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A look at Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt

Depression should be handled. This was almost entirely a result of two integral differences in their lives. Hoover was a Republican, and had basically worked his way through life, while Roosevelt was not only a Democrat, he had basically been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. As one can easily see, in many ways these two are complete opposites. If one looks at both their upbringing and their political affiliation, it seems that Roosevelt’s and Hoover’s policies must have been different in a many ways. Hoover was brought up in a poor family, and worked almost his entire life.

His father was a blacksmith and they lived in a small house. However, through hard work his father was able to move the family into a much bigger house soon after his birth. He learned early in his life the importance of self- reliance and hard work. In 1880 his father, Jesse, died and four years later his mother passed on. At age 11 he went west to Oregon to live with his Uncle. His uncle worked with him, and later became rich. Hoover had endured a great many hardships in his life, and knew what it was like to do without.

With Hoover having and education and a past like his, one would think that he would know how to run the country like a business, so that it would stay afloat. But when confronted with the Depression, he repeatedly cut taxes. Hoover was basically a hard working Republican, and a self made man. He graduated as a mining engineer from Stanford. After capably serving as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, Hoover became the Republican Presidential nominee in 1928. He said then: “We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.

His election seemed to ensure prosperity. Yet within months the stock market crashed, and the Nation spiraled downward into depression. Roosevelt, on the other hand, had been born into a very rich family. He grew up with education at Harvard and Columbia Law School, and had everything basically taken care of for him in his childhood by his mother. This gave him a sense of security, of being able to do anything he wanted, most simply because he didn’t fail early on. He had never lived through what the American public was going through, so his view of the world did not necessarily include what it was like to live in poverty.

He believed that the Depression could be solved by putting as many people to work for the government as possible. In my opinion, this could relate to how, growing up, he himself did not have to work in any way, shape, or form. Roosevelt did have one other perspective that would always be unavailable to Hoover. He had contracted polio on 1921; by the time he became governor of New York in 1928, he could not walk unaided. He refused to let this stop him, though, and remained a suave speaker, unlike his competitor Hoover. Political affiliation is also one of the most necessary differences to realize in contrasting Hoover and Roosevelt.

Hoover’s policies, in my opinion, seem rather strange. One of his major efforts appears to have been lowering taxes; he basically expressed faith in the existent American system. He also gave the economy a big blow by passing the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Some say this was one of the worst things he could have done. Free market advocates believe that lowering prices would cure the depression. A tariff does exactly the opposite, raising prices. He called leaders of industry to Washington D. C. and made them promise to keep up wages, but when they did not he worked with local welfare agencies.

He basically refused to give out any national welfare, believing that it demeaned proud Americans. While Hoover attempted much to help businesses, it was clear by 1932 that his policies were a complete failure. Thus earning the title of the do-nothing president. Even when the Democrats had control of the congress after 1930, he still stubbornly refused to take stronger action. Throughout this time, the bank failures had been steadily going up. His lowest point in popularity was when a group of veterans camped in D. C. demanding a bonus that they were due. Hoover ordered them removed.

Yet even through all of this, he still insisted that the American public did not honestly want national relief. This brings us to Roosevelt, not having a better campaign than Hoover’s presidency. Roosevelt’s philosophy, on the other hand, was entirely different. His most readily apparent ability was his voice. He was able to talk to people in such a way that they almost always went along with him. FDR communicated with the public by radio every week and assured them that economic recovery was near. He was exceptionally confident, and made those around him feel so too. He was ready to experiment, unlike Hoover.

Because of his own illness and giant gap between wealthy and poor, FDR had compassion for the ordinary citizen. Americans needed a change in order to survive. That is exactly what he gave them with the New Deal. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed. On his inauguration day, he gave his famous speech asserting that the only thing America had to fear was fear itself; not entirely true, because the nation stood on the brink of collapse.

The banks in Chicago and New York were closed. Within ten days, Roosevelt had them back open. Throughout the next few years, Roosevelt’s general policy was to make work for anyone and everyone who was idle; it didn’t matter if the work was pointless, and didn’t really need to be done. Roosevelt simply took the men of the nation and put them to work at whatever he could think of for them to do. It is questionable how much these work projects actually helped America to come out of the Depression. Some believe that only World War II saved America’s economy.

Regardless, the American spirit was once again uplifted, and even if the Depression hadn’t gone away, the American public once again felt as though they were the best country in the world. Hoover and Roosevelt had a variety of differences, both in their background and in their political ideas. Hoover had been born poor, and had worked his way up to a higher station in life (partially with the help of an uncle who came into money). Roosevelt’s family, though, possessed basically old wealth. He had whatever he wanted as a child.

As far as their political views, Hoover favored a local end to the Depression, basically not believing that the central American government could accomplish what was necessary. Roosevelt, on the other understood that a change was necessary for the country and American life. I was originally doing my paper on woman suffrage. However, after studying The New Deal and The Depression in class, I had many more questions and interest about the beliefs of the two presidents. After researching the internet, articles, and bibliographies, my interest is clearly directed at Hoover and Roosevelt, opposed to suffrage.

I have heard stories from my grandparent about the depression, and most importantly they stressed the sickness felt by Americans. My Grandmother remembers her mother not eating meals for several days so she could feed her husband and kids. This paper has put a whole new light of my opinion toward the quality of life. Today, we are very quick to take so much for granted. Compared to the late 1920’s and 30’s, today is a walk in the park. It is one thing for a few unemployed and hungry, but when you have almost an entire nation facing it, that gives a lasting impression.

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