George Humphrey, Charles Wilson and Eisenhower’s War on Spending

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About the Book

The first Republican president since the Great Depression, Dwight Eisenhower was the victorious supreme allied commander of World War II’s European theater, but a political novice when he moved into the White House in 1953. To help make domestic policy, he recruited two of the country’s richest businessmen—Cleveland industrialist George Humphrey and General Motors president Charles Wilson—with the goals of ensuring American postwar prosperity and developing a defense posture against the nuclear threat of the Soviet Union.
This book provides the first detailed examination of how Humphrey and Wilson helped shape Eisenhower’s policies and priorities. Persuasive and charming, Treasury Secretary Humphrey was obsessed with cutting spending. Defense Secretary Wilson—whose departmental funding comprised most of the federal budget—bore the brunt of Humphrey’s anti-spending campaign, while struggling to master his brief and control the restive military bureaucracy. The frugality of the Humphrey-Wilson years manifested in an unambitious domestic agenda and a military that seemed to lag behind the Soviets in key areas, leading to disastrous Republican losses in the elections of 1958 and 1960.

About the Author(s)

James Worthen writes about the impact of personality on political behavior. A former program manager at the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, he lives in Pismo Beach, California.

Bibliographic Details

James Worthen
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: 18 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7785-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3770-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction: Republicans at Sea 1
Prologue: Eisenhower to the Rescue 5
1. Recruiting a Team 9
2. Eisenhower’s Businessmen 14
3. Paths to Public Service 21
4. Sizing Up the Newcomers 41
5. Eisenhower the President 54
6. Eisenhower’s Economists 67
7. Humphrey Goes to Work 75
8. Wilson in the Maelstrom 94
9. Humphrey and the 1953–54 Recession 110
10. Humphrey and His Critics 129
11. “A banker’s mentality”: Humphrey and Foreign Aid 139
12. Wilson, Humphrey and the “New Look” 146
13. 1956: Wilson’s Troubles Worsen 165
14. The Price of Prosperity 185
15. Humphrey for President? 199
16. The “Battle of the Budget” and Its Aftermath 204
17. Ike, Humphrey and Wilson in Retrospect 218
Chapter Notes 237
Bibliography 253
Index 259

Book Reviews & Awards

“Worthen’s detailed and insightful dual profile of these cabinet secretaries is thus a welcome window into two generally overlooked actors who helped craft and implement Eisenhower’s vision of a sustainable Cold War-era fiscal-military state.”—H-Net Reviews