Drought 1887 versus Drought 2012: A Lesson from Grover Cleveland


Droughts periodically strike the United States and this year is no different, as a severe calamity has affected at least half the country, the worst, at least so far, since 1956.  The House of Representatives recently passed a one-year relief bill, yet the Senate adjourned for August recess without acting on it.  Senate Democrats have already passed a massive agriculture bill that totals nearly $1 trillion over a decade and want the House to do likewise.

So the question is not if there will be relief, but only how much relief will be doled out from Washington.  It wasn’t always this way.  During the late 1880’s, a severe drought struck Texas.  Congress, growing with progressive-minded members, sought to help, since no organization like the notoriously inept, incompetent, and corrupt FEMA existed in those days. Continue reading

Jeffersonian Solutions for America’s Problems


The United States faces an abundance of problems, a weak economy, an abundance of public expenditures, out of control entitlements, and an over-expansive foreign policy, to name a few. These issues are getting worse, not better, with no end in sight. In recent decades, politicians of nearly every conceivable stripe have offered solutions, all to no avail. The only real solution to America’s woes is a return to Jeffersonian principles.

Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and D.R. Francis standing on a porch circa 1903. Courtesy of the POTUS Flickr archive.

Since the days of Grover Cleveland, who ended the harsh Panic of 1893 in less than a full term in office, the federal government has used Keynesian economic theory, or intervention, to fight every economic downturn. The results have been less than spectacular. What began as a severe recession in 1929 became the “Great Depression,” the worst economic calamity in American history. Many people will be surprised to learn that the Great Depression came after the government stepped in with its bag of tricks. It did not end until the latter half of the 1940s.

After the Panic of 2008, the government bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion. In 2009, the Obama administration kicked in another $800 billion in a stimulus designed to jump-start the sagging economy. A total of $1.5 trillion in stimulus money has been apportioned. The economy is still in a state of mild depression with a net job loss during the Obama presidency. Continue reading

Reshaping America with Jeffersonian Values


The United States began its existence as an independent nation during a pitched battle over what direction the federal government should take and which party – the Hamiltonian Federalist or the Jeffersonian Republican – would rightly carry the banner of the American Revolution. This first ideological fight took place in President Washington’s Cabinet, which found itself torn between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The philosophical clash that began in 1789 continues today.

US President Grover ClevelandHamilton’s arguments prevailed during both the Washington and Adams administrations, but Jefferson struck back with a great victory in 1800 and stopped the Federalist onslaught. The nation was governed, for the most part, by Jeffersonian principles for the next sixty years, and, despite some historians’ beliefs to the contrary, Hamilton’s entire big government program was eventually repealed.

However with Lincoln’s election in 1860 – Old Abe being from the school of Hamiltonian thought – and the secession of the Jeffersonian South, the Republican Party re-instituted all of Hamilton’s ideas – a strong central government, a national banking system, fiat currency, high tariffs and internal taxes, direct aid to corporations, loose construction of the Constitution, and suppression of civil liberties, with little opposition. Continue reading

Paternalism’s Foe: Grover Cleveland


Politicians, pundits, and scholars have wrestled over a central question throughout American political and constitutional history:  What role should the government have in the lives of ordinary citizens?

For Jeffersonian Conservatives, such as Grover Cleveland, the government has no business involving itself in areas outside its limited, constitutional role, and should never take a position as a “custodian;” the people should be free to pursue their own dreams without government interference, to rise as high and as far as their God-given talent, abilities, and determination will carry them.  Success or failure depends on the individual.

washigton dc capitol building

Some liberals on the other side of the political spectrum believe the government should play a vital role in the lives of the people, from cradle to grave. They believe the lowly masses cannot take care of themselves.  For Democrats, government must step in and take up the role of caretaker.  As Nancy Pelosi said in 2011:  “I view my work in politics as an extension of my role as a mom.”[i]  This progressive viewpoint is known as government paternalism, and has been defined as “a policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities.”[ii] Continue reading