Improving the silence ‘Silent Cal’-Style
by Roger Hines
Columnist
March 10, 2013 12:00 AM | 1289 views | 7 7 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I knew it! I knew that Calvin Coolidge had been getting a bum rap for eight decades — all because he was a leader with uncomplicated ideas, as well as a man of a few words.

When you don’t have much to say, you’re often judged as aloof, disinterested or timid. This was the case with “Silent Cal,” a least in the eyes of left-leaning historians. Because he believed that you should not speak unless you can improve the silence, Coolidge often didn’t speak. He spoke enough to become governor of Massachusetts, but even while on his way to that office he was economical with language. His reticence and simplicity earned him ridicule. (Smart-alecky feminist poet Dorothy Parker, upon hearing of Coolidge’s death, remarked, “How could they tell?”)

However this quiet American president (1923-1929) is now being vindicated. Sooner or later, it seems, every major public figure gets his or her turn to be re-visited, re-researched and reconsidered in the light of the passage of time. A little time and distance is always good for objective seekers of truth.

But why has Coolidge’s time for analysis arrived? Why the many articles? Why the success of the recent biography by Amity Shlaes simply titled “Coolidge” which portrays him as watchful and effective, as well as cerebral?

I suspect that Coolidge’s time has come because historians wish to assess his supposedly simple, but successful solutions in light of what has been happening to America’s economy in the last half-decade.

Serving just before Herbert Hoover, Coolidge produced surpluses each year he was in office. According to Shlaes, it was Coolidge’s attentiveness to the federal budget that led to those surpluses and to the reduction of the top income rate from 70 percent to 25 percent.

Given the material prosperity that resulted from Coolidge’s brief presidency and from the Reagan and Clinton years, one wonders how many more examples are needed to illustrate the wisdom of reducing government and taxes. Coolidge’s treatment by historians also points out the gaps that exist in our knowledge of our history.

Understand that citizens are busy making a living, that we love sports or some other avocation, and that we like to relax with the remote after a day’s work, but modern Americans are letting life go by with little understanding of what is happening in the world around them. As the Hebrew proverb puts it, “For lack of knowledge, the people perish.”

And we do lack knowledge. We lack knowledge of how things came to be as they are. One year of high school American history or economics, at a time when most of us weren’t very interested anyhow, is not enough. To understand what we are now coping with economically, we must understand why we are now drowning (perishing?) in debt. We need to read and talk to fellow citizens about our country, its economy, and our common welfare.

Unlike the ancient Greeks, who held well-attended “polis” (town hall) meetings to discuss “polis,” i.e., government, Americans tend to neglect governmental involvement.

The result is ignorance of how we are being governed and what is happening economically.

For instance, one historical reality is the economic sea change brought on by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Big Government’s origin, with its crushing regulation and countless programs, actually began with FDR. Big Government is comparatively new-fangled, birthed 81 years ago. I’ll grant FDR sincerity, not just because my parents and my wife’s parents virtually deified him, but because of his tenable argument that his New Deal initiatives were a necessary Depression-cure measure.

But human nature loves bread and circuses. If they are “free,” or if we think they are, we don’t want to turn them loose. And turn loose we haven’t. When the Depression ended, instead of returning to the philosophy of the meticulous, scrimpy Coolidge, Big Government continued to grow. An FDR disciple, Lyndon Baines Johnson, continued to feed the beast. Obama is now gorging it.

To help curb the gorging, is there any reason in the world why we can’t abolish the federal Department of Education? It is a mere dollar-dispensing agency that dispenses only when states kowtow, and the states normally do. And what does the Department of Commerce do all day? And the Department of Labor?

Ignorance is not bliss; it is imminent danger. We find ourselves under oppressive, intrusive government because we weren’t watchful of its creep. We become conditioned to Big Government’s soft tyranny.

Can anyone imagine Calvin Coolidge being patient with a 14,000-page tax code? I’m sure he would say, “Needs cut’n. Cut it.” Handed any bills that would provide for stifling regulation, or more government agencies, Coolidge would have, no doubt, muttered, “Don’t need’em. Won’t sign’em.” Now that’s improving the silence, as well as the nation.

Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.

Comments
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Kevin Foley
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March 12, 2013
@ East Cobb Senior - If you actually read and comprehend my columns (I notice reactionaries are often incapable of both), you'll know I support them with verifiable facts, not conjecture. You just don't like the facts I present.

The "character assassination" you accuse me of committing is generally self-inflicted by my subjects. Read Friday's column about Rand Paul and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Kevin Foley
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March 11, 2013
@ East Cobb Senior (whoever you are) - You're angry when presented with facts. All reactionaries are angry when presented with facts.

Here's a tip: if you want to yell on the Internet, USE CAPS!!!! THAT WAY WE'LL KNOW HOW MAD YOU ARE!!!
East Cobb Senior
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March 12, 2013
Mr. Foley, it doesn't really matter who I am but I assure you I'm neither mad nor a reactionary or yelling, simply stating the facts. That may be a bit difficult for you digest or understand, but again let me suggest that you study history before you make ludicrous statements that are factually untrue. It also appears that the majority of your columns are more conjecture and hyperbole with, at times, a tinge of character assasination rather than factual information.
East Cobb Senior
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March 11, 2013
Few are alive today that experienced the “Great Depression” or understand the devastating consequences of FDR’s failed government intervention that exacerbated and prolonged the depression. When we study the political tactics of FDR, LBJ and BHO, they are very similar in execution. All utilized that same continuous “campaign” style of governance to achieve their socialist objectives.

I agree that LBJ was greatly influenced by FDR, but Roosevelt had his political mentor in the socialist leaning Woodrow Wilson. So, the genesis of the cradle to grave, “Big Government”, philosophy of the Democrats is by no means a recent phenomenon. What really allowed LBJ to significantly increase his involvement in Vietnam and to get away with his hugely expansive and costly socialist programs (The War on Poverty and Great Society) and pay for his folly , while keeping the exorbitant costs hidden from the American people, was his STEALING all the funds from the then solvent Social Security Trust Fund.

Now we have the socialist leaning, “Campaigner and Blamer in Chief”, Obama, whose contempt for American ideals are masked in his flowery campaign rhetoric. Because of his utter distain for capitalism, free enterprise and entrepreneurialism, he is attempting to “transform” our culture, traditions and constitutional foundation by bankrupting our nation through debt. We can only hope the American people wake up before it's too late

Kevin Foley
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March 11, 2013
"Big Government continued to grow. An FDR disciple, Lyndon Baines Johnson, continued to feed the beast. Obama is now gorging it."

As measured by spending, and I think that's where you're going here, Roger, Obama has spent less than Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. You could have looked that up.

As for Silent Cal, he presided over one of the bloodiest decades of lawlessness and debauchery in America, known as the Roaring 20s, culminating in the crash of 1929, which necessitated "Big Government" you now condemn. Your family was right in deify FDR, who brought order out of the chaos.
East Cobb Senior
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March 11, 2013
Kevin Foley, as is typical of the Democratic Left, conveniently omits what was truly the most lawless and bloody decade in American history, (aside from the Civil and Revolutionary Wars), the 1960's, which was, incidentally, presided over by DEMOCRATS. You talk about liberals re-writing history, Foley falls right in with that bunch. An while your about it Mr. Foley, study what really caused the crash of 1929 before you try to transpose your liberal ideology into another re-write of history. By the way, Big Government didn't end the Great Depression Mr. Foley, the Second World War did.
Harry Hagan
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March 10, 2013
What an excellent and welcomed column! Bravos galore. Each effort is a masterpiece. Many thanks.
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