And Publicly Stubs His Toe
WHEN Calvin Coolidge began his first elective Presidential term the tide of the American industrial and commercial boom of the twenties was almost at its full. Prices and employment continued to rise slightly during the year that followed his inauguration.1 But as he sat at his desk punctiliously prompt at 8 o'clock the morning of March 5, 1925, the lusty breakers of prosperity roaring in, sounded sweetly in his ears. Here were the savings of multitudes--vast Puritan self-denials--functioning in an economic structure that was producing a rising standard of living; slowly and with what seemed approximate justice, distributing the gross income of the nation even though great fortunes were being prodigally enlarged, even though nearly a fifth of his countrymen in the South, in the mining districts, in the ghettos of the great cities, and in shabby smoke-stained industrial hovels were living on a shamefully low standard. But the net of it, the full-throated chorus of the breakers on the strand washing in the steady swelling tide of middle-class abundance, must have throbbed like a cosmic lyric in Calvin Coolidge's heart.
If he had cared to listen he might have heard the moan of an undertow. In the agricultural West the farmer had become a free hand soil despoiler and the lumberman a freebooter. Western grain lands were showing a constantly decreasing yield per acre. Pastures were shrivelling; forests disappearing. The water level in the Mississippi Valley was steadily receding in the wells, in the creeks, in the rivers.2 Great floods, uncontrolled, were tearing their disastrous way through the valleys. Mortgages were increasing. Tenantry was on the rise. People were moving restlessly about the land____________________