Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo — who later served as a U.S. senator from California in the 1930s — in 1916 penned this essay arguing that the U.S. had the strongest economy in the world. At the time, the U.S. was just emerging into contention for that title, and by a few years subsequently — and certainly by a few decades subsequently — there was no debate on the subject.
Interestingly, one of the facts that McAdoo uses to argue his case was that the U.S. possessed about $2.63 billion of gold at the time, or about one-third of the world’s gold. That would prove to be a significantly less important metric once Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in 1933.
This 1916 excerpt about that year’s presidential election, written by the Democratic Secretary of the Treasury, also contains some eerie parallels with Donald Trump and the 2008 financial crash and recession that began under George W. Bush’s administration:
Mr. Hughes [the Republican nominee] warns us that our prosperity is merely “temporary.” How does he know that it is? How can he foretell the future? The very assertion discredits him, because he assumes a power of infallible prophecy which belongs to God alone. He is a candidate for the Presidency, the prize for which some men in this country have been willing to sell their veracity and their souls. Mr. Hughes has no convincing issue. He has advanced no reason that appeals to the judgment of his fellow-citizens for turning President Wilson out and putting Mr. Hughes in. What must he do, therefore, to make an impression?
His one hope is to excite the fears of the American people and make them believe that he is the only man who can save them. Mr. Hughes cannot guarantee the prosperity or the future of the country. Neither can the Republican Party. The Roosevelt panic of 1907, the worst in our history, is conclusive proof of Republican incompetence.
U.S. Leads in Financial Power: To Say That Our Prosperity Rests on War Orders Is Indefensible, Declares Secretary of the Treasury
From November 5, 1916