Hoover as President
Failing the Depression . Hoover
believes in volunteerism-- the role of state, local governments and
charities. But the Depression needs the enormous resources of the
federal government. The cycle of business contraction, layoffs, and
consumers unable to consume. The Hooverville slums. The
devastating impact on middle class families. Grinding rural
poverty. The psychological impact of people irrationally blaming
Hoover's recovery theory.
He believes that the best way to help is the "trickle-down" theory.
Help those at the top. This is a failure because business lacks
confidence and the money is not invested in job-making production.
Hoover lacks charisma but makes things worse by his personal
insensitivity to the calamity.
Bonuses are promised to war veterans but funds not appropriated.
Veterans' protest is smashed by the military.
Roosevelt as President.
He is from landed wealth, believes in service to the people as
career. He is charismatic. Returns to politics after suffering
polio paralysis. A dangerous drift between election and taking
office 4 months later. Bank "holidays." His inspiring inaugural
speech, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
FDR's political philosophy:
either pragmatic or opportunistic, depending on whether you approve
or disapprove of him. His fireside chats. Passes emergency banking
bill. He continues the "trickle-down" approach, but he engenders
The first 100 days.
A spate of legislation-- fixing prices, fixing standards. The NRA
(National Recovery Act) fails. Farmers prosper during war but
prices drop after disarmament in 1921. Dust storms due to drought
causes havoc to farmers. The Agricultural Aid Agency is enacted to
aid farmers. It raises prices by producing scarcities, but fails in
practice, hurting sharecroppers the most, and is declared to be
unconstitutional as well.
FDR extends the federal role.
He creates relief agencies, following John Keynes' theory of
under-consumption of the jobless. Therefore, jobs must be created,
a "bottom-up approach, the opposite from the "trickle-down"
approach. Direct relief is provided by the federal government. The
PWA for large public projects for skilled workers, and the WPA for
smaller level projects employing unskilled labor. It also aims to
help creative people: artists, actors, musicians, photographers.
The agencies are later cut back after demonstrating effectiveness,
but are reinstated when the cutback results in an economic