by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
President Calvin Coolidge is a favorite of fiscal conservatives and thousands of pages have been written to explain his contributions. But here’s something you may not know: the Coolidge family pets weren’t dogs or cats. They were lion cubs — gifts the president used to reflect his firm commitment to his fiscal principles. Our Mitch Kokai relates the story, which was shared recently by author Amity Shlaes at a forum at Western Carolina University.
President Calvin Coolidge had accepted a gift of twin lions from the mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa. Shlaes recounted the anecdote from her 2013 biography of the 30th U.S. president. “The Coolidges did not name their lions Millie or Bo or Socks, or so on,” Shlaes said. “They named them Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.”
“What Coolidge liked about the lion cubs was that they were the same weight — they were twins,” Shlaes explained. “And he fed them even-steven. … He didn’t want one big, fat cat and one runt.”
Coolidge was sending a message that a sound federal budget mattered just as much as the worthwhile goal of reducing tax burdens. The emphasis on both low tax rates and frugal budgeting means that Coolidge deserves an A grade for his tax reform efforts in the 1920s, Shlaes said.
Interesting that Coolidge made that connection. Mitch’s column recounts more of Shlaes’ comments about the need to address both federal taxation and spending. Her message resonates today in particular, as we face a bloated and growing national debt that looms large for future generations. Members of Congress and President Trump can learn a lot from Silent Cal — and from North Carolina. North Carolina has enacted pro-growth policies that spur economic growth. Our policies have followed the Coolidge model: you must address both taxation and spending.