past 80 years who enjoyed very large majorities in both houses of Congress throughout their terms of office.  Barack Obama enjoyed similar majorities through the first full two years of his term.  After the 2010 congressional election, Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate, but lost the majority in the House.

Historical facts reveal that President Roosevelt took actions which, according to his theoretical approach to governance, would “stimulate the economy” and end the Great Depression.  The facts that have emerged from recent research indicate that the traditional (“mainstream”) view that FDR’s policies “ended the Great Depression” is woefully lacking when exposed to the light of critical review.  Even Henry Morgenthau, FDR’s Secretary of Treasury (hardly a conservative naysayer or a “right wing extremist”) said the following in testimony before Congress several years into the Roosevelt Administration:

“We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work….  We have never made good on our promises … I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started… and an enormous debt to boot!”[2]

President Lyndon Johnson vastly increased the size and scope of the welfare state through his “Great Society” and created the entitlement programs known as Medicare and Medicaid.  What he and the Democratic Congress failed to create was a credible way to pay for these federal programs in the long term. They are now major drivers of our debt and deficit and threaten to bankrupt the treasury unless reformed. And yet President Obama demagogues this issue and has proposed no credible proposals to deal with it.

Democratic President Jimmy Carter also used his huge congressional majorities to further the agenda of the left in the areas of spending, debt, deficit, and growing the size and power of the federal government.  By the end of his administration, the American economy suffered from nagging inflation and high interest rates.  It’s another prime example of what one-party Democratic government has produced.

You won’t read the aforementioned accounts in today’s high school or college history textbooks.  Instead, students are treated to airbrushed versions of history that either whitewash or simply omit the documented, factual record of these Democratic administrations. They all applied a virtually identical approach to governance as that practiced by President Barack Obama and by leftwing Democrats in California, Illinois, and other states they control.

Probably fewer than one in 100,000 Americans knows the last time a truly constitutionally conservative Republican president enjoyed significant conservative majorities in both houses of Congress.[3]  Sadly, it was back in the 1920s during the administration of President Calvin Coolidge.  “Mainstream” historians have omitted from their narratives much about this extraordinary period in American history.

Vice President Calvin Coolidge became president upon the death of President Warren Harding in 1923.  He was elected in his own right in 1924 and served until March of 1929.

At the beginning of the Harding/Coolidge administration, the country was suffering a serious economic depression. Rather than apply feckless measures involving the federal government — as was later done by the progressive Republican Herbert Hoover, or Franklin Roosevelt, or, more recently, Barack Obama — the newly inaugurated Republican administration implemented measures similar to those executed by contemporary conservative governors in Virginia and Wisconsin and elsewhere upon inheriting such economic woes. They used their conservative majorities in both houses of Congress to apply constitutionally conservative principles to fix economic problems.

Specifically, the administration cut taxes on all taxpayers by 67 percent, which resulted in large increases in government revenues.  This, by the way, has happened virtually every time the tax rates have been lowered, despite Democrats’ stubborn refusal to acknowledge this fact and their obstinate determination to raise taxes, even during economic downturns.

The Republicans also cut government spending by 25 percent over 8 years, resulting in budget surpluses. Rather than concoct new programs on which to spend these surpluses, Coolidge applied them to pay down the federal debt, reducing it significantly.[4]

During the six years of his part of the administration, thanks to the efforts of his Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon and the cooperation of a conservative Republican Congress, Calvin Coolidge lowered unemployment to an astounding and never again replicated 2 percent. [5]

One would think that, after numerous times of giving Democrats a virtual one-party rule in Washington, perhaps the American people might finally give the Calvin Coolidge/Mitt Romney approach a fair and long overdue try, especially given the severity of the economic challenges facing our nation.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should be elected and also given a fair chance to govern by giving them solid conservative majorities in both houses of Congress – the same chance several Democrat presidents have been given in the past. If states such as Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Montana, and even West Virginia and New Mexico were to replace incumbent or retiring Democrat Senators with Republicans running for those seats, a new Republican president would have, for the first time since the 1920s, a genuine opportunity to implement the conservative agenda which is working so well in several of the states of our union.

It’s time for a real change.  It’s time to give the conservative side of the aisle a legitimate chance to apply effective solutions to serious problems. America deserves a chance to succeed!  And time is growing dangerously short.

Charles Cole is a retired Defense Department educator who lives in Wyoming and writes political essays.  

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