It’s a shame we’ll have to wait until winter to read what Amity Shlaes has to say in book-length form about former President Calvin Coolidge. One hopes she can do for Coolidge’s legacy what her book The Forgotten Man did to set the record straight about the Great Depression.
While we wait for Shlaes’ new book, though, we can glean some of its key ideas within a two-page article she prepared for the latest National Review. Imagining what Coolidge would do if he were moving into the White House in 2013, Shlaes outlines 11 points. They include writing a new budget law that allows the chief executive to refuse to spend appropriated funds when that spending is unnecessary, shaming Washington bureaucrats into spending less, blocking new entitlements, vetoing bills “all the time,” and cutting budgets before cutting taxes.
Coolidge believed high taxes were wrong, but he believed that cutting taxes before cutting budgets trained citizens to believe that deficits did not matter. If the American voter was no longer concerned about deficits, lawmakers would not be concerned either, and they would expand programs that generated yet larger deficits. The Coolidge insistence on pairing tax cuts with budget cuts extended even to pet names: When a South African mayor sent the White House twin lion cubs, Coolidge named them “Tax Reduction” and “Budget Bureau.”