While it may seem that it’s too early to start thinking about the 2012 presidential election, we can be sure that election night coverage of this year’s midterm elections will include analysis of how the results impact the next presidential election. Over the next few months we can expect presidential candidates to announce their candidacies. Apart from the usual punditry that concentrates on the political horse race, how should we evaluate past presidents — and those who wish to be president?
Koch writes that we should focus on a president’s economic policies and their results. As an example, he analyzes the policies of two presidents, first explaining that Calvin Coolidge’s cure for recession was to extend the limited government policies of the president he succeeded: cut taxes, cut spending, and reduce the national debt. This prescription was effective and paved the way for prosperity.
After Coolidge, Herbert Hoover — also a Republican — called for increasing personal, corporate, and estate taxes, farm subsidies, and pensions. He signed the Smoot-Hawley protectionist tariffs, which helped cause the Great Depression.
It seems incredulous now, but in 1932 challenger Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned against Hoover as a “big spender,” as today’s Hoover’s reputation is the opposite. But Koch explains: “But it is wrong to say he caused the Great Depression by following free-market principles. Hoover did just the opposite. He undermined economic freedom.”
This leads to Koch’s important advice: “When evaluating a candidate for public office, I ask a simple question: Does this candidate support economic freedom?” He notes that economic freedom belongs to no political party.
The threats to economic freedom, which Koch identifies as “bigger government, more regulations, higher taxes, increased spending and borrowing, and more centralized decision-making” make us worse off. This applies to everyone, he writes, especially the poor.
Evaluating a president
By Charles G. Koch
I am often asked which U.S. presidents pursued the best and worst economic policies. My answers may surprise you.
In evaluating a President, I believe it is essential to look past his popularity, party affiliation and family background.
Instead, our focus should be on the effects of his economic policies. Results, not intentions, are what matter most.
During the twentieth century, there were several presidential standouts — both good and bad. I want to discuss one of each.
In both cases, their policies changed the direction of the entire nation, affecting the lives of millions of Americans.