Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was the 31st President of the United States (1929–1933). He was a professional mining engineer, and was raised as a Quaker. A Republican, Hoover served as head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, and became internationally known for humanitarian relief efforts in war-time Belgium. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business under the rubric "economic modernization". In the presidential election of 1928, Hoover easily won the Republican nomination, despite having no elected-office experience. Hoover is the most recent cabinet secretary to be elected President of the United States, as well as one of only two Presidents (along with William Howard Taft) elected without electoral experience or high military rank.
Hoover, a globally experienced engineer, believed strongly in the Efficiency Movement, which held that the government and the economy were riddled with inefficiency and waste, and could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them. He also believed in the importance of volunteerism and of the role of individuals in society and the economy. Hoover, who had made a small fortune in mining, was the first of two Presidents to redistribute their salary (President Kennedy was the other; he donated all his paychecks to charity). When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with moderate government public works projects such as the Hoover Dam. The record tariffs imbedded in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and aggressive increases in the top tax bracket from 25% to 63%, coupled with increases in corporate taxes, yielded a "balanced budget" in 1933, but the economy plummeted simultaneously and unemployment rates rose to afflict one in four American workers. This downward spiral set the stage for Hoover's defeat in 1932 by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promised a New Deal. After Roosevelt assumed the Presidency in 1933, Hoover became a spokesman in opposition to the domestic and foreign policies of the New Deal. In 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed Hoover to head the Hoover Commission, intended to foster greater efficiency throughout the federal bureaucracy. Most historians agree that Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election was caused primarily by the downward economic spiral, although his strong support for prohibition was also significant. Hoover is usually ranked lower than average among U.S. Presidents.
By Dean Hanley
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