by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The president understood that ambitious budget cuts would be accepted if he could “align” them with ambitious tax cuts. The press wondered how two such taciturn men as Coolidge and his Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, managed to chat long enough to plot a tax crusade. But the two shared an outlook and “conversed in pauses,” as was written at the time.
After congressional resistance compromised their first legislation so badly that an editorial in this newspaper assailed lawmakers for “hazing the president,” Coolidge and Mellon redoubled their effort. Finally, in 1926, Coolidge won his 25% tax rate.
Coolidge and Mellon carefully underscored the technical evidence, and there was plenty, that greater revenues might follow tax rate cuts. But they still insisted on twinning tax cuts with budget cuts, so voters and markets would never be betrayed. When an admirer in South Africa sent two lion cubs to the president, Coolidge named them Budget Bureau and Tax Reduction to emphasize the linked approach.
President Reagan recognized Coolidge’s achievement, and upon taking office in 1981 he had a neglected Coolidge picture restored to a place of honor near Lincoln and Jefferson in the Cabinet Room. It is too much to hope that President Obama would take Coolidge’s example to heart. But those who are even now pondering presidential runs for 2016 would do well to heed Silent Cal’s deeds.