Editor’s Note: This post was written by James LaValle.
With Donald Trump’s presidency nearly 100 days into its tenure, his policies and agenda have come under extreme scrutiny by members on both the left and right sides of the aisle, leading to a heavy divide within the government and political landscape both on what President Trump should pursue and how. With this in mind, we cast an eye to the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, an inauspicious man whose political agenda during his tenure in office surprisingly mirrored that of President Trump’s chosen agenda. Both of these presidents dealt with the issues of taxation, the economy and immigration – issues that defined President Coolidge within his presidency and would come to define his legacy beyond it.
President Trump could learn from President Coolidge to study his taxation policy very carefully and note what it did to both the American economy and the American people. Coolidge described taxation as: “nothing more or less than a restriction upon the freedom of the people.” In accordance with these views, Coolidge passed fiscal policies that “encouraged speculation and ignored inequality” which in turn was partially responsible for the stock market crash of 1928. Prior to the stock market crashes of both 1929 and 2008, economic inequality in the United States was at all-time highs. During the 1929 crash, this inequality was largely due to Coolidge’s aforementioned fiscal policies, including his tax cuts that lead to the speculation bubble and his lack of regulation of businesses, both things that President Trump highly encourages. President Trump should take the lesson from President Coolidge and learn to view his taxation policies and the economy as things that are entwined, and cannot be separated. Currently, President Trump is riding the wave of a booming stock market leftover from the Obama administration. This boom, however, will not be permanent, and if he is the president in office when the economy slows down and the stock market stops, reaching new record highs due to his taxation and economic policies, it is a lesson that will haunt him through his presidency and his legacy.
A final lesson for President Trump to take from President Coolidge would be his views on immigration and how Coolidge’s idea that “America must be kept American” strongly echoes the policy of “America First” which has been set forth by Donald Trump. President Trump has already attempted to enact executive orders to restrict the ability of peoples from six majority-Muslim countries to enter the United States. Perhaps, instead, he can take a lesson from former President Coolidge and note that, throughout history, whether it be legislation or executive orders, any governmental action that specifically targets people of certain ethnicities is not perceived well by both the nation and history. To this day, Coolidge’s lack of concrete stances and action on issues such as immigration, the economy, and the repercussions of his tax policies continue to be some of the most vehement criticisms of his presidency. Seeing as how President Trump truly desires to be loved by the American people, perhaps President Trump can take these lessons from President Coolidge in stride, and not become victim to the same pitfall that haunted President Coolidge both within his presidency and his legacy.
Information in this post about President Coolidge was taken from “Calvin Coolidge: The American Presidents Series: The 30th President, 1923-1929” by David Greenberg.