Presidential Spotlight: Calvin Coolidge
Alek Ledvina ‘20
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, was born and raised in a remote Vermont town. He brought the values of hard work, humility, and perseverance to the Oval Office, a stark contrast from its current occupant. While Donald Trump grandstanded about reducing debt and growing the economy, Coolidge acted significantly.
In addition to his humble character, Coolidge’s presidency saw a large-scale increase in American prosperity, bringing utilities such as electricity and running water to the masses. Coolidge, both as Vice President or President, oversaw the entirety of the Roaring 20s. Along with Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, he was able to turn the existing budget deficit into a surplus, simultaneously reducing the national debt by 26% over his Presidential tenure. This reduction in federal debt has been nonexistent since Coolidge, with every subsequent president increasing the national debt. It is often thought that in order to achieve a budget surplus, taxes must be raised. Yet, he proved otherwise; the top marginal tax rate fell from over 50% to 25%.
Contrary to popular belief, the Great Depression was not caused by the Harding and Coolidge administrations. Rather, it was caused by the reckless monetary policy the Federal Reserve followed at the time. Believing that government should be restrained, Coolidge did not interfere with the Federal Reserve, pursuing the originally intended policy of independence of the central bank. The Fed lowered interest rates from 7% in 1921 to 3% in 1925, resulting in an unprecedented increase in credit. This allowed loans and leverage to be obtained at a lower rate. Borrowed money flooded into the stock market in the form of speculative investment, ultimately resulting in the parabolic rise of stock values.
As with all phony business cycles since its establishment, the Fed’s artificial boom sowed the seeds for the next bust. Realizing that current speculation was unsustainable, the Federal Reserve tried to gain ammunition to mitigate the next recession. Rates were jacked up from 3% up to 6% in 1929. High interest rates pricked the bubble in housing and the stock market, resulting in a widespread decline in consumption and a collapse of the bubble economy. The rest is history.
Although many presidents such as H.W. Bush have had grand burials and tombs, Silent Cal preferred a demure gravesite. In January 1933, he was buried under a simple tombstone near his birthsite in Vermont, his gravesite being incommensurate with the myriad successes of his presidency.