Saturday, December 31, 2011

Class Warfare, Calvin Coolidge, and the Great Depression

Sometimes I wonder, are people stupid, or just willfully ignorant?  Many times I’m forced to think it’s the latter; enter author and correspondent David Pietrusza and his Op-Ed piece for titled “Class War—The Calvin Coolidge Response”

Of course Pietrusza starts off with a predictable story line, rambling on and on about how Obama has instituted a “war” on the upper class; Pietrusza even says America “no longer enjoys a peacetime economy. I speak not of Iraq or of Afghanistan. I speak of the class warfare economy officially imposed on the nation in Barack Obama’s Osawatomie speech.” He tells that Obama’s policies have been "tried everywhere. And has failed everywhere.  It leads to the guillotine—and, ultimately, back to the poor house.” Well, besides the ridiculously over-the-top suggestion that Obama’s policies will lead to people getting their heads chopped off, I can’t help but wonder how Obama’s policies will lead to the “poor house.”

'Calvin Coolidge, Thirtieth President (1923-1929)' photo (c) 2008, Cliff - license:
After getting in his rhetorical cheap shots in on the President, Pietrusza then goes on to explain what a great example President Calvin Coolidge should be to us; Yep, Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, in office from 1923-1929.  Despite being pressured to raise taxes on the rich, Coolidge resisted.  Coolidge succeeded in lowering income tax rates that had skyrocketed during the wartime Wilson administration. A booming economy resulted. Inflation and unemployment nearly vanished. The budget was balanced. The national debt reduced.” Oh, and there was this “Great Depression” thingy immediately after he left office.

Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey, authors of the presidential biographies found on, tell that “Coolidge demonstrated his determination to preserve the old moral and economic precepts amid the material prosperity which many Americans were enjoying. He refused to use Federal economic power to check the growing boom or to ameliorate the depressed condition of agriculture and certain industries.” Sound like any other former President (Bush) or current Presidential candidates?   

It would be unfair to blame the entire recession on President Bush’s policies (despite the willingness of some to blame it entirely on Obama), yet it is curious that just like Coolidge, who exited the White House just before the Great Depression, that when Bush’s presidency also ended a horrible recession immediately followed.   So, it has me wondering, should we really be praising the economic policy of a President whose term directly preceded the worst economic depression in American history?  Yet this is exactly what conservatives would have us do, continue to keep up the status quo, to continue the practices that Coolidge and Bush both promoted.   It’s hardly a surprise, for just like it was back in the “roaring 20’s,” the wealthy have been incredibly successful over the last 10 years and why would anyone want to change that?

I really, really doubt that David Pietrusza is stupid, I don’t think he’s willfully ignorant, nor do I even think he’s being blinded by his own ideology—I wonder if it’s much simpler.  Pietrusza knows what’s good for him and those like him, and he knows that any changes to the economic policies under which he has benefitted will likely negatively impact his bottom line.  So should we blame a guy for only caring about himself? Well, that up to your standard of morality (last I knew selfishness was immoral), but misappropriating history to support your positions—that’s just not cool.


  1. It is uncertain whether a recession is an unending process. Nowadays the effect of inflation is the decline on the dollar rate, which affects the products and services that amount buys which is called purchasing power.