Warren Harding succeeded Wilson in 1921 as the American economy fell into a post-World War I inflationary recession. Although almost never mentioned, he turned an incipient Great Depression into the Roaring Twenties. I use this story in class as the last example of a classical economic policy ever put into play. Here is how his approach is described:
Harding’s pledge to restore America to a condition of “normalcy” led to his landslide victory in November 1920. In office, he cut government spending to the bone and reduced federal income tax rates across the board. As he said to Congress, the government acted during the war as if “it counted the Treasury inexhaustible”; if that pattern continued, it would result in “inevitable disaster.” To get government spending under control, Harding established the nation’s first Budget Bureau (the forerunner of today’s Office of Management and Budget) in the Treasury Department. As a result, federal spending dropped from $6.3 billion in 1920 to $5 billion in 1921 and then $3.3 billion in 1922. He supported the Revenue Act of 1921, which eliminated the wartime excess-profits tax, lowered the top marginal income tax rate from 73 to 58 percent, decreased surtaxes on incomes above $5,000, and increased exemptions for families. . . .
Many people, he noted, benefited from the gains made “as a result of the economic measures he implemented.” Unemployment fell from 15.6 percent to 9 percent. The industrial side of the economy revived at a rapid pace. A boom took place in construction, clothing, food, and automobile sectors. From 1921 to 1923, the volume of manufacturing climbed 54 percent.
Cut public spending, cut taxes and balance the budget. A radical idea even then and today beyond the pale.