American Elephants


Remember This Man. by The Elephant's Child

007_coolidge

It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of
safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.”

Do you recognize this man? This is Calvin Coolidge. He inherited the position of chief executive when scandal-plagued President Warren Harding died in office in August, 1923.  He was elected in his own right in 1924.  Amity Schlaes’ new biography, titled simply Coolidge, highlights some of the achievements the nation enjoyed during Coolidge’s time in the White House.

Under Coolidge, the top income tax rate came down by half, to 25 percent. Under Coolidge, the federal budget was always in surplus. Under Coolidge, unemployment was 5 percent or even 3 percent. Under Coolidge, Americans wired their homes for electricity and bought their first cars or household appliances on credit. Under Coolidge, the economy grew strongly, even as the federal government shrank.

Under Coolidge, the rates of patent applications and patents granted increased dramatically. Under Coolidge, there came no federal antilynching law, but lynchings themselves became less frequent and Ku Klux Klan membership dropped by millions. Under Coolidge, a man from a town without a railroad station, America moved from the road into the air.

After he won a full term, Coolidge pressed Congress for tax cuts. The top income tax rate was reduced from the wartime 70 to 25%. The economy burst into robust economic growth. Now we call it “the Roaring Twenties.” That helped Coolidge achieve budget surpluses every year — surpluses that he used to pay down the national debt.

He also said:
“Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

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Two of my favorite stories:
One is of a woman seated next to President Coolidge at a dinner party who turned to Coolidge and said, “You must talk to me, Mr. President. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” Coolidge looked at the woman and simply replied, “You lose.”

The second has to do with Dorothy Parker. After Coolidge passed away in January 1933, a reporter told Parker, who was writing for the New Yorker at the time, that President Coolidge was dead. Parker’s response? “How can they tell?”

In his autobiography, Coolidge noted, “The words of a President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately”, and often said, “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called upon to repeat it.” A lesson, sadly, never learned by the current occupant of the White House.

Comment by Lon Mead




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