What do Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton all have in common?
No, this is not a trick question.
One might say that these three former Presidents all possessed great “charisma.” Charisma means different things to different people. Some define this quality as an intangible ability to attract, draw, and bring people into one’s sphere of influence.
Still others such as the leadership guru John Maxwell espouse the view that a person with charisma displays a unique combination of empathy with great listening skills. In this sense, all three of these men were great listeners who displayed the ability to make their guests feel special and important.
Political Historians might argue that these three Presidents were great orators who used their profound communication skills to move America in ways that made their Presidencies “transformational” in nature.
President Kennedy called the philosophy of his administration “The New Frontier.” President Kennedy argued that the US lagged behind the Soviet Union in both Space innovation and missile deployment. Mr. Kennedy launched forth the vision that by the year of 1970 the United States should successfully send a man to the Moon and bring him safely back to earth (Kennedy’s vision became reality in 1969).
President Kennedy was a free market exponent; he argued that the nation’s Marginal Tax Rate of 90 percent stifled risk taking, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
Kennedy thought that if tax loop holes were eliminated and tax rates were reduced then two things would happen: (1.) Robust economic growth would occur and (2.) Government revenues would expand. History shows that Kennedy was correct in both of his assumptions.
President Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington in 1981 when the United States was mired in a great recession and economic stagnation. The newly installed President called for a period of “Economic Renewal.” Mr. Reagan emanated an unbridled optimism in America’s ability to remake herself and to leave the political malaise of the Carter years and return to her storied greatness.
Mr. Reagan used his great communication skills to convince Congress to cut taxes, scale back regulation, and rebuild our nation’s defenses. The length of President Reagan’s accomplishments is breathtaking. When he left office inflation had been tamed – lowered from 13.3 percent to 4 percent. And unemployment fell from a high of 9.9 percent in 1982 to the lowest it had been in years (5.5 percent).
President Bill Clinton arrived in Washington D.C. when our nation was mired in a minor recession. (The term “minor recession” depends on whose point of view you are discussing…) President Clinton – with the help of the Republican controlled congress during the last six years of his tenure worked together to reform welfare, cut the capital gains tax rate, and balance the budget for the first time since 1969.
Some political observers would say that we should celebrate the differences in these three men as well as discuss their similarities.
That point is well taken.
However, one similarity of these three men becomes apparent upon closer inspection and that is that these three men understood the concept of “economic incentives.”
Too often Presidents descend upon Washington D.C. with a litany of policies that they wish to pursue. They attempt to remake the country according to their philosophical or ideological worldview.
However, Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton placed economic growth and innovation ahead of political policies. These three Presidents studied Economics in great detail before running for elective office.
Mr. Reagan majored in both Economics and Sociology at Eureka College; at Eureka, Ronald Reagan studied classical economics.
Both Kennedy and Clinton studied for two years each at the prestigious London School of Economics.
The records of these three Presidents clearly show that the country experience rapid creation of capital and lower unemployment during their tenure in office – great economic expansion then at any other time in recent memory.
Perhaps if more of our aspirants for higher office would spend more time studying and understanding basic economic concepts then just perhaps our nation might be able to retire a 17 Trillion Dollar deficit, balance our budgets, reduce unemployment (especially in our depressed cities like Detroit, MI) and witness an economic expansion that would once again place the United States in the forefront of technology development, educational attainment and business innovation.