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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Friday, August 26, 2005

Calvin Coolidge: A Great American

Calvin Coolidge was born in Vermont in 1872 and grew up on a farm. His mother died when he was quite young, and he was thus close to his father.

He was unable to afford law school after graduating from college, so he determined to study law with a law firm. His first choice was a firm in Vermont. But the head of that firm was out of town, so Coolidge went ahead and accepted an offer from a Massachusetts law firm. This was a fateful decision, since it was as governor of Massachusetts that he gained national attention by breaking the 1919 Boston police strike. ("There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime.")

Gov. Coolidge was a favorite-son candidate for president at the 1920 Republican National Convention. He was widely respected by the delegates for his honesty and plain-spokenness. Another of the candidates was future President Herbert Hoover.

The convention was essentially controlled by a group of ten U. S. senators. The delegates felt confident that they would be nominating the next president, since the country was ready for a "return to normalcy" after the turbulent years of Woodrow Wilson's administration. What the delegates did not realize was that they would be nominating the next two presidents!

The Group of Ten offered liberal Sen. Hiram Johnson of California second place on a ticket headed by Philander Knox and then one headed by Sen. Warren G. Harding of Ohio. Johnson rejected both offers, saying that he was only interested in the top spot. If he had accepted either deal, Johnson would have become president, since both Knox and Harding died during the next presidential term. (Thank God for small favors!)

Once the Group of Ten had settled on Harding as their choice for president, the delegates went along with them. The Group then recommended a U. S. senator from Wisconsin as Harding's running-mate. It was here that the delegates asserted their independence and nominated Gov. Coolidge instead. Back home in Massachusetts, the governor took the news quite calmly.

In the ensuing campaign, Harding and Coolidge defeated the Democratic ticket, which consisted of Gov. James Cox of Ohio and Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York. The new administration was inaugurated on March 4, 1921. (Incidentally, Harding was the only sitting Republican U. S. senator ever to be elected president; John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was the only incumbent Democratic U. S. senator to be elected president (1960). The only other sitting member of Congress to be elected president was Republican Rep. James Garfield of Ohio (1880). You'll note that all three of these men died in office.)

Coolidge became president when Harding died in 1923. He won a full four-year term in a landslide in the 1924 election. He served until March 4, 1929, when he was succeeded by his commerce secretary, Herbert Hoover. Coolidge died of a heart attack shortly before Franklin D. Roosevelt took office as president in 1933.


[The following letter appeared in The Clarion-Ledger on July 18, 2004. This was in response to Joe Atkins's column of June 20, 2004.]

Liberals like columnist Joe Atkins ("Bringing back 1920s terrible idea") love to distort the history of the 1920s and the 1980s because those decades proved that conservatism works.

When the income tax was enacted in 1913, the top rate was seven percent.

By the early 1920s, it had risen to 73 percent; investment was stifled as people sheltered their money.

Since 73 percent of zero is zero, President Calvin Coolidge, working with Treasury secretary Andrew Mellon, cut the top rate in stages to 24 percent; he cut the bottom rate from four percent to one-half percent.

This caused more economic activity, which led to a 30 percent rise in revenues.

There were budget surpluses throughout the 1920s; the national debt was reduced by one-third.

Following the stock market crash, President Herbert Hoover hastened the Great Depression by raising both the income tax and tariff rates [the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff].

Atkins's hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt, raised the top income tax rate to 79 percent, and revenues fell correspondingly.

Five years into FDR's tenure, the unemployment rate had lowered only slightly.

FDR proposed a 99 and 1/2 percent tax on incomes above $100,000. When asked why he thought this was a good idea, he said, "Why not?"

In 1942, FDR signed an executive order imposing a 100 percent tax on incomes above $25,000!

In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy reduced the top income tax rate from 91 percent to 70 percent.

President Ronald Reagan cut the top rate from 70 percent to 28 percent. [It is now nearly 40 percent.]

Between 1982 and 1990, government revenues nearly doubled.

Sadly, spending, which originated in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, grew even faster.

Today, the top one percent of earners pay more than one-third of all income taxes; those at the bottom pay zero.

Since Atkins dislikes rich people, he must despise Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards.