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Policies to end the Depression: Hoover vs. Roosevelt

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Introduction

Policies to end the Depression: Hoover vs. Roosevelt By Carina Uehr "T his campaign is more than a contest between two men. It is more than a contest between two parties. It is a contest between two philosophies of government." - H. Hoover W hen Wall Street crashed in 1929, it spelled the end of a decade of excess. In the 10 years preceding this dramatic event, life (for the middle class upwards at least) had been good. Businesses were booming, and new industries were growing rapidly at a time when consumer confidence was sky-high. When the Stock market crashed on the 24th October 1929, consumer confidence slumped. No-one wanted to spend money anymore, choosing instead to horde it in wait for better times. Even before the Crash, businesses had found that no-one would buy their goods anymore, because everyone who could afford them already had them! Faced with massive losses, bosses cut down production and laid off workers. This massive lay-off of workers caused a huge raise in unemployment which steadily increased until, in 1933, 1 in 4 workers was without a job. Within 5 years, the illusion of wealth and happiness had been cruelly shattered, and was replaced by a general feeling of hopelessness and despair, which named one of the darkest chapters in American history: the great Depression. The two Presidents in power during this time, Herbert Hoover (1919-1933) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933 -1945), had very different ideas of how this crisis should be handled. By comparing and contrasting their responses to the problems created by the Great Depression, we can evaluate the impact of their policies and their success in dealing with these problems. T o come to understand why Hoover and Roosevelt had such completely different attitudes and ideas in dealing with the Great Depression, we must first examine their backgrounds and personalities. Herbert Hoover was a strong believer in 'Rugged Individualism', and believed that people should help themselves and not rely on others for their welfare. ...read more.

Middle

When he replaced Hoover in 1933, 12.83 million people were out of work. Many thousands of families lived in absolute poverty, often in shanty-towns nick-named 'Hoovervilles', in an unmistakeable jab at the man whom many thought solely responsible for their plight. Hoover was seen by many as a cold old man with no compassion for the ordinary working man and completely in the pockets of America's wealthy businessmen. This was by no means a true judgement of Hoover's character, who was a very caring man, but was trapped completely in his own philosophy. It forbade him to actively interfere with people's affaires, and instead relied upon them to help themselves. He also firmly believed that the Depression was just an economical hitch, and that it would right itself in time if just given a chance. The lowest point of his presidential popularity was the event known as the Bonus Marches, when thousands of WW1 veterans marched on the White House, demanding their retirement bonuses. Hoover did not listen to their demands to bargain with him, instead sending in the army in to disperse them. Hoover refused to acknowledge that people wanted aid from the government, refusing to give out any assistance on a national scale. He believed it would demean the spirit of the American people. (This opinion probably stemmed from the fact that he himself was incredibly patriotic and proud.) Hoover's handling of the Bonus marchers showed how very different he and Roosevelt really were. Roosevelt would never have acted in such a clumsy and brash manner, be it only because he would have seen that the act would very badly damage his popularity. Hoover was very inept at maintaining positive public relations, whereas that was one of Roosevelt's main strengths. The first action of Roosevelt when he came to power was to call an emergency session of Congress. In this marathon session which lasted a hundred days, Roosevelt managed to pass an incredible amount of new policies. ...read more.

Conclusion

His actions in the cases of "balancing the books", the gold standard, trade tariffs and the plain 'Wait and See' policies show that his perceptions of the problems and his subsequent actions were fundamentally wrong, and that they sometimes aggravated the situation even more. Yet, we must also give him the benefit of the doubt: had he been, by some miracle, able to stay in power for another term, would he have begun to take some action similar to Roosevelt's? Would he have continued and expanded what he had begun in the RFC and Hoover Dam? We can only speculate. Roosevelt had several advantages over Hoover: Some lay in their different upbringings and personal beliefs. Hoover was cautious with money, because he knew what it was to go without. Roosevelt had never had to, and was therefore casual about spending $11 billion on one project alone. Roosevelt, no doubt also had the advantage of learning from Hoover's mistakes. Had he been in Hoover's boots in 1929, would he have acted the same way? Hoover was influenced by mighty businessmen who saw it in their best interests to lobby the president into some of his most disastrous actions (for example 'balancing the books'). Roosevelt surrounded himself with a core of innovative and contemporary advisors, who helped him construct and implement many of his policies (eg. The Keynesian Theory of fiscal spending and government regulation of the economy). It can therefore be said that both Hoover and Roosevelt acted with America's best interests at heart. Unfortunately for Hoover, his beliefs were outdated and no longer adequate for the current situation, and he was, just like in the animal kingdom, replaced by a stronger and more competent successor. Roosevelt's responses to the Depression greatly improved the situation and laid the foundations for the modern system of government, which plays an active part in the country's social well-being, and regulates its economic development. He can therefore be safely declared the winner of this contest. The End. 3,962 words, 9 paragraphs (incl. introduction and conclusion), 8 pages in total. Enjoy. ...read more.

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