From the mouth of presidents

A few months ago I started receiving Money magazine the mail every month. Clearly, I am not the kind of guy who reads investment advice or understands market analysis so I would never have ordered a subscription to this magazine. After a little investigation, it turns out that a very cheap airline that I rarely fly (because they are cheap, always late and have terrible customer service) decided to reimburse me for the very few “frequent flyer” miles I had accumulated with a generous year-long subscription to Money magazine. Now do you see why I quit flying with them?

Normally I toss the magazine in the trash without even looking at it but I was bored this week and browsed through the new edition. I found an article entitled “Presidents and Money” and was intrigued. It featured economic quotes from all 45 presidents along with a small paragraph and a cartoon drawing of them all. This article was tailor-made for my short attention span plus there were pictures so naturally I read the whole thing.

The story starts with George Washington’s quote, “Cherish public credit.” My first thought was that the father of our country encouraging the public to use credit which would finally explain why we celebrate his birthday by buying a new sofa and making no payments until the year 2525. I’ve always wondered why we celebrate our founding father’s birth with ridiculous credit deals ... now we know it was because he cherished it.

The little paragraph rambled on about bonds and establishing American currency and credit blah, blah, blah… I quit reading when I saw there wasn’t going to be a great deal on a mattress or sofa bed. What a rip-off.

“All the measures of government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.” No, that’s not a quote from Bernie Sanders from last year; William Henry Harrison said that in the campaign of 1840. Harrison was a Whig, which 20 years later morphed into the Republican Party. I guess back then the Democrats were the party of old rich guys…but I digress.

Harrison was elected on a platform promising to dismantle the corrupt spoils system set up by Andrew Jackson and look out for the needs of the common man. He was inaugurated in January of 1841 and was dead 31 days later. Apparently policies that threaten the wealthy are always bad for your health, which probably explains why most presidents since then have taken such good care of rich guys. Seems legit.

James Polk was quoted as saying, “No President who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.” Clearly President Polk didn’t own any golf resorts, have a place in Hawaii or a ranch in Texas, but he did managed to get a few things accomplished while in office. In just one term as President, he acquired California from Mexico (just before the 1849 gold strike, so it was the deal of the century), managed to steal Oregon from Britain, reorganized the Treasury and lowered tariffs to stimulate the economy.

A President who won’t take a vacation and actually gets things done ... what a concept!

Teddy Roosevelt had a simple economic policy, “All I ask is a square deal for every man.” You’ve got to love Teddy!

In 1929 Herbert Hoover said, “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is 40, he is not worth much.” Later that year the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began and lasted through his presidency. From where I sit, if you make a million but by age 40 then destroy the economy of your nation before 60, you’re not worth a heck of a lot either, but I’m no economist.

President Kennedy, the son of a rich businessman, said, “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it till now.” Apparently most American voters didn’t believe it either until now.

The first President Bush said, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Uh huh. The second President Bush said, “If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down.” The Bushes were clearly great foreign policy presidents.

President Trump said, “You can’t con people, at least not for long.” The jury is still out Mr. President but I suspect you’re right.

Thanks to a cheap airline I learned something this week; I learned that we could really use William Henry Harrison or James Polk in the White House again!

Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment