Michael Barone

Shlaes tells how he settled into a routine of meeting regularly with the director of the new Bureau of the Budget, paring down spending any way he could.

Coolidge's Republicans had small majorities in Congress, and many favored big new spending programs -- veterans' bonuses, farm subsidies. Coolidge said no, with vetoes that were sustained.

At the same time, he pressed Congress for tax cuts. After Coolidge won a full term in 1924, the top income tax rate was reduced from the wartime 70 percent to 25 percent.

An economy that lurched from inflation to recession between 1918 and 1922 suddenly burst into robust economic growth.

That helped Coolidge achieve budget surpluses ever year -- surpluses that he used to pay down the national debt.

In the summer of 1927, while vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Coolidge announced, "I do not choose to run for president in 1928."

All the political indicators -- random sample public opinion polls had not yet been invented -- suggest he would have won a second full term. And would have been in office when the stock market crashed in October 1929.

The New Deal historians depict the prosperity of the Coolidge years as illusory. In their view, the binge would inevitably be followed by the hangover.

More recent economic historians have suggested that policy mistakes by the Federal Reserve were the prime cause of the deflationary downward spiral. The onerous Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 may have been a culprit, too.

In any case, the standard of living of millions of Americans improved in the Coolidge years. Automobiles, refrigerators and radios became commonplace possessions.

Shlaes doesn't argue that Coolidge's policies could or should be replicated today. But she does establish that the 30th president is worthy of more respect than previous historians have accorded him.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM