I have written several articles on our Presidents and Vice-Presidents. A list of the links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional Presidents and their places in history.
Let’s start this article on why FDR beat Hoover in the 1932 election.
Why did Roosevelt defeat Hoover in the 1932 Presidential election?
Let’s compare Hoover and FDR to see how there different backgrounds affected their decisions.
The Bitter Origins of the Fight Over Big Government
What the battle between Herbert Hoover and FDR can teach us
In january 1933, President Herbert Hoover found himself in a position familiar at that point to millions of Americans: He was about to lose his job. Unsure of what the future might hold, he considered whether to accept an offer of a regular appearance on a weekly radio program sponsored by the Old Gold tobacco company. Hoover found the idea distasteful—becoming a speaker on a show whose ultimate purpose was to advertise cigarettes seemed to him a debasement of the presidency—but it was a desperate time. As he wrote to his press secretary, Theodore Joslin, “It is probably something I cannot do, but, well, I hate to say it, but I need that $150,000, Ted.”
Meanwhile, the financial structure of the United States was approaching collapse. At the start of Hoover’s presidency, 24,000 banks had been open for business throughout the country. By 1933, 10,000 of these had shut their doors. One state after another—Nevada, Iowa, California—was suspending normal bank operations in order to keep frightened depositors from withdrawing their cash. Publicly, Hoover insisted that the solution to the panic was a recommitment to the gold standard by nations that had recently abandoned it, such as Great Britain; he blamed the impending Roosevelt administration for sowing fear and discord. But privately, only a day before Michigan declared a bank holiday to protect its faltering financial system, he told Edgar Rickard, an old friend from Hoover’s days as a mining engineer and executive, to withdraw “$10,000 in bills” for emergencies.
The story of an angst-filled Hoover quietly squirreling away funds while lecturing the country about the moral necessity of keeping the banks open is one of the pleasures of Eric Rauchway’s Winter War, a crisp narrative of the four-month interregnum between Franklin D. Roosevelt’s victory in November 1932 and his assumption of the presidency in March 1933. To write a whole history of what is essentially a prelude may seem odd. But Rauchway, who teaches at UC Davis, argues that in the conflict between the lame-duck Hoover and the incoming Roosevelt, we can already see the tension between the New Deal and the opposition to it that would structure American politics for much of the rest of the 20th century.
The New Deal, he maintains, was not a matter of invention and experimentation, as it has sometimes been interpreted to be. On the contrary, it reflected a clear ideological direction—one that American voters had consciously chosen in the fall of 1932. What is more, he suggests that these four months marked a distinctive moment of uncertainty and crisis in American history—a time of panic, anxiety, and political violence, when the basic economic and political structures of the United States were challenged in ways that they had not been since the Civil War. Rauchway presents a Roosevelt for our own polarized age, an act of historical imagination that delivers real insights yet also simplifies a complex period.
The timing of the presidential inauguration was just one of the American traditions jettisoned under the pressure of the Great Depression. The first of the nation’s inaugurations was held on April 30, but thereafter they were scheduled for March 4—to mark the anniversary of the day the federal government began its operations in 1789. This changed with the Twentieth Amendment, which was ratified early in 1933 and moved the inauguration date up to January 20, starting in 1937.
Winter War makes clear the problems of such a long transition, certainly in late 1932 and early 1933. The nation was in a state of emergency, but the outgoing president could not take any action, while the new one still did not possess the power to lead. In February, Roosevelt was almost shot by Giuseppe Zangara, an unemployed and unstable bricklayer who showed up at a Miami rally eager to assassinate the “big men” he believed were responsible for his anger and stomach pains. (Chicago’s mayor, Anton Cermak, was hit by a bullet and died a few weeks later.) Eleven million people—about one-quarter of the workforce—were unemployed. In Germany, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as chancellor. In the United States, some people (including the publisher William Randolph Hearst) wondered whether America was in need of a similar strongman.Hoover quietly squirreled away funds while lecturing the country about the moral necessity of keeping the banks open.
Roosevelt and Hoover had once been respectful acquaintances. But by November 1932, their relationship had chilled. One of the most powerful themes in Winter War is Hoover’s intense political and personal hostility to Roosevelt, shared by his aides. Apparently, many in Hoover’s circle had been eager to see their man face the New York governor in the election of 1932, believing that FDR’s partial paralysis rendered him obviously incapable of fulfilling the duties of the presidency. “What is he, himself, thinking about when he allows himself to aspire to that office?” Hoover’s congressional liaison, James MacLafferty, mused about Roosevelt. “When I see a man of Hoover’s physical and mental power almost groggy from the blows that rain upon him I cannot make myself believe otherwise than that the election of Roosevelt to the presidency would be a crime against the nation.”
Throughout the campaign, Hoover had attacked what he considered a “social philosophy very different from the traditional philosophies of the American people,” warning that these “so-called new deals” would “destroy the very foundations” of American society. As Hoover later put it, the promise of a “New Deal” was both socialistic and fascistic; it would lead the country on a “march to Moscow.” Even as he prepared to leave office, he was setting himself up as the leader of the resistance and the opposition. Rauchway suggests that he did his utmost to limit the incoming administration’s ability to maneuver (an impulse that may sound familiar in the wake of the 2018 midterms in Wisconsin). For example, he attempted to establish a commission to deal with Europe’s overdue war debts that would have been staffed by his appointees even after FDR took power.
Rauchway portrays Roosevelt, too, as farsighted from early in the 1932 campaign onward: Rejecting the fantasy of 19th-century individualism espoused by the Republican Party, he was committed instead to a vision that assigned government some responsibility for shaping economic life, and to quasi-Keynesian programs to achieve that vision. Previous historians have generally taken a very different tack. They have emphasized FDR’s improvisatory qualities, styling him (to quote Richard Hofstadter’s acerbic 1948 book, The American Political Tradition) “the patrician as opportunist”—a wealthy dilettante of the Hudson River Valley who managed to seize an opening for political power without a well-articulated sense of what he might do with it. In the Cold War, Roosevelt’s experimentalism was judged an asset—a virtuous alternative to harsh ideology. More recent interpretations of the New Deal have focused on the conservative and pragmatic elements of the program—the limits of the welfare state it created and the ways that it enshrined rather than challenged corporate capitalism. Political constraints—namely Roosevelt’s dependence on the Southern Democrats—meant that even though he was critical of segregation, he was reluctant to take meaningful action against it.
Rauchway counts on a close dissection of the president-elect’s writings during the winter before he took office to back up his case for FDR’s well-formed social vision. Writing in December 1932 about what he might accomplish, Roosevelt blamed the continuing Depression on the “political failure to grasp the fact of economic interdependence.” On the campaign trail earlier in the year, he had presented what might have seemed like narrowly targeted policy proposals—for example, price supports for farmers—in ways that broadened the issue beyond a specific interest group. In November 1932, after the election, he argued for the price supports in terms of “purchasing power,” and thus linked agricultural interests to the interests of consumers across the country. In contrast to the sunny optimist who proclaimed that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Rauchway’s Roosevelt was given to occasional worries about political apocalypse. He watched Hitler’s rise with deep anxiety, and he feared that if the distress of America’s jobless wasn’t addressed, they might look to a dictator as well. Rauchway praises FDR’s choice of Frances Perkins as labor secretary and the implicit feminism it embodied. (The chapter on Perkins is titled “Social Justice Warrior.”)Even Roosevelt sometimes seemed to back away from what might appear now to be the most basic precepts of the New Deal.
Rauchway does devote a chapter to Roosevelt’s reluctance to combat southern segregationists, showing that the NAACP and other activists were watching him carefully to see whether he would extend any support to the cause of racial justice. But overall, his Roosevelt is a liberal hero who consistently advocated an expansion of public programs both to ameliorate the immediate suffering of the Depression and to stabilize the economy over the long term. Had Zangara’s bullets gone a different way, had Roosevelt’s running mate (the far more conservative John Nance Garner) ascended to the presidency, the fate of the country would have been profoundly different.
That is surely true, even if—as was often commented on at the time—the New Deal was not a clear-cut agenda that Roosevelt had ready-to-hand before he came into office. Rauchway’s revisionist emphasis shouldn’t eclipse the fact that the legislative efforts that went into the New Deal reflected many different interpretations of the problems facing the country in the 1930s. Even Roosevelt sometimes seemed to retreat from what might appear now to be the most basic precepts of the New Deal. He threw the economy back into recession in 1937 when he tried to balance the federal budget. The federal jobs programs he created were conceived as emergency measures that would last only a few years, revealing his underlying ambivalence about a welfare state.
Roosevelt and his advisers were pushed by events they did not control and by political actors representing a broad range of ideas—communists, socialists, and labor radicals, as well as the followers of Huey Long, Father Charles Coughlin, and Francis Townsend. By the end of the 1930s, many in Washington believed that the New Deal, whatever it was, had failed. Although unemployment had fallen from its peak and some of the worst pain of the Depression had been mitigated, the economy had not recovered—and wouldn’t until World War II. Even the power and stability of the unions were truly secured only during the war. As the economist Alvin Hansen put it in 1940, when asked whether he believed the “basic principle” of the New Deal was economically sound: “I really do not know what the basic principle of the New Deal is.”
To make the New Deal seem as though it was a program that Roosevelt had worked out well ahead of time is to simplify this history, and to cut against the sense of crisis and contingency that Winter War so powerfully evokes. This version of events also makes the New Deal appear somehow a project of Roosevelt alone, rather than a political response to the wave of protests against the economic inequality and poverty that swept up millions of Americans. That surge of discontent may have been—even more than FDR—the real subject of Hoover’s wrath.
Today, liberal nostalgia for Roosevelt comes easily. The country is mired in crises lacking obvious resolutions; the move toward greater equality that began to unfold during the 1930s has been largely undone. How much easier the situation would be if there were a standard-bearer in the Democratic Party, someone with an inspiring vision to move the country forward! But Roosevelt did not create the New Deal alone; it was the product of a generation of struggle and upheaval, of political unrest and agitation that extended well beyond Washington, D.C.
The same is true for the fight against it. The last pages of Winter War tell the story of Roosevelt’s Inauguration Day. The crowds that thronged to the Capitol were perceived by Roosevelt’s supporters as “a conquering army—as, in a sense, we were.” So wrote the Democratic National Committee secretary in his diary. Hoover’s men saw “a tough-looking crowd” that resembled a political convention, with (as one put it) “many negroes smoking vile cigars.” After Roosevelt was sworn in, Hoover left Washington immediately, sitting apart on the train and weeping during some of the trip. He then began, with little pause, what would be the work of the rest of his life: fighting against Roosevelt and his policies.
For the remainder of the 1930s, Hoover embedded himself in the circles of the resistance, talking to businessmen who seemed “terrorized just as surely as the people in Moscow.” He continued to be active in conservative circles, inspiring Richard Nixon, among others, and helping to lead the right-wing factions within the Republican Party. He died shortly before Barry Goldwater’s electoral collapse in 1964. But his long crusade might serve as inspiration for people today who are fighting against the rightward shift that has carried the country so far from the New Deal. A journalist is said to have asked Hoover late in life how he had managed to win arguments with the moderate and liberal Republicans who seemed to be in control of the Republican Party. His answer: “I outlived the bastards.” Not too bad for someone who had once debated signing up as an announcer with Old Gold.
The rocky transition from Hoover to FDR
President Herbert Hoover and President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to cooperate in any matter during the four-month transition that occurred in the midst of the Great Depression. Eric Rauchway, an expert on the New Deal and the Progressive Era, shared his expertise on how Roosevelt utilized his time between the election and the inauguration to set in motion one of the most successful presidencies in American history despite Hoover’s unwillingness to ease the way.
Read the highlights
David Marchick asked historian Eric Rauchway why he chose to write about the Hoover-Roosevelt transition.
Rauchway: “I became persuaded that this hundred or so days before Roosevelt took the oath of office were actually as important as the much more famous hundred days that came after. In fact, the previous hundred days really paved the way for that burst of legislative activity that happened upon his coming into office.”
Marchick: At the Partnership for Public Service, we focus on effectiveness in government, and we would advise the outgoing administration to work cooperatively with the incoming administration, much like George W. Bush did with Barack Obama during the financial crisis of 2008. So what happened with Hoover and Roosevelt? Did they cooperate with each other?
Rauchway: “No, they really didn’t. Of course, your advice, which is excellent advice for outgoing and incoming chief executives, assumes that both parties regard the transfer of power as legitimate. In this case in 1932 and 1933, Herbert Hoover fundamentally regarded the proposed New Deal FDR had campaigned on as an illegitimate use of presidential and federal power, and something that he wanted to stop as much as he possibly could.
“It’s fair to say certainly that Hoover probably never really liked Franklin Roosevelt. He said, ‘I had no use for that man after 15 years of acquaintance.’ Which kind of tips you off.
“Although they weren’t that far off in age…Roosevelt’s youthful demeanor made him seem a lot younger than he was. Hoover thought of him as callow and immature. And frankly, Herbert Hoover wasn’t the only one. Roosevelt had a definite sense of humor that I think today we would identify as being kind of trollish.”
Reflecting on similarities between the Great Depression and the today’s economic crisis, Rauchway noted:
“I think that one of the things that the pandemic and the shutdown (of economic activity) have revealed is that there are big structural inequalities in the United States that have been unaddressed for a long period of time. That is a point where we do have important parallels with the United States in 1932, 1933. The Depression also revealed the thinness of the boom years of the 1920s and how many sectors of American life really hadn’t benefited from that sort of superficial prosperity.”
Rauchway explained how FDR used the transition period between his election in 1932 and his inauguration ion 1933 to prepare to govern.
“He (Roosevelt) goes to his vacation house in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he meets a whole bunch of various Democrats and liberal Republicans and starts to marshal ways of putting through the legislation that he had promised during the campaign: legislation to relieve farmers, legislation to build dams at public expense and operate them to produce hydroelectric power…, legislation that’s friendly to unions, legislation that’s going to push forward what we would now call a sort of “pro-welfare state” like unemployment insurance and Social Security.
“He begins to take advice from experts, politicians and industry leaders over how best to do those things. He sends up trial balloons. He tries to get… people in his party and sympathetic members of the Republican Party on his side. He begins to put together a Cabinet that is shaped with those policies in mind and in deference to the kinds of constituencies that he thinks will support him.”
Presidential transition of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Disagreement between Roosevelt and Hoover over economic policies
Roosevelt meeting with Cardinal George Mundelein in Albany, New York on November 18, 1932Roosevelt in Hyde Park, New York in February 1933Counting of the United States Electoral College votes on February 8, 1933
During the transition, Hoover attempted to get Roosevelt to give his endorsement to Hoover’s policies for addressing the ongoing economic depression. Roosevelt refused, having campaigned against Hoover’s approach, promising a “New Deal” if elected Hoover attempted to get Roosevelt to abandon his “New Deal”, which Hoover believed would be catastrophic.
Hoover insisted that an economic recovery was taking place, despite severe rising unemployment and the continued bank failures. However, the following day, Roosevelt made clear that he would not agree to participate in this.
At their November 22 meeting, Roosevelt told Hoover that if he and the lame duck congress would pass a farm bill incorporating Roosevelt’s farm relief ideas, that Roosevelt might be able to avoid needing to call a special session of Congress after his inauguration. While there was much room for the passage of the farm policy Roosevelt was seeking in congress (including among Republicans), Hoover made it clear he would not be willing to sign such legislation.
In December, Hoover attempted to get Roosevelt to participate in the appointing of the delegation that would be sent to the London Economic Conference. Roosevelt did not accept. After this, Hoover made their telegrams discussing this public, and released a White House statement suggesting that Roosevelt found it “undesirable” to engage in joint efforts relating to the economy. Roosevelt responded to this White House statement, by saying “it is a pity” that Hoover was making the suggestion he was opposed to “cooperative action”. The New York Times, at the time, reported that the telegrams Hoover had released revealed a “clash of methods” between the two.
Roosevelt had promised many times that he would pass a balanced budget, but would not pledge to pass new taxes to accomplish this. On February 18, Roosevelt received a letter from Hoover attempting to convince Roosevelt to promise to pass new taxes if needed to accomplish a balanced budget. The letter also urged Roosevelt not to abandon the gold standard. Hoover had been worried since summer 1932 that Roosevelt might do this if he became president (after a Democratic campaign economist warned Hoover that Roosevelt was considering doing so). Roosevelt discussed the letter with his advisors, but sent Hoover no immediate reply. Hoover sent Roosevelt another letter and, on March 1, Roosevelt sent replies to both this and the previous letter, pretending that the late reply to the earlier letter was due to a mistake by a secretary.
Shaping of Roosevelt’s policies
During the transition, Roosevelt had several of his top advisors work with leaders of agricultural organizations to devise a program to address the agricultural crisis. Among the advisors of Roosevelt’s who partook in these discussions were Henry Morgenthau Jr., Raymond Moley, and Rexford Tugwell. Roosevelt also recruited Henry A. Wallace to join his advisors in these discussions with agricultural leaders.
In December, Roosevelt reached out to Senator George W. Norris, author of the Muscle Shoals Bill (which Hoover had vetoed in 1931), about making a trip together to the Tennessee Valley to assess the projects proposed by that bill. In January 1933, Roosevelt and Norris traveled together on a train from Washington, D.C. to the Tennessee Valley to assess the proposed projects that had been the subject of the vetoed bill. Afterwards, they traveled to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, where Roosevelt spoke extemporaneously from the building’s portico about the values of the proposed projects. The projects would become the nucleus of the Tennessee Valley Authority that Roosevelt would authorize shortly after becoming president.
Meetings between Roosevelt and Hoover
Hoover was surprised, at the meeting, to witness the extent of Roosevelt’s paralytic disability.
Hoover began the meeting by delivering to Roosevelt an hour long lecture on international economic matters. He would later tell an advisor that he had been, “educating a very ignorant” but “well-meaning young man”.
Hoover proposed to Roosevelt that they, together, form a foreign debt commission, and mistook Roosevelt for having agreed to this.
By January, public had begun to see the president-elect and outgoing president as failing to cooperate with one another. Arthur Krock of the New York Times wrote that they were “congenitally unable to understand each other or to go along on methods”.
Wanting to avoid looking uncooperative, in early January, Roosevelt made a telephone call to Hoover and arranged for a second meeting. By this time, Hoover so distrusted Roosevelt that he insisted on having a stenographer present during the phone call in which they arranged for this meeting.
The president and president-elect met again on January 20. They agreed to have the United States hold talks with the United Kingdom relating to its war debts to the United States, which they agreed would be scheduled to be held after Roosevelt assumed the presidency.
Instead of hosting the Roosevelts for a then-traditional pre-inauguration dinner, the Hoovers invited them for an afternoon tea the day prior to the inauguration.
When Roosevelt arrived at the White House, he found that Hoover wanted to pull him into another meeting, this time with the secretary of the treasury and chair of the Federal Reserve. The meeting went poorly. Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, would later recount to reporters that she had been able to hear the conversation through an open door, and heard Hoover ask Roosevelt to give public support to temporarily closing the country’s banks in order to stave off panic withdrawals. Roosevelt allegedly responded, “Like hell I will! If you haven’t the guts to do it yourself, I’ll wait until I’m president to do it.” Hoover would keep attempting to call Roosevelt on the phone that evening to get him to change his mind on giving him support for this. Roosevelt, indeed, would, as president, take this action himself, announcing a four-day “bank holiday” on March 6, his second full day in office.
Legislation during the transition period
Laws signed by Hoover
Legislation in congress
President-elect Roosevelt initially sought to have some of his agenda passed by the lame duck congress. Vice president-elect John Nance Garner was still speaker of the House for the lame duck session, and could have been a useful ally in passing legislation through congress. However, disunity in the congress and the near certainty of Hoover vetoing such legislation quickly made this a moot opportunity. The first test which showed a lack of a unified Democratic Party in the lame-duck congress was a December 5 vote on an amendment of the United States constitution that would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This vote saw the amendment fail to receive congressional approval by a margin of six votes. Eleven Democratic who were lame ducks, having lost reelection, were among those voting against the amendment.
On February 20, 1933, a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was approved by Congress, and was submitted to state ratifying conventions in each state for ratification. It would later be ratified by December, becoming the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on January 23, 1933. This moved the date of all regularly-scheduled presidential inaugurations subsequent to the 1933 inauguration from March 4 to January 20. It also outlined procedures for instances in which a president-elect dies or otherwise fails to qualify for the presidency before taking office.
1933 presidential transition led to a lifelong hatred between Herbert Hoover and FDR
President Donald Trump is the first American leader to leave office with fewer American jobs than when he started four years ago since Herbert Hoover. Iowa’s only native to reach the White House also lost his bid for a second term to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hoover had genuine hatred for the man taking his job, but that didn’t stop him from playing his role on Inauguration Day.
“He wasn’t happy at the inauguration,” says Matt Schaefer, Archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, “he was the outgoing President, but he wasn’t going to get his knickers in a knot and not show up, that’s just not how he rolled.”
President Hoover lost his reelection bid because he was the man on watch when the Great Depression started in 1929, just a few months into his presidency. He lost to Roosevelt in November 1932, but then, the Inauguration did not take place until March. Hoover wanted Roosevelt to work with him and find common ground so that he could implement some measures to help the American People before Roosevelt began his term. But Roosevelt did not want to tie his political future to a failed president.
“And between November ‘32 and March ‘33 what had been an innate dislike became, for Hoover especially, bitter hatred.” Said Shaefer. Americans also felt that frustration. Those who disagreed with the liberal views of the incoming President feared his proposals such as social security and a minimum wage would lead the country to a socialist future. Just two weeks before he took office, Roosevelt was in Florida for a public event when an unemployed man tried to kill him. Roosevelt escaped injury. But the Mayor of Chicago, also in town for the event, was killed in the attack.
Historians say Hoover did try to put his anger aside, after years of attempting to return to politics and continue his campaign against Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ programs. During World War II, Hoover reached out to FDR, hoping to help with the crisis in Europe. During World War I, Hoover was lauded for his work to help feed the war-torn continent. But Roosevelt refused his offers. “One of Roosevelt’s aides asked why you aren’t going to take advantage of this? Hoover can help us here. And Roosevelt said ‘I’m not Jesus Christ, I’m not raising that man from the dead.’”
President Roosevelt died, not living to see the end of World War II. His successor, President Harry Truman, did not harbor the hard feelings Roosevelt did for Hoover, and he called upon the former President to use his skills to help Europe rebuild and recover. Hoover went on to define how we think of ex-Presidents in the modern era. Spending his final years working for the public good, until his death at 90 in 1964.
But like Roosevelt, Hoover never gave up his feud with Roosevelt. In his final years, he worked on a massive manuscript, detailing his investigation into how, in his view, President Roosevelt failed the American People and could have preventing war from breaking out around the world. After his death in 1964, Hoover’s family chose not to publish it and dig up old wounds about a President largely hailed as a hero during the Great Depression and World War II.
It wasn’t until 2012 that an historian completed Hoover’s book and convinced his family to publish it. That book, critical of Roosevelt, is called ‘Freedom Betrayed.’
Can we Finally Admit FDR Was a Terrible President?
There was a president named Herbert Hoover who was an evil corporatist fat-cat which lived in an evil castle in the sky smoking a big cigar. He stole kittens from the poor, burnt them and turned them into coal used by the rich to power their trains to hell, built on the death labor of the poor. The evil Herbert Hoover, though, had a bad Tuesday and out of nowhere “POP”, him with the work of the nasty league of rich crashed the stock market by mistake. People jumped out of windows, the poor suffered and overnight, the economy was in darkness. Hoover, being the man of wealth who hated the poor, tried to cut taxes on the rich, deregulate the market and do all in his power to help big business and give to the 1%. That was until the wonderful Franklin Delano Roosevelt put his cape on and wonder-wheeled himself to the White House, beating Hoover and his gang of fat–cats; thereby helping the poor, ending the Depression, being nice to Japanese people and giving free ponies and food to everyone! The end!
Well… That is, at least the more academic version of what would be taught in the average high school history class.
With earning voters, the breeding ground always seems to be the ‘get them while they are young’ approach. In American high schools, however, instead of going via the route of misleading economics or use of math, they use story time instead. A time to call Herbert Hoover a rogue conservative agenda with tax cuts, big oil and nothing for the working man. A time to call FDR a saint who evolved government massively and with taxes recovered America out of a depression which Hoover, Coolidge and Harding started. The story they tell is very simple and leaves this cheap lasting imprint on people which impacts how they vote forever. It is the false imprint that government spending creates jobs, Republicans cutting taxes hurts the economy, and the government is the answer to a recession or depression. It’s just short of Hobbits and Jedi until it escapes into becoming a JK Rowling novel.
To debunk this story and narrative with showing the true side of FDR, there are two halves to the tale. The first half is telling the story which was before FDR became president. The second half is talk about the FDR economy with his thirteen years in power. This story doesn’t get told often; because it lacks the traditional narrative people are used to hearing in storytelling. That thing being it lacks a protagonist or hero in the story. With history and fiction, people enjoy turning things into Harry Potter vs. Voldemort-type tales. That or they prefer the story of the tragic hero such as Jean Vejean, who, despite great efforts, ultimately falls victim. With examining the history of America from 1929 to 1943, it is clear there was no player in government doing the right thing or making a serious motion on economic reasoning. It was Herbert Hoover and FDR on a same two-sided coin, but just one landing on top in the eyes of history.
For debunking the first half, Herbert Hoover could be noted as the quiet Donald Trump. Hoover was an engineer who rose his way as an inventor and businessman in the mining sector. He never held any office before taking office, but did hold titles in United States diplomatic relations and coordinating trade talks as commerce secretary to Harding/Coolidge. He was originally a Democrat and was even vetted during the 1920 Democratic National Convention, where he was the nominee with the death of Teddy Roosevelt and FDR being unseasoned at the time. He instead held with the GOP to represent a progressive and protectionist era of the Republican Party. He ran in 1928 taking a landslide win where he ran as a moderate. 1929 happened, and what began as a sailing smooth administration sitting back at the good times, became a moment similar to what George W. Bush would face with 9/11 six decades later. It was the moment where Herbert Hoover had to go from being a fresh face and business mind to an actual president.
At this point in American history, market collapses weren’t a new thing. To the little awareness of those following what’s normally taught in schools, America less than a decade prior had a market collapse with the Depression of 1920. When Warren Harding took office, he was confronted with the same crisis Hoover was, a decade later.. GDP tanked, unemployment went up and in every metric a bad economy was created. The Keynesian advice was this being the result of a weak post-war market and the answer being gradual spending boost. Harding and Coolidge responded with spending/tax cuts, having budget surpluses every year and an emphasis on eliminating all of the post-WW1 debt and then some. They did. The outcome being that America went from under one-third of people having electricity to over 60% having it. Furthermore, more people than any point in history had an actual savings account with money in the market. An unemployment rate held at an average of 6%. This was the time the middle class truly became a thing and it was the birth of the modern economy where people had more traditional paths of birth, education, career and for the first time, retirement. This was the rarely spoken of Coolidge era, and it, while always marketed as the time of reckless Jay Gatsby inequality, was undeniably a time of growth for everyone, rich and poor.
With the decade of Coolidge being a massive success, with its inception being a depression caused by the stock market, one could make an obvious prediction for Herbert Hoover. He was in the Harding/Coolidge cabinet. He ran under the same party as Coolidge and Harding did. He should have been the man to continue their approach. The approach being better management of funds, lack of market involvement and cutting taxes collected to GDP. The story people in history classes pretend that is what happened. Instead, Hoover introduced the largest tariff in American history via Smoot-Hawley, he raised income taxes across the board right away, created the first forms of price controls via tax pressures and he ended his administration with doubling the income rates on top earners 100%. Capitalist hero right there!
With the Hoover Administration, the saddest fact is Black Tuesday might not have actually been the depression. Unemployment after that event shot up from 5% to 9% quickly, but shortly after fell to around 7% and held some metrics of GDP growth. The 7% rate being the exact number on the day Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff and within five months, unemployment would be up by over 100% at a staggering 15% with the market recollapsing and American exports falling. Disaster struck and capitalism was, sadly, given the blame.
The second half of the story hits and it begins with the icon of progressivism in America, Franklin Roosevelt. FDR ran as the relative of Teddy Roosevelt who at the time was as popular in America as what Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy would be today. People globally mourned the death of the older Roosevelt and FDR groomed himself for decades on a presidential run, grasped the opportunity with Hoover’s popularity being in a massive decline. With how history is told, people lie and say that Roosevelt ran a campaign built on him being the progressive and Hoover being the conservative; it being the first time America with major parties rumbled between a socialist and capitalist.
That is the false narrative. Instead, FDR ran promising a 25% across the board tax cut, a 10% budget cut, the end of Prohibition and the end to Smoot-Hawley. This was the capitalist campaign at the time. It was so much built on calling Herbert Hoover the big government candidate that soon to be Vice President John Garner opened up his acceptance speech to the DNC telling people that Herbert Hoover was a socialist. People such as Ayn Rand actually chose to vote for FDR under the claim he represented capitalism and social freedom in a superior way over Herbert Hoover. This was FDR running as a capitalist and the value of this being definitive proof that in every form, Hoover was not the conservative he was made out to be.
With FDR taking office in a landslide, the story and explaining the lies just becomes easier. FDR, with the exceptions of expanded free trade and ending Prohibition, didn’t carry on many of his promises. He raised spending massively, raised taxes to the highest rates in American history, introduced large amounts of new regulations and did everything the left would pride him under as their golden child.
The issue? It never worked. Under FDR, he never held a single day while president in which unemployment was under 10%. The average unemployment rate for his term being over double the unemployment rate for what Coolidge saw in his time. Growth wasn’t expanded and things such as middle class people having cars went from the Coolidge reality to an FDR luxury slipping away. He did absurd things in calls to “help” the economy. He would randomly do things such as killing and burning pigs, cows, and chickens, wrongfully confiscating them from farmers and claiming it was to “help” them. This was the era people such as Ronald Reagan grew up in and developed the greatest fear, being people such as FDR coming on and saying that they are from the government and here to “help”.
With the word “help”, FDR saw himself as by far the single worst president in regards to employment, economic growth, price stability, market growth, savings growth or anything of substance. Even policies such as Social Security now seen as staples of American living were originally called out as scams to be excuses to raise taxes for the government and have people never live to collect benefits on them. He stunted productivity offering “help” to the arts, but his programs quickly became cash grabs for people. An example being him offering financial aid to artists and watching the number of people going from marked as an actor, musician or artist in Louisiana go from under 1,000 to 40,000 in a year and no visible indicators it helped anyone. It was this reckless growth which would involve people literally digging holes and filling them up without any actual gains. Roads were built which would never find any serious use or wouldn’t for decades. This new birth of government power would give him the ability to do the crown jewel of American statism: the Japanese Internment. The often forgotten moment FDR would “help” American safety and just place 100,000+ people in concentration style camps purely based on ethnic group and regardless of having lived in America for generations, being forced to sell their property and liquefy assets in the name of safety. Many believing this just being “help” for wealthier property owners in California who benefited due to the cheap farmland for sale.
Why is FDR looked at as a success? Why is he not viewed as this borderline dictator who broke human rights and had a crashed economy as president? Why is he not where I’d personally place him as the worst president in United States history?
- He was a winner.
As sad as it is to admit, FDR lived and died a winner. He won four presidential elections each time as a success and held it with cheers. His victory margins were incredible and even though he never faced a particularly challenging opponent, it’s undeniable he did succeed. This Trump-style mentality of honoring people who win exists in American culture and it holds here.
- The Depression did manage to end.
Why did it end? Too many reasons to attach in one article. Everything from regained American confidence to a lack of new domestic laws to decreased post-WW2 spending to the fact the rest of the world is blown to hell, call it what someone wants, it ended. Even though it ended many years after FDR died and Roosevelt ended his time in office with horrible unemployment numbers, it was still a legacy he gets the title of holding.
- Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman
Ronald Reagan’s popularity is less of being a success as president, but could be linked more with him succeeding the failed administration of Carter and being better over George HW Bush. He was in the middle and was the good kid in class. For many presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, James Polk and yes, FDR, they seem to find success just based on them being in-between panned presidents. This creates a case where people are in the present with a bad president and can think back to hold nostalgia for the good and bad. While Truman does hold fonder memories looking back in time, the fact he held disapproval ratings that wouldn’t be matched until George W. Bush had the perfect storm of problems with Iraq, GITMO, the housing market, Katrina and a guy named Scooter. This all made FDR stand in the middle of the two least popular presidents in memory for anyone at the time.
In this all, there’s only one answer:
Make FDR the ultimate enemy!
It is time that people, whether they are 12, 18, 30 or 70, get the true story of the worst president in United States history. The people who go out and tackle racism in history should see him in the same light as Andrew Jackson. Anyone who ever dreams of owning a business or having a successful career should know him as the President who had the worst economy ever. His legacy being destroyed is a must in ever bringing about a libertarian United States. It’s simply time to tell the correct narrative of history. The following two tabs change content below.
Criticism of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Before, during and after his presidential terms and continuing today, there has been much criticism of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945). Critics have questioned not only his policies and positions, but also charged him with centralizing power in his own hands by controlling both the government and the Democratic Party. Many denounced his breaking the no-third-term tradition in 1940.
By the middle of his second term, much criticism of Roosevelt centered on fears that he was heading toward a dictatorship by attempting to seize control of the Supreme Court in the court-packing incident of 1937, attempting to eliminate dissent within the Democratic Party in the South during the 1938 mid-term elections and by breaking the tradition established by George Washington of not seeking a third term when he again ran for re-election in 1940. As two historians explain: “In 1940, with the two-term issue as a weapon, anti-New Dealers […] argued that the time had come to disarm the ‘dictator’ and to dismantle the machinery”.
Long after Roosevelt’s death, new lines of attack opened to criticize his policies regarding helping the Jews of Europe, incarcerating Japanese Americans on the West Coast and opposing anti-lynching legislation.
Rejection by allies
Numerous allies and appointees turned against Roosevelt, such as Vice President John Nance Garner, Brain truster Raymond Moley, Postmaster General James A. Farley and Ambassador Joseph Kennedy. Outside the administration prominent supporters who turned against Roosevelt included journalists Walter Lippmann and Frank Kent. Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst was a major Roosevelt supporter in 1932, but turned his nationwide media chain against Roosevelt starting in 1934. Historian Charles A. Beard had supported Roosevelt in 1932, but he became the leader of isolationist intellectuals who opposed his foreign policy after 1937. Roosevelt in the 1920s had been closely associated with Al Smith, the governor of New York. Roosevelt defeated Smith for the 1932 nomination and Smith became the leader of the Liberty League of prominent businessmen opposing the New Deal. After Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt rejected the possibility of major war jobs for any of these men except Lewis Douglas and Dean Acheson. Some appointees privately turned against the New Deal, but they kept quiet and stayed in the jobs, such as ambassador Claude Bowers.
Criticism of the New Deal and of tax policy
Roosevelt was criticized for his economic policies, especially the shift in tone from individualism to collectivism with the dramatic expansion of the welfare state and regulation of the economy. Those criticisms continued decades after his death. One factor in the revisiting of these issues in later decades was the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. When in 1981 Reagan was quoted in The New York Times saying that fascism was admired by many New Dealers, he came under heavy criticism, for Reagan had greatly admired Roosevelt and was a leading New Dealer in Hollywood.
Today, Roosevelt is criticized by conservatives and libertarians for his extensive economic interventionism. These critics often accuse his policies of prolonging what they believe would otherwise have been a much shorter recession. Their argument is that government planning of the economy was both unnecessary and counterproductive and that laissez-faire policies would have ended the suffering much sooner. Professor Thomas DiLorenzo, an adherent of the Austrian School of economics, says Roosevelt did not “get us out of the Depression” or “save capitalism from itself” as generations of Americans have been taught.
More recently, libertarian historian Jim Powell stated in his 2003 book FDR’s Folly that the median joblessness rate throughout the New Deal was 17.2 percent and never went below 14 percent. However, Powell does not count government workers on the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as employed, even though they worked at full-time paid jobs. Powell states the Depression was worsened and prolonged “by doubling taxes, making it more expensive for employers to hire people, making it harder for entrepreneurs to raise capital, demonizing employers, destroying food… breaking up the strongest banks, forcing up the cost of living, channeling welfare away from the poorest people and enacting labor laws that hit poor African Americans especially hard”. Liberal historians reject Powell’s charges and note that it was Hoover who raised taxes, not Roosevelt; and say that the New Deal did more for blacks than any administration before or since. Libertarian writers such as Burton Folsom believe that Social Security tax increases for middle-class workers exceeded government-mandated wage increases for them, thus leaving them with less current disposable income in exchange for eventual pensions. Roosevelt raised tax rates on the wealthy to a top marginal tax rate of 79%. However, wealthy citizens found tax shelters to reduce this rate. Libertarians also believe New Deal tax legislation curtailed private sector investment and job creation.
A 2004 econometric study by Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian concluded that the “New Deal labor and industrial policies did not lift the economy out of the Depression as President Roosevelt and his economic planners had hoped”, but that the “New Deal policies are an important contributing factor to the persistence of the Great Depression”. They believe that the “abandonment of these policies coincided with the strong economic recovery of the 1940s”. They do not credit Roosevelt for the remarkable prosperity of the 1940s.
New Deal defenders argue that the failure of industry to create new jobs in the 1930s was caused primarily by the lack of new technologies and new industries as apart from radio there were few growth industries that emerged in the 1930s compared to the 1920s, when automobiles and electricity created the demand for new products that in turn created many new jobs. By contrast, in the 1930s companies did not hire more workers because they could not sell the increased output that would result.
Criticism of Roosevelt as a “warmonger”
As World War II began, Roosevelt was among those concerned at the growing strength of the Axis Powers and he found ways to help Great Britain, the Chinese Nationalists and later the Soviet Union in their struggle against them. His program of Lend-Lease supplied military equipment to those powers despite the American government’s official neutrality. This prompted several isolationist leaders, including air hero Charles Lindbergh, to criticize him as a warmonger who was trying to push America into war with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. This criticism was largely silenced in the public arena after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but some persisted in the belief that Roosevelt knew of the attack beforehand.
Criticism of Roosevelt as a “fascist”
After 1945, the term “fascist” conjured up images of Nazi death camps, but in the 1930s it had a very different connotation, meaning the centralization of political power as in Benito Mussolini‘s Italy and of a “third way” between communism and capitalism. While most American businessmen thought Roosevelt was hostile to them, critics on the left said he was too friendly. Comparisons of American domestic programs to fascist economics are not necessarily pejorative as one of the motives behind the Interstate Highway System was that President Eisenhower was impressed by Adolf Hitler‘s autobahn system. Early in Roosevelt’s first term, supporters and critics alike found similarities between the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and Italian corporatism. In 1935 and 1936, after Italy invaded Ethiopia and the Supreme Court struck down the NRA, contemporaries stopped comparing the NRA to Italian corporatism. Interest in the subject returned in 1973, when two prominent historians[who?] wrote articles on resemblances between the New Deal and fascist economics. According to James Q. Whitman, by the late 1980s it was “almost routine” for New Deal historians to identify similarities between the New Deal and fascist economic programs.
Critics on the left
The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) first charged Roosevelt with being fascist less than two months after he took office. On May Day, 1933, the CPUSA ran a series of newspaper advertisements denouncing “the whole Roosevelt program of preparation for fascism and war” and calling Roosevelt a “fascist dictator”. The ads’ examples of alleged fascist activities included “forced labor for the unemployed” and harsh tactics against striking farm workers in California. Scholar Paul Kengor wrote that the charges were ridiculous. Richard Hofstadter noted that critics from the left believed “that the NRA was a clear imitation of Mussolini’s corporate state”.
Left-liberal publications such as The Nation and The New Republic worried that the Civilian Conservation Corps‘ (CCC) integration with the military could start a transformation to a fascistic society. While the CCC was operated by the military and had some militaristic aspects, the Roosevelt administration allayed these fears by emphasizing the CCC’s civilian character. Unlike its German counterpart, the CCC was never a compulsory service.
Critics on the right
Conservatives have made the most significant criticisms of Roosevelt and have been keeping up with these criticisms for decades. They warned of “regimentation”. They made cautionary comparisons of Roosevelt’s economic programs to communism and fascism, to which Roosevelt responded in a June 1934 Fireside Chat by saying that the critics were motivated by self-interest and that everything he did was within the United States’ political tradition. Roosevelt was a pragmatist who had studied under William James at Harvard College. As a pragmatist, Roosevelt was willing to consider various sources of ideas for social experiments.
The most prominent of Roosevelt’s critics in regards to fascism was Herbert Hoover, who saw a connection between the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and the “Swope Plan”, named after Gerard Swope. Hoover was an ardent supporter of trade associations, but saw the Swope Plan as fascistic because of its compulsory nature. Historian George H. Nash argues:
Unlike the “moderate,” internationalist, largely eastern bloc of Republicans who accepted (or at least acquiesced in) some of the “Roosevelt Revolution” and the essential premises of President Truman’s foreign policy, the Republican Right at heart was counterrevolutionary. Anti-collectivist, anti-Communist, anti-New Deal, passionately committed to limited government, free market economics, and congressional (as opposed to executive) prerogatives, the G.O.P. conservatives were obliged from the start to wage a constant two-front war: against liberal Democrats from without and “me-too” Republicans from within.
The Old Right emerged in opposition to the New Deal of President Roosevelt and Hoff says that “moderate Republicans and leftover Republican Progressives like Hoover composed the bulk of the Old Right by 1940, with a sprinkling of former members of the Farmer-Labor party, Non-Partisan League, and even a few midwestern prairie Socialists”.
Historians compare New Deal with Europe
The Swope Plan was the starting point for drafting the NIRA and it was in no way copied from Europe. Many prominent businessmen had participated in writing it. However, Hoover denounced the Swope plan as monopolistic and refused to support any proposal made by the Chamber of Commerce, though it was widely praised by American businessmen and academics. The Swope Plan was corporatist, but far less extensive than fascist corporatism. Historian John A. Garraty said that the NIRA was “similar to experiments being carried out by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Italy and by the Nazis in Hitler’s Germany. It did not, of course, turn America into a fascist state, but it did herald an increasing concentration of economic power in the hands of interest groups, both industrialists’ organizations and labor unions”. Garraty said that another influence was the concept of the corporate state, where capitalists and workers, supervised by the government, worked out problems to avoid wasteful competition and dangerous social clashes. Historian Ellis Hawley reviewed the legislative history of the NIRA. A key member of the Brains Trust, Raymond Moley, led efforts to review industrial recovery plans. Another significant influence was Hugh S. Johnson, who drew on his experience with the war industries board. Popular historian Amity Shlaes stated:
The NIRA was the consummation of a thousand articles and a thousand trends. It was the ideas of Moley, the trade unions, Stuart Chase, Tugwell, Stalin, Insull, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford, and Mussolini’s Italian model all rolled into one.
According to comparative law scholar James Whitman, it was not the NIRA statute that fueled suspicions of fascism. It was the leaders of the National Recovery Administration: Hugh Johnson, head of the NRA, openly admired Mussolini. Both Johnson and his assistant, Donald Richberg, made disturbing statements indicating that they were hostile to parliamentary government. Richberg denied being a fascist, but described Roosevelt several times as a “Man of Action”. Whitman said that there were “striking” differences between the ideology of Johnson and Richberg and fascist propaganda.
Garraty suggested that there were some “striking” similarities between Roosevelt’s programs and German anti-depression policies, but concluded that the New Deal did not have much in common with fascism in total because of the vast political differences between the two systems. Roosevelt expanded political participation for the less fortunate. Garraty stated that the main reason for the similarities was that both nations were dealing with problems that were unique in the industrial world. Garraty stated that the New Deal lacked any consistent ideological base. While the Brains Trust got a lot of attention, theorists never had much impact on Roosevelt. He drew on populism, with its hostility to bankers and its willingness to inflate the currency; Theodore Roosevelt‘s New Nationalism in its dislike of competition and deemphasis on antitrust laws; and the ideas of social workers from the Progressive Era. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis influenced Roosevelt on financial reforms. The War Labor Board from World War I influenced Roosevelt’s labor policy.
Other scholars had varying views on the relationship between the New Deal and fascist economics:
- New Deal historian William Leuchtenburg said in 1968 that “Mussolini’s corporate state did not find [an] American following”. Leuchtenburg said that if the New Deal had any foreign counterparts, it was in Scandinavia (see the Nordic model). According to Leuchtenburg, Roosevelt was overall a net exporter of ideas. Arthur Schlesinger’s conclusions were similar.
- John P. Diggins found only superficial similarities between the New Deal and Italian fascism. However, Diggins produced some quotations indicating that Roosevelt was interested in fascist economic programs and admired Mussolini.
- Kiran Klaus Patel stated: “On the whole, there was a special closeness between the German Labor Service and the CCC, just as there was a whole series of similar measures in social, cultural, and economic policies in Nazi Germany and under the New Deal”. Patel stated that the two nations’ politics were obviously different, with the United States adopting reform while Germany adopted fascism. The main reasons for the economic similarities according to Patel was the growth in state interventionism along with the fact that Germany and the United States faced similar problems, particularly the need to reduce mass unemployment. To that end, both nations employed instruments of economic and social policy that were often strikingly similar. On that level, the crisis led to a limited degree of convergence.
- Ludwig von Mises wrote that the New Deal was a “replica” of Otto von Bismarck‘s social policies. Milton Friedman also said that Bismarck’s Germany influenced the New Deal. Friedman said that both Wilhelmine Germany’s aristocratic and autocratic government and left-wing governments had a paternalistic philosophy. According to Friedman, other sources included Fabian England, Swedish and American universities, particularly Columbia University.
- James Q. Whitman said that in its day-to-day operations the NRA only had limited resemblance to fascist corporatism. American corporatism was of an indigenous nature that traced back to nineteenth century German theorists of corporatism. It was also built on the United States’ World War I experience, which used corporatism to manage the economy. European corporatism was an ideology of political economy, built on conflicts between labor and capital. It appealed to “thuggish anti-parliamentarians who were the fascists”. The United States’ corporatism was only an economic ideology as Americans viewed Congress as a “place full of incompetents, not rogues”. Whitman said that there were two main differences between the NRA’s corporatism and European fascism. One was that in the United States class warfare never reached the level of intensity that it did in Europe. The other reason was that unlike Italy and Germany, the United States had a long tradition of representative government.
- Shlaes wrote that Roosevelt’s policies were often inspired by socialist or fascist models abroad. She acknowledges that Hoover and Roosevelt may not have had better alternative as their policies may have spared America some facsimile of Mussolini’s fascism or Joseph Stalin‘s Communism. Shlaes states: “The argument that democracy would have failed in the United States without the New Deal stood for seven decades, and has been made anew, by scholars of considerable quality, quite recently”.
In 1944, Friedrich Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom. Hayek focused mostly on Britain, but he also mentioned the New Deal and argued that the British and American governments had started to abandon their basic commitment to personal liberty through increasingly statist economic programs. Historian Alan Brinkley said that Hayek’s work was influential because it expressed concerns that already existed. The biggest challenge to the New Deal was the fear that the expanding federal bureaucracy limited personal economic freedom and autonomy. According to Brinkley, liberals accused Hayek of attacking a straw man, but their criticism had a strongly defensive tone. Alvin Hansen wrote a scathing review, but said that The Road to Serfdom is “‘good medicine but a bad diet.’” Stuart Chase acknowledged that Hayek provided “a useful warning […] which every planner should paste under the glass top of his desk.” Reinhold Niebuhr noted that totalitarianism‘s rise prompted the democracies to be apprehensive about collectivist solutions, stating that “a wise community will walk warily and test the effect of each new adventure before further adventures.”
Accusations of racism
Internment of Japanese Americans
Executive Order 9066, which sent 120,000 Japanese expatriates and American citizens of Japanese ancestry to be confined at internment camps, was heavily motivated by a fear of Japanese Americans, following the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. At the time, the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in Korematsu v. United States (1944).
Treatment of Jesse Owens
After the 1936 Berlin Olympics, only the white athletes were invited to see and meet Roosevelt. No such invitation was made to the black athletes, such as Jesse Owens, who had won four gold medals. A widely believed myth about the 1936 games was that Hitler had snubbed Owens, something that never happened. Owens said that “Hitler didn’t snub me—it was [Roosevelt] who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram”. However, Hitler had left after Owens won his first gold medal, and did not meet with him. Subsequently, Hitler did not meet with any of the gold medalists. Owens lamented his treatment by Roosevelt, saying that he “wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President”.
Roosevelt condemned lynching as murder, but he did not support Republican proposals to make it a federal crime, although his wife Eleanor did so. Roosevelt told an advocate: “If I come out for the anti-lynching bill now, they [Southern Democratic senators] will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep America from collapsing. I just can’t take that risk”.
Nomination of Hugo Black
Roosevelt nominated Hugo Black to the Supreme Court, knowing that Black had been an active member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The nomination was controversial because Black was an ardent New Dealer with almost no judicial experience. Senators did not know of the previous KKK membership.
Failure to do enough for the Jews of Europe
Beginning in the 1940s, Roosevelt was charged with not acting decisively enough to prevent or stop the Holocaust. Critics cite instances such as the 1939 episode in which 936 Jewish refugees on the MS St. Louis were denied asylum and not allowed into the United States because of strict laws passed by Congress.
Historian David Wyman and others argue that the Roosevelt administration knew that the Nazis were systematically killing Jews, but nevertheless followed a policy of not rescuing them. According to Wyman, Roosevelt’s record on Jewish refugees and their rescue is very poor and one of the worst failures of his presidency. He has been criticized for failing to issue public statements or address the issue of European Jews in any of his 998 press conferences.
Defenders of Roosevelt, such as Robert N. Rosen, argue that Roosevelt made numerous attempts to allow Jewish refugees to enter the United States and that at weaker periods of his presidency he simply did not have the political capital to wage these battles. Rosen argues that the mood in the country favored the strong desire to remain neutral regarding European affairs and distrust of anything that smacked of internationalism. On one point, Wyman and Rosen agree: that there were bitter divisions within the American Jewish community regarding whether to actively lobby for the rescue of their European counterparts from Nazi persecution, and that as a consequence, Roosevelt had limited political capital to initiate such an effort.
After the Allied conquest of North Africa in 1942, Roosevelt chose to retain the anti-Jewish Vichy French leadership in power there, with some Jews remaining held in concentration camps, and discriminatory laws against Jews remaining in effect. In private, Roosevelt argued that Jews did not need the right to vote since no elections were expected to be held soon, and that Jewish participation in the professions should be limited via a quota system. Only after an outcry from Jewish organizations in the US did Roosevelt change his policy regarding North African Jews, with anti-Jewish laws remaining in effect for 10 months after the US conquest.
This is a little bit of a post script on Herbert Hoover.
President Herbert Hoover’s Economic Policies
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st U.S. president, serving from 1929 to 1933. He rode into power because of his success during World War I and the Roaring Twenties. The recession that started the Great Depression began in August 1929. The stock market crashed in October. The rest of his presidency was consumed with the Great Depression.
Hoover was an advocate of laissez-faire economics. He believed an economy based on capitalism would self-correct. He felt that economic assistance would make people stop working. He believed business prosperity would trickle down to the average person. This philosophy was not effective against the Depression. His failure to end it led to his defeat in the 1932 presidential election against Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. As a result, Hoover’s enduring legacy is tainted by economic near-collapse. Many of his achievements have gone unnoticed. For example, in 1931, he signed a law that made “The Star-Spangled Banner” America’s national anthem. A self-made millionaire, he donated his presidential salary to charity. He also saved millions from starvation during the two world wars.
- Herbert Hoover presided as president of the United States during the beginning of the Great Depression.
- He tried to end the Great Depression by using a “laissez faire” approach, but it did not do much to help the economy.
- While Herbert Hoover is often blamed for the Great Depression, many of the reasons the economy collapsed were there before he was elected.
What Did Hoover Do To End the Depression?
Hoover tried many tactics to fight the Depression. He encouraged business leaders to keep workers. He gave many public speeches to instill confidence and prevent panic. Hoover did not believe the federal government should fix prices, control businesses, or manipulate the value of the currency. He thought these would lead to socialism.
- In 1929, he cut taxes. He lowered the top rate from 25%-24%.
- In December 1930, he raised it back to 25%.
- In 1930, Hoover vetoed several bills that would have provided direct relief to struggling Americans. “Prosperity cannot be restored by raids upon the public Treasury,” he explained in his 1930 address to Congress. Instead, he protected businesses by signing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. It was supposed to protect farmers but ended up imposing 40% tariffs on 900 products. That year, the nation’s gross domestic product fell 8.5%. The unemployment rate was 8.7%.
- In 1931, other countries retaliated with their own tariffs. The resultant trade war reduced international trade by 67%. GDP growth fell 6.4% while the unemployment rate rose to 15.9%.
- In 1932, the economy shrank 12.9%. But Hoover raised the top rate to 63% to reduce the deficit. His commitment to a balanced budget worsened the Depression.
- In 1932, Hoover approved the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to prevent more bankruptcies.
- By 1933, it disbursed $2 billion to failing banks, railroads, and a few other businesses. It was effective in keeping them from going under. In July, the Emergency Relief Act empowered the RFC to lend money to states to feed the unemployed and expand public works. Hoover felt that the states should provide for the unemployed. He was opposed to too much federal intervention.
- Hoover signed the Revenue Act of 1932. It increased the top income tax rate to 63%. He wanted to reduce the federal deficit. Hoover believed it would also restore confidence. Instead, higher taxes worsened the Depression. GDP growth fell 12.9% and unemployment was 23.6%.
Did Hoover Cause the Depression?
The causes of the Great Depression were already in place before Hoover took office. The stock market was volatile. Its value had risen 20% a year since 1924. The number of shares traded doubled to 5 million per day. People were buying stocks “on margin.” They only needed to put down 10%-20% and their brokers would lend the rest. When prices rose, they became millionaires. But they become instant paupers when the market crashed.
The Federal Reserve used a contractionary monetary policy to defend the gold standard. Instead, it should have lowered interest rates to fight the recession. In August 1929, the Fed raised the discount rate from 5%-6%. That made loans more expensive right when banks needed cheap funds.
The banking system was unstable. Only one-third of the nation’s 24,000 banks belonged to the Federal Reserve banking system. Non-members relied on one another to hold reserves. They were vulnerable to bank runs, which is when depositors rush to withdraw their savings. Banks only hold 10% of all deposits, so they can lend out the rest.
Banks held fictitious reserves. Checks were double-counted by the sending bank and the receiving bank, which counted them before they had cleared.
In 1930, the Bank of Tennessee failed. That led to the failures of affiliate banks in the next few days. By the end of the year, 1,300 banks had failed. As banks failed, it reduced the money supply because there was less credit available. That meant each dollar was worth more. As the value of the dollar rose, prices fell. That reduced revenue for businesses. Higher interest rates meant that debt cost more for lenders to pay back. That created a ripple effect of personal and business bankruptcies.
Hoover could do little to stop the Dust Bowl drought, another major cause of the Depression. It was a 10-year drought that affected 23 states, from the Mississippi River to the mid-Atlantic region. It was the worst drought in 300 years. As crops failed, farmers could not produce enough to eat. Hoover asked the Red Cross to help. It supplied $5 million for seeds. As the crisis worsened, Congress appropriated $45 million for seed and $20 million for food boxes. But the drought was so bad that it didn’t really help. The only crop that would grow was turnips.
Hoover should have lowered taxes more than he did. He definitely shouldn’t have raised them. His concern for balancing the budget, though commendable, was ill-timed. He shouldn’t have imposed trade-destroying tariffs. But his response did not cause the Great Depression.
Why Hoover Was Blamed
People wrongly blame Hoover for the Depression because it occurred after he took office. In 1930, unemployment rose, the Dust Bowl destroyed farms in the Midwest, and people lost their homes. Many traveled to California, where they thought they could find work. Instead, they lived in their cars or in shantytowns that became known as Hoovervilles.
People attached Hoover’s name to many of the signs of the newly destitute. “Hoover blankets” were the newspapers used to cover the homeless in the winter. “Hoover flags” were empty pants pockets pulled inside-out to show the lack of money. “Hoover leather” was the cardboard that replaced worn-out soles of shoes. “Hoover wagons” were the cars pulled by horses because gas was too expensive.
In 1932, thousands of World War I veterans set up a Hooverville in Washington, D.C. They asked for early payments of promised government bonuses. The government refused, claiming budget restrictions. When the veterans refused to leave, Hoover sent in the Army. Troops set fire to the Hooverville and drove the group from the city with bayonets and tear gas. This further turned the population against Hoover.
Hoover and the Debt
The Depression destroyed Hoover’s hopes of balancing the budget. Hoover added a $1 billion surplus in 1930, but that didn’t last. By the end of his term, he added $6 billion to the debt, a 33% increase.
Hoover’s Early Years
Hoover was born in Iowa in 1874. He was the first president born west of the Mississippi. He was orphaned by the time he was 9. He was separated from his siblings and sent to live with an uncle in Oregon. He received an engineering degree from Stanford University’s inaugural class. He was so poor he lived in the construction workers’ barracks.
Hoover’s poverty gave him the drive to succeed. As a mining engineer, he traveled the world to locate mineral deposits. He started his own company and soon had businesses throughout the world.
His early adversities also made him a kindhearted man. While working in China in his first job, he risked his life rescuing Chinese children during the Boxer Rebellion. He helped get stranded tourists home during the outbreak of World War I and helped feed 9 million Belgians. This gave him the deserved reputation of a humanitarian.
During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson made Hoover the head of the Food Security Administration. Hoover fed the troops without resorting to rationing at home. After the war, he headed the American Relief Administration, where he fed 15 million famine-stricken people in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Hoover was the Secretary of Commerce under prior Presidents William G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. In 1927, he appeared in the first American demonstration of television.
In 1928, he became the Republican presidential nominee. He ran against Al Smith, a New York Democrat supported by FDR. But Smith was the nation’s first Catholic presidential candidate, which triggered demonstrations by the Ku Klux Klan. He also supported the repeal of Prohibition, which made many believe he was an alcoholic. Hoover ran and won on the theme of the nation’s prosperity during the Roaring Twenties. His campaign slogan was “A Chicken for Every Pot.”
As president, Hoover received a $75,000 salary. It would be worth $2.1 million today. Hoover divided his salary between various charities. He also gave some to his staff. Hoover’s net worth was around $4 million in 1913, worth $103 million today.
After Leaving Office
Hoover became the scapegoat for the Depression and was badly defeated in 1932. He criticized the New Deal as fascist because it made the federal government too powerful.
During World War II, FDR appointed Hoover to send food relief to German-occupied nations. He opposed entry into the war, especially the use of the atom bomb.
In 1946, President Truman appointed Hoover to coordinate efforts to prevent a global famine. In 1947, he chaired a commission that strengthened Truman’s Executive Departments. In 1955, he chaired a similar commission for President Eisenhower.
Hoover was an outspoken critic of U.S. military intervention overseas. He thought military spending would bankrupt America.
Hoover wrote a three-volume autobiography of his life through 1941. He also published four volumes of presidential papers and eight volumes of speeches. His other popular books include “American Individualism,” “The Challenge to Liberty,” “The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson,” “Business Cycles and Unemployment,” and “Freedom Betrayed.” In 1964, he died at 90 of colon cancer.
This is not my first article on FDR, I have discussed his presidency as part of a six part series last year on our greatest presidents. Since the writing of these articles, I have read several revisionist histories on FDR and have done extensive research as well. I have since revised my assessment of his presidency. I now rank him near the bottom of the middle of the pack. With a rating of 2.5 stars out of 5.0. I have also reevaluated Herbert Hoover. His rating is now in the top 15 of our presidents. He has undeservedly been vilified for his inaction during the early stages of the great depression. I have proved that these criticisms of him were in error. He not only lost to the FDR juggernaut, his last 2 years as president was with a democratic congress. A congress that prevented him from ending the depression. Once FDR won the election, his effectiveness as a president was totally at an end. FDR refused to listen to any of his ideas and continually criticized him. So it can be said that the great depression worsened in severity because of FDR’s ego and politicization of it.
beinglibertarian.com, “Can we Finally Admit FDR Was a Terrible President?”. By Charles Peralo; graduateway.com, “Why did Roosevelt defeat Hoover in the 1932 Presidential election?”; weeble.com, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover“; theatlantic.com, “The Bitter Origins of the Fight Over Big Government: What the battle between Herbert Hoover and FDR can teach us.” By Kim Phillips-Fein; msn.com, “1933 presidential transition led to a lifelong hatred between Herbert Hoover and FDR.” By Nick Weig; presidentialtransition.org, “The rocky transition from Hoover to FDR.” By David Marchik; en.wikipedia.org, “Criticism of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” By Wikipedia Editors; en.wikipedia.com, “Presidential transition of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” By Wikipedia Editors; thebalance.com, “President Herbert Hoover’s Economic Policies.” By Kimberly Amadeo;