Advice for President Obama: be Warren Harding, not Franklin Roosevelt

Posted by: Phineas on July 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Never did I think I’d favorably mention President Harding twice in a blog, but here you go. The first was a quote from Harding, while what follows is a quote about Harding:

I know, the thought Obama could be half the president Harding was is too much to ask.

Considering Harding is one of the most reviled 20th-century presidents (among those who even remember him), that statement could be easily taken as an insult to Obama by ironic comparison to (another) president who was truly awful.

Far from it. Historian Steven Hayward looks at the misperceptions regarding Harding that have become commonplace thanks to liberal academia and argues that our 29th president is someone Obama should seek to emulate, at least in economic policy. Faced with a genuine economic depression, runaway inflation, and a huge government debt after World War One, Harding did things that would give statists nightmares:

So what did Harding do? A “stimulus”? A jobs program? “Targeted” tax cuts? Government bailouts for ailing companies? Nope—he cut government spending sharply and rapidly (by almost 50 percent), began cutting tax rates across the board, and allowed asset values and wages to adjust freely as fast as possible. Harding’s administration, Paul Johnson observed, “was the last time a major industrial power treated a recession by classic laissez-faire methods, allowing wages to fall to their natural level . . . By July 1921 it was all over and the economy was booming again.” The Cato Institute’s Jim Powell offers a more complete summary of Harding’s soundness on economic policy, but suffice it to say that Harding’s traditional approach prevented the depression of 1920-21 from becoming a Great Depression, and in fact set he stage for the roaring twenties.

Of course, what would give Keynesians and other statists those nightmares is that —The Horror!!— it worked, while the interventionist, centrally directed policies of Hoover and FDR (1) failed miserably.

So, come on Mr. President, I dare you: Be like Warren.

Just don’t let Michelle catch you in the closet.

(1) Yes, Hoover has been unfairly slagged by FDR hagiographers who needed a whipping boy to make their guy look good. The fact is, Hoover was a bad president in the early years of the Great Depression, but not for being the anti-FDR. Check out Hayward’s post for a revealing quote from Rex Tugwell, one of FDR key early aides, about how the New Deal was an amplification of Hoover’s policies.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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3 Responses to “Advice for President Obama: be Warren Harding, not Franklin Roosevelt”


  1. maddogg says:

    Ain’t gonna happen. Ya can’t expect a hard core socialist to go capitalist, even one as cynical as Da Zero. He has no clue. All he can do is demogogue and blow hot gas and try to scare stupid people. It will work to some extent, remember 52% or so were stupid enough to vote for the gas bag in the first place. Claimed he was a centrist in the face of 25 years of proof otherwise. I mean, how stoopid can ya get? I guess they had to vote for the socialist to find out what was in it. Couldn’t hear the echo from the empty suit for all the calls for hopey-changey drivel. Fore! A lot of people who think they are smarter than the bitter-clingers hate to admit they are just garden variety imbeciles. They may well double down.

  2. Tex says:

    Obama only wants to cut $4 trillion of the $14.3 trillion debt over a ten year period? I don’t see how that’s going to be much help. They need to cut more like $7 trillion over the next 3 to 5 years. With the federal budget at $3.834 trillion for 2011, if they cut federal spending by 50% they could achieve that $7 trillion reduction in the national debt in 4 years. But of course, no one in Washington, DC, has the “huevos” that Harding had.

  3. Drew says:

    Great post, Phineas. But no way in hell this sort of perspective gets through the fog of the MSM. Perhaps we have hope in the blogosphere.