One of my goals in retirement was to read a book about each of the American Presidents because I love history. I was happy to find my task made much easier at the library when I stumbled upon the American President Series a compilation of books written by different authors about each of our presidents, with the exception of the last Bush and President Obama.
The aim of the American Presidents series is to present our chief executives in volumes compact enough for the busy reader (no book so far has been more than 175 pages). Each book tracks a president from birth to death and will give the reader a glimpse into each presidents character and thought process.
So far I have read about Teddy Roosevelt, William Harding, William Mckinley, Rutherford B Hayes, Ulysses S Grant, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt. I just finished reading a book on Herbert Hoover which I found the most interesting because back in the 1920’s he was faced with an economic situation very similar to the one we just went through in late 2008 and early 2009.
The chapter regarding the stock market crash was particularly telling because U.S. Steel stock went from $262 a share to $21, General Motors went from $92 a share to $8 and Montgomery Ward went from $138 a share to $4. Doesn’t this sound familiar ?
Our country had been through prior depressions and faced financial crises in the past, but Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan and Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland all took a hard line approach against aid to the unfortunate because they all felt that communitys looked to government for too much!
Herbert Hoover and his economic advisors expected the ensuing economic downturn after the crash to last only a few months and as history shows they were very wrong. Hoover initally wired governors to encourage states and counties to accelerate construction projects, but he offered very little money from Congress for these projects. I am reminded of the comments that the current administration made that the amount of stimulus needed to be large enough to make a difference. They clearly wanted to make sure the same mistake wasn’t made that was made back in the 1920’s.
Hoover’s approach was to leave virtually all of the responsibility for the economic health of the nation to business and the private sector. One of the conferences he convened recommended that home owners spark a revival in the economy by adding on a sunporch to their house. He believed that grants from Washington would impair the character of recipients and would deny benefactors the opportunity to sacrifice. Don’t these arguments sound familiar ?
Things got so bad that the president of General Electric urged Hoover to issue a billion dollars worth of bonds, but Hoover was incensed saying that doing so would bankrupt the country and he continued to push towards balancing the budget. He believed the primary duty of the government was to hold expenditures within our income so he ignored all pleas for more govenrnment involvement and vetoed all public works projects.
As of the time of this posting I don’t know whether or not the Obama adminstration has done is the right thing to keep the country from avoiding a catastrophy, but the one thing I do know is that they didn’t do what Herbert Hoover did in the 1920’s.