Poor Herbert Hoover. Despite being a wealthy engineer and a philanthropist who led a food relief effort in Europe after World War I saving tens of thousand of lives, he became the Democrats’ whipping boy for several decades, because for decades historians asserted Hoover’s laissez-faire policies were responsible for the greatest economic calamity in American history, the Great Depression.
But as Murray Rothbard reminds us in his insightful essay, “Herbert Hoover and the Myth of Laissez-Faire, “It is one of the great ironies of historiography that the founder of every single one of the features of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was to become enshrined among historians and the general public as the last stalwart defender of laissez-faire.” Rothbard also points out that Hoover as Secretary of Commerce for eight years during the 1920s continually advocated for “enlightened” government intervention. So when Hoover, who never held elective office before he won the presidency in a landslide (1928), confronted the inevitable stock market crash that began in October 1929 and economic downturn to correct the “excesses” of the 1920s easy money policies, his interventionist mindset kicked into high gear.
Even one of the architects (Rexford Guy Tugwell) of FDR’s policies acknowledged, “We didn’t admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.”
Could there be anything more dishonest in academia and politics than asserting that Herbert Hoover was a “hands off” president, especially in light of his acceptance speech for renomination in 1932 when he stated: “… we might have done nothing. That would have been under ruin. Instead, we met the situation with proposals to private business and to the Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action.” In short, Hoover proudly proclaimed his statist policies when he ran for reelection.
Although the historical record is clear, namely, that Herbert Hoover was an interventionist who believed in Government planning and oversight of the economy, Democrats (as well as economists and historians) have successfully portrayed him as a “reactionary” defender of laissez faire for the past nine decades.
The Democrats thus set up a straw man—free markets cause and exacerbate depressions—and the only way to combat an economic decline is to run budget deficits, spend on public works, increase unemployment benefits, provide subsidies and grants to businesses, and flood the economy with new money courtesy of the Federal Reserve. In other words, Democratic as well Republican administrations have been “fighting” recessions since the Great Depression with the same policies Hoover implemented and Roosevelt embraced throughout the 1930s.
Donald Trump, wealthy real estate developer, successful TV reality show host and like Herbert Hoover never had held elective office before surprising virtually all the pundits and political establishment first by winning the Republican nomination and then by defeating the heavily favored Hillary Clinton for the presidency in 2016. Even Trump was surprised by his win, because there were virtually no transition plans in place before the November election, while Hillary Clinton was in effect picking out curtains for the Oval Office believing her presidency was inevitable.
Right from the start of his administration Democrats asserted Trump was an “illegitimate” president who was assisted by the Russians during the campaign, even going so far as to claim that the Donald was a secret Russian agent doing Putin’s bidding. The Democrats game plan was simple: Trump must be ”punished” for his narcissism, ill-tempered remarks, boorish behavior, “fascist” tendencies and his notorious phone call with the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate former vice president Biden and his son, Hunter, for their activities in his country. This was the last straw for the Democrats who controlled House of Representatives and voted for several articles of impeachment, but the Republican controlled Senate acquitted Trump.
The last thing Democrats wanted was a second Trump administration, and given the weak Democratic presidential field the insiders decided the consummate insider, former vice president and longtime senator Joe Biden, would be their man to ride to victory last November. (Whether the presidential election was in fact stolen from Trump is beyond the scope of this essay but given the irregularities that were observed in the key swing states, a thorough investigation should be undertaken.)
Trump was understandably upset about the presidential election outcome. Thinking that the Senate presided over by Vice President Pence would decertify the electoral results and have the states that Trump felt was stolen from him reconsider their decision, he spoke at a rally in DC on January 6th where tens of thousands of his supporters gathered.
After several hundred individuals who apparently had gathered at the Capitol before Trump told his supporters to march “peacefully and patriotically” to have their voices heard, they stormed the building and caused one of the most chaotic incidents in the history of the Republic leading to one officer’s death and the shooting death of one of the protestors by a Capital officer.
The Democrats were beside themselves and rushed through one article of impeachment and sent it to Senate. Senator Rand Paul stated on the floor of the Senate that a trial would be unconstitutional, because Trump is no longer president and thus cannot be removed for office. In a vote 44 GOP senators agreed with the Kentucky senator setting up a trial for the second week in February where the outcome is not in doubt. There will not be a guilty verdict.
So what is the point of the second impeachment and trial of former President Trump? The Democrats need another Herbert Hoover to run against for the next several decades just as they did in the 1930s and beyond. For the Democrats Trump epitomizes the “anti-democratic, insurrectionist, pro-fascist wing” of the Republican Party and therefore only Democrats can preserve our “democracy.” What an irony!
Make no mistake about it Trump was no limited government, free market president. Neither was he going to gut the Bill of Rights. The tragic irony is that Democrats are the real ”insurrectionists” who are in the process of eviscerating the Bill of Rights, the foundation of the American Republic, and they will spend trillions of dollars to “stimulate” the economy similar to the failed Hoover/FDR polices that began in 1929 and lasted for more than a decade. History certainly repeats itself. The “players” have changed but statism lives on.
Dr. Murray Sabrin retired on July 1 2020, completing a 35 year teaching career as professor of finance at the Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College of New Jersey. He has a Ph.D. in economic geography from Rutgers University, an M.A. in social studies education from Lehman College and a B.A. in history, geography and social studies education from Hunter College.
Sabrin has worked in commercial real estate sales and marketing, personal portfolio management, and economic research.
Sabrin’s articles have appeared in The Record (Hackensack, NJ), The Star Ledger, Trenton Times, the Asbury Park Press, and NJBIZ. His essays have also appeared in Commerce Magazine, Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business, and Privatization Review, and www.lewrockwell.com. He is the author of Tax Free 2000: The Rebirth of American Liberty. Sabrin is the author of Why The Federal Reserve Sucks: It Causes Inflation, Recessions, Bubbles and Enriches the One Percent and is completing a book on how to create a single payer health care system, which puts individuals in charge of their medical care.