It is almost impossible for most of us living now to imagine a world in which Sam Walton's motto — Save and Do Better — was the majority view of politicians, but that was the general opinion. Kennedy, like FDR, campaigned on a platform that accused his Republican Presidential predecessor of being extravagant (partly true in Hoover's case; laughable in Eisenhower's). What changed things forever was the wholesale acceptance of Keynesian economics at MIT, Harvard and even Chicago. That gave respectability, nay, wisdom to the inclination of politicians in both parties (Johnson nationally, Rockefeller in New York State) to indulge once again in the fantasy that it was OK to for governments to borrow more and more money as long as they spent it as quickly as possible. One reason for the continuing Anglophile disdain for the French is that they were the first to say that the United States was no longer serious about gold and the dollar being equally scarce monetary commodities. Of course, they were right; and we have yet to forgive them for being so treacherously truthful. That abandonment of all fiscal common sense is what took us off to the races in 1964 and 1965; some would argue that we have been running ever since. Eisenhower, like Grant, receives far too little credit for his monetary frugality. Belief that the Treasury would only spend a small part of what American earned is what established the "soundness" of the dollar and allowed the U.S. economy to enjoy its greatest period of real growth since the 1870s and 1880s.

George Zachar replies:

Insufficient cynicism.

Eisenhower is damned as a do-nothing, caretaker president, whose popular references now are largely comprised of golfing photos and sneering references to his VP.

The only presidents getting "credit" in the history departments and newspaper clippings are those who manfully strove to expand the government's footprint.


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