FDR and the depression

I have always heard that the Great Depression started in late 1929 and lasted until the start of WW2 in late 1941.
That would mean that Hoover presided over almost 4 years of the depression, while FDR presided over 8 years.
Yet Hoover is roundly derided as a terrible president and FDR is thought of as a great president and friend of the working man, despite the fact that almost a decade of his rule did nothing to bring the country out of the depression.
I can understand how his political and communicative powers kept him popular among his contemporaries, but after all these years such a dismal economic record does not seem to hurt his standing among people today.
Does FDR deserve his high reputation given the dismal economic record of his first two terms.

OK on the off chance that your serious.
When the depression hit Hoover took a hands off approach, but FDR took a lets fix it approach. FDR started jobs programs, and other social works to give people something to do and something to eat. This, being what the people wanted, made FDR a hero to millions.

FDR’s lets fix it approach did not seem to work any better than Hoover’s hands off approach. That is the point. I understand that he was very popular but shouldn’t we judge government officials by the results they acheive and not how much activity goes on.
I do not mean to imply that Hoover was a good president. i think he was a very bad one, but I still don’t see that he was that much worse than FDR as far as economic policy goes.

The OP is correct-the “great Depression” really lasted until our entry into WWII (1941). In truth, Hoover was blamed for much that he did not cause; conversely, FDR is given credit for rescuing the nation from collapse-something he surely did not accomplish.
The reality is quite different-the great depression really started in early 1930. While the Stock market Crash (1929) really ended the 20’s boomtimes, things really didn’t get bad until mid-1930. In this year, farm prices collapsed, and rural banks went under. By 1932, things were slowly improving-but actually, the nation went into recession again in 1933. My take is: Roosevelt ended Prohibition-that surely made him popular. Also, the various programs he tried in the mid-30’s really were mostly inneffective in lowering the unemployment rate. What really ended the depression was the war-it overnight eliminated unemployment. Strangely, both Hoover and Roosevelt were much influenced by the economists of their time-both feared deficit spending and were afraid of government borrowing. My feeling is-the depression was made much worse by all popular government actions of the time (tight money, trade restrictions, etc.).

egkelly wrote:

By “in this year”, you mean “in 1930”, right?

Roosevelt’s economic measures were much more ambitious than Hoover’s. Hoover tried to deal with the Depression more or less the same way he dealt with displaced Belgians during the Great War - he fed and housed unemployed people. Roosevelt set up the alphabet soup agencies to provide jobs, just to give folks something to do but also to create national capital - better roads, public buildings etc.

Both Hoover’s soup-kitchen approach and the public works approach of the early Roosevelt years were well-meaning, but the real problem of the depression was “dear money” - that is, that deflation had destroyed the ability of people to get venture capital, home loans, and everything else you need to make a modern industrial economy work. Banks kept failing long after the 1929 stock market crash - they didn’t all die overnight.

It took quite a while for the reversal of old-fashioned “dear money” policies to become popular in Washington. A lot of central banker types (all over the world) thought that if you just made sure your currency was stable, all would be well after the cycle ended. JM Keynes argued that by the time the cycle ended, real damage would be done. If money became too dear, it would have to be directly cheapened by the central bank (Federal Reserve). Only in the late 1930s were these “cheap money” policies adopted. Roosevelt began separating the country from the gold standard (Nixon completed the process much later, but it was still a big step). This allowed the most important phase of a classic economic recovery to take place - reflation.

Of course, World War II was right around the corner. Big loads for armament programs and contracts from Allied countries started fueling the economy and putting people back to work. “Dear money” is one of the first casualties of any war - look at the Civil War, especially in the Confederate States.

One of the great misconceptions this has spawned is that, a big war is needed to end a depression. Hog. Wash. It is the fiscal expansion associated with wars that ends deflationary spirals and stagnation. Fiscal expansion can be created by central banks at the stroke of a pen (and inflation, caused by extreme fiscal expansion, can be stopped, also at the stroke of a pen) - no phosgene, torpedoes, or dogs of war need by unleashed. This was Keynes’ message. The sad thing is, the central banks were typically so timid that only a great war would get them to loosen their fists.

Overreliance on Keyensian methods helped to create the stagflation of the 70s, but that’s a different matter.

The main difference is generally one of public perception.

Hoover’s reaction to the Great Depression was popularly known as “prosperity is just around the corner”. Hoover believed strongly in a strict Constitutionalist view of government, and in keeping government out of the lives of the citizens. Unfortunately, that meant that in a time of serious need, Hoover presented the image of a government unwilling to help. In fact, Hoover tried to institute a few measures to shore up farm prices and the like, but for the most part he expected private charities to pick up the slack for the economy.

Roosevelt, meanwhile, promised to actually try to do something. True, the ‘Great Depression’ continued until the war boom (although, in point of fact, the economy did begin to recover in 1933, but another recession in 1937-1938 knocked it back down to 1932 levels); but Roosevelt presented an image of someone who was actually willing to help people out, and was doing his damnedest.

In fact, most of Roosevelt’s programs were struck down by a conservative, strict-Constitutionalist Supreme Court (which was the main reason he tried to ‘pack’ the court in '37); but many of Roosevelt’s successfull programs were less designed to mitigate current problems as they were to prevent such problems from ever happening again (establishing the SEC, the FDIC to insure banks, Social Security to take care of the eldery, etc.)

Basically, it boils down to this- do you choose between the person who is obivously trying to help, but hasn’t found a successful way yet; or the person who obviously has no interest in helping you out?
BTW- the poor view of Hoover tends to be the ‘popular’ one in which Hoover ‘caused’ the Great Depression. In most historian’s view, the GD was caused more by a lack of attention on Coolidge’s part, and Hoover was unlucky enough to be at the receiving end of it. But while Hoover doesn’t get terrible marks, he doesn’t get very good ones, either; at one of the darkest times in American History, he proved himself to be without leadership and without vision.

Hoover did try some “hands on” methods during the Depression, namely the creation of the RFC (Reconstruction Finance Corporation) which provided loans to keep banks afloat.
Hoover didn’t believe that the Federal Government should be in the business of handing out money to the poor or unemployed and appeared to be quite unsympathetic to the plight of many people during the Depression.
Hoover came into office with the reputation as a guy who could make things work. However, when the Depression hit, he couldn’t seem to do anything right and he suffered for it.

Roosevelt’s New Deal policies served mainly to give a lot of people hope that something was being done. He appeared to be sympathetic to the problems of the poor.

The first set of New Deal programs were bold (like the NRA), but didn’t work very well. Some worked OK for the time, like the WPA and the CCC. The AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Act) was a very bold step as was the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The US was veering out of control when Roosevelt took office in 1933 and the country could have ended up following the ideas of people like Father Coughlin, Huey Long, or Dr. Townsend. Or the country could have turned socialist or communist. Or the country could have turned into a New World Fascist state. 1933 wasn’t a great time to be unemployed in the U.S.

To Roosevelt’s credit, he kept the country together and united. The U.S. economy was shrinking. It needed something to get it growing. FDR thought that his New Deal programs might help. However, WWII just happened to work much better.

Ah, wait, forgot an important point.

While the war boom truly eradicated the Depression and set the stage for the incredible booms of the 50’s, IIRC, the US economy was close to having caught up to pre-crash levels before Pearl Harbor. So even without WW2, Roosevelt managed the twin tasks of getting the country back into the condition it had been before the GD, and putting systems in place to help ensure that such a crash never occurred again.

John Corrado wrote:

"Roosevelt, meanwhile, promised to actually try to do something. True, the ‘Great Depression’ continued until the war boom (although, in point of fact, the economy did begin to recover in 1933, but another recession in 1937-1938 knocked it back down to 1932 levels); but Roosevelt presented an image of someone who was actually willing to help people out, and was doing his damnedest. "

Doesn’t this mean that FDR made the depression worse instead of better? After all by 1937 he had been in control of government for a full term and his party had control of the legislature and he was beginning to appoint most of the supreme court. So the recession of 1937-1938 must have been the fault of his administration and policies.

Yet today in Washington DC there is a sprawling monument to him, that says he guided us through the Great Depression, while the reality seems to be the opposite.

Of course. And Bill Clinton is an economic genius for his work with the current economy.

Look, the Great Depression was not simply a downturn in the economy that would be erased by the next boom. Nor did the Great Depression stop business cycles from occurring; it just meant that the high points wouldn’t be very high, and the low points would be very low indeed.

I’ve said this to a bunch of people before, and I’m sad that I have to say it again, but here it is- There’s more wrong in that paragraph than I can possibly comprehend.

First: By 1937, whatever appointments he had made to the SC hadn’t helped him. If they had, why would he have proposed packing the court so that it would stop declaring his programs unConstitutional?

Second: You seem to be under the delusion that the Democrats of the '30’s actually all agreed with the New Deal. About half the party, the Southern wing, didn’t take particularly well to the New Deal (in fact, many of them agreed with the Republicans on most economic issues). So assuming that because ‘his party’ controlled Congress meant that all of his bills passed is wrong, at the very least.

Third: You seem unclear on the concept of ‘business cycles’. While recessions and booms can be aided or abetted by government policy, to claim that they are the ‘fault’ of the government is overstretching the limits of sanity.

Fourth: Your end result, then, is that: Because Roosevelt had control of a Congress that he didn’t, and because the SC was full of his appointees despite the fact that it wasn’t and it refused to approve his programs, Roosevelt is to blame for something he couldn’t control.

Love the logic.

To amplify John Corrado’s remarks, Roosevelt campaigned for several Senatorial candidates he favored in two or three Democratic primaries in the South in 1938 and I believe that all of them lost.

Most of Roosevelt’s programs were passed. The first hundred days of his presidency were some of the most productive in terms of laws passed in our history. The success or failure of a President’s programs in acheiving their stated aim is the best way to judge the effectiveness of the President.
FDR’s programs did not acheive their stated objective- an end to the depression- so why was he considered a great president?
So far we seem to have 2 schools of thought:

  1. He was not a great president just a popular one.
  2. The problem’s of the economy were out of his control so he can not be blamed for the economy’s performance during his time.

A lot of FDR’s programs passed during the 100 Days were thrown out by the Supreme Court.

The legacy FDR created had profound effects on today’s economy. As mentioned earlier, we have the SEC to oversee the financial markets, the FDIC which keeps people from losing everything in bank failures, Social Security (for all of its problems) which provides assistance to millions of Americans, and the Wagner Act which codified collective bargaining.

Perhaps others can judge how well the US would have fared with four more years of Hoover or perhaps having FDR tossed out in 1936 in favor of Alf Landon.

Let’s not forget that the country did start a long, slow climb after it hit bottom in 1932. While the economy bacslid into a recession in 1936-1937, things didget better throughout the latter half of the 1930s. While it took WW2 to get the economy back to full production, things were much better in 1938 than in 1932.