More on Herbert Hoover!

Hoover ran as the Republican nominee in the 1928 election.  He promised that the nation would continue with the peace and prosperity that was present in the US after WWI.  He won the election carrying 40 states.  In his inaugural address Hoover declared “I have no fears for the future of our country it is bright with hope.”

​Seven months after Hoover took office a  drop in the value of the U.S. stock market sent the economy spiraling downward. Banks and businesses across the country struggled, many of them failed.   Unemployment rates rose from 3 percent in 1929 to 25 percent by 1932. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes and their savings. Charities opened bread lines to try and provide some food and many of the people made homeless lived in 
Shantytowns known as Hoovervilles. 

Hoover tried several things to stimulate the economy, and a few of the programs he introduced became part of later relief efforts. However, Hoover’s response to the crisis was influenced by his conservative philosophy. He believed government should play a limited role and worried that to much federal intervention posed a threat to capitalism. He felt that assistance should be handled on a local, voluntary basis. Hoover vetoed several bills that would have given direct relief to struggling Americans. In his 1930 State of the Union address he stated “Prosperity cannot be restored by raids upon the public Treasury,” 

The Depression got worse during Hoover’s term in office, and critics started to portray him as being indifferent to the suffering of the American people.  Carrying only six states in the 1932 election, he was defeated by Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt,  who promised to enact a set of progressive reforms and economic relief programs that he described as a New Deal for the American people.

While many people blamed Hoover for the Depression and thought he made it worse, it should be noted that the Great Depression continued for another eight years despite Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Some historians have argued for a more sympathetic appraisal of Hoover’s presidency.

More on Franklin D. Roosevelt!

By the time Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, the Depression had reached desperate levels.  There were 13 million unemployed.  During his inaugural address 
Roosevelt declared that “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and prosper…The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt began the  first 100 days of his presidency by declaring a "bank holiday" and closing all banks for several days until Congress could pass reform legislation. After passage of the Emergency Banking Relief Act, three out of every four banks were open within a week. He began holding open press conferences and giving regular radio addresses in which he spoke directly to the American people. These addresses became known as "fireside chats".  These "chats" went a long why in restoring faith for the American people.

Other pieces of legislation during FDR’s first “Hundred Days” created some of the most important programs and institutions of Roosevelt’s New Deal aimed at providing economic relief for workers and farmers and creating jobs for the unemployed, Roosevelt also started reforms of the financial system, the creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to protect depositors’ accounts and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the stock market and prevent abuses of the kind that led to the 1929 crash.

In 1935, after the economy had begun to show signs of recovery, Roosevelt asked Congress to pass a new wave of reforms, known as “Second New Deal.” These included the Social Security Act which for the first time provided Americans with unemployment, disability, and pensions for old age and the Works Progress Administration.  Congress also raised taxes on large corporations and wealthy individuals, that was  known as the “soak-the-rich” tax.

Even with all of Roosevelt's efforts the Great Depression would last for over a decade.  It would take America's involvement in World War II to finally bring the Depression to an end.