I doubt if anyone knows this, but once upon a time America had two “Good Presidents” who cut Federal spending and balanced the budget.
The first was Democrat, Grover Cleveland, “A Man of Iron” who won the White House in 1884 on a platform of restraining federal spending and corruption. In 1888, he lost to Benjamin Harrison, but came out of retirement to run again in 1892 because of the reckless spending of the Harrison administration.
President Cleveland saw his job as upholding the Constitution and keeping the Federal government in its proper place, not weakening “the bonds of common brotherhood” by robbing Peter to pay Paul. He understood that no society in history that allowed itself to be bribed by its politicians ever survived such legal larceny.
In 1901, President Cleveland admonished his fellow Americans to muster the character to resist being bribed with their own money.
The other “Good President” who balanced the Federal budget was Calvin Coolidge.
The Federal expenditures in 1920 amounted to $6.4 billion. When President Harding died in 1923, they were less than half that, at $3.2 billion. After more than five years of the Coolidge presidency, they were just a hair below $3 billion. Tax rates in the 1920s were cut dramatically, federal revenues rose, and nearly half the national debt was eliminated. The budget was in surplus every single year which allowed the American economy to flourish.
Sadly, nothing like that sterling fiscal record has been seen since. Indeed, both major parties now embrace massive deficit spending as far into the future as the eye can see, evidence of a huge loss of national character and common sense.
In his 1925 Inaugural address, President Calvin Coolidge said,
“I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.”
As President Cleveland wrote in 1901, “The waste of public money is a malign condition which threatens us,” an “evil” that is “calamitous and destructive to our national character and integrity.”
My how things have changed in the last 100 years. The quality of our Presidential leadership has declined drastically. I fear for the future of our nation if we can not find another “Good President” like Cleveland or Coolidge to cut spending and balance the budget.