Did you know that there is no real economic benchmark to declare something a “depression?” Economists know that we went through one in the 1930’s, but the term itself does not have a definable line between recession and depression. That is the reason why the financial crises in 2007-2008 are referred to as the “Great Recession” rather than even a minor depression.
The point is: if you cynically look at what happened as a depression, then you can start to compare the reaction to the economic downturn. This would mean comparing the Presidents which initially helmed the recoveries: Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama. Looking back, they had surprisingly similar tactics. We wonder if an old couple like the Bunkers will sing about Obama one day.
10. Ground Breaking Ethnicity On The Presidential Ticket
Herbert Hoover’s Vice President was a man named Charles Curtis. While his name has largely been lost to history, Curtis still holds an interesting bi-racial distinction for the time period. On his mother’s side, Curtis was related to the Native American Kaw tribe. Curtis was also the direct descendant of the Kaw Chief White Plume, who assisted Lewis and Clark on their expedition west.
Curtis, like Obama, was not at all ashamed of his background. As a matter of fact, Curtis used his Native American status to further his political career, and his office was adorned with Native American memorabilia such as headdresses and spears.
9. Bank Closures
In the periods following both the stock market crashes of 1929 and 2008, there was a record number of bank closures. During the Great Depression, there were over 500 bank closures in the 48 states. In the period following the stock market crash of 2008, there were nearly 300 bank closures. The trend has managed to slow down over the last couple of years. However, from giants such as Lehman Brothers to your local branch office, bank closures became an all too common sight, both then and now.
People will remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivering his famous quote “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That was part of Roosevelt’s inauguration speech, which was actually referring to the financial crisis, and not anything like Nazis or the Empire of Japan.
8. Emergency Relief and Construction Act
The Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932 was a law passed by Congress that created public works programs, in order to try and stimulate job growth. Sound familiar? That would be because similar logic was used to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a law passed by Congress creating public works programs in order to try and stimulate job growth. The effects of either measure are open for debate. The logic behind starting public works programs by massive government spending, in order to try and “make work,” was absolutely the same in both administrations, however.
7. Oscar DePriest and “Beer Diplomacy”
Oscar DePriest was the first African-American elected to the House of Representatives since the period known as “Reconstruction.” DePriest was a Republican from Chicago — in itself, an African-American legislator from Chicago should sound familiar to people who follow our current President. Controversy arose when Lou Hoover was faced with inviting the Congressional wives to the White House for tea. DePriest’s wife would be the first African-American invited to a social function at the White House since Teddy Roosevelt had dinner with Booker T. Washington in 1901. Ultimately, Mrs. Hoover invited Mrs. DePriest to tea, which prompted a firestorm of controversy, and the Texas legislature actually going through the trouble to formally “admonish” her.
Obama also had to endure a firestorm of criticism over a White House invitation involving race relations. In 2009, Obama had a “beer summit” with an African-American Harvard professor, as well as the white cop who arrested the professor for disorderly conduct at his own house. Obama attempted to resolve the situation by inviting the two to the White House Rose Garden for beer and snacks. Ultimately, the professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and the cop, James Crowley, stated that they had not resolved their differences.
6. Withdrawal of Troops
During Herbert Hoover’s time, there was a damaged relationship with most of Latin America. Hoover launched a goodwill tour of the area, stating during a speech in Honduras, “We have a desire to maintain not only the cordial relations of governments with each other, but also the relations of good neighbors.” This became popularly known as the “Good Neighbor Policy,” a phrase later taken up by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. In demonstrating a desire to be a Good Neighbor, Hoover withdrew troops from Nicaragua during his Presidency, and also planned a removal of troops which was accomplished during Roosevelt’s Presidency.
The Obama Administration has withdrawn all the troops that were in Iraq at the opening of his Presidency. There is currently talk about withdrawing all troops stationed in Afghanistan in 2014. Both Presidents demonstrated a commitment to withdrawing troops from a hot button area, in order to try and improve relations. In Hoover’s case, it was ultimately successful; the United States actually enjoyed good relations with Latin American until the end of World War II. It remains to be seen how if Obama’s withdrawal plans work out as well as he envisions them.
5. The Bubble Economy
At the end of World War I, the urge to punish Germany for the war was great for countries which had suffered through the entire thing. Germany was strapped with war reparations, with interest, which they had to pay back to the victorious countries. In order to pay back the reparations, Germany borrowed money, which eventually found its way to the United States, who re-invested it back in Germany in speculative markets. Germany would borrow from the United States, and then re-paid France and Britain. France and Britain would then re-pay the United States for their help during the war. The United States would then re-invest in Germany again with the loans. When the stock market crashed, the United States could no longer invest. Without the United States investing, then Germany could not repay. In short, the entire “bubble” burst.
In our present day and age, the threat of a default by the United States would lead to a financial crisis in Asia (from which we have been primarily borrowing.) There is the possibility that a default by the United States would lead to a crash of Asian markets, as well as a world-wide depression. In this scenario, the possibility of a rise by someone like Hitler, as well as the specter of World War III exponentially increases.
4. Mexican Repatriation
Hoover’s Secretary of Labor was a man named William N. Doak. Doak believed that the primary problem with the labor situation in America was that illegal immigrants were taking up too many jobs, which should be going to natural born (white) citizens. Doak ordered agents to raid both public and private residences and businesses, in order to “repatriate” illegal aliens. In theory, anyone in the country illegally was a target. The reality is that the main focus of the initiative were Mexicans, as well as other Latin Americans.
You might inquire what this has to do with our current situation. After all, despite the cries of right-wingers, Obama is for immigration reform, right? As it turns out, the Obama Administration has been responsible for record numbers of deportations, even moreso than George W. Bush. In the fiscal year of 2012 alone, there were over 400,000 such deportations, and the torrid pace has not let up.
3. “Path To Socialism”
The arguments that Barack Obama prefers a socialist method of government is fairly well known. Between the Affordable Care Act (known popularly as Obamacare,) as well as increasing government spending, Obama has dodged the label since his first run for President.
Herbert Hoover, on the other hand, tended to enjoy a reputation as a budget cutter. The truth of the matter is that every single year during Hoover’s administration, the federal budget actually increased. Hoover raised both taxes as well as trading tariffs on other countries. During the 1932 Presidential campaign, it was Hoover’s taxing and spending which were attacked by Roosevelt. Incredibly, a shot was taken directly at Hoover during the campaign by Roosevelt’s running mate John Nance Gardner, who claimed that Hoover was “leading the country down the path to socialism.” Hoover also described himself as a “progressive” and a “reformer.”
2. Educated First Ladies
Lou Hoover, nee Henry, attended what is now San Jose State University, as well as Stanford University, before the year 1900. More incredibly, Lou was the only female geology major at Stanford University at the time. Not only was she educated, she was educated in a field which is still dominated by men. Lou Hoover was succeeded by Eleanor Roosevelt, so her personal remarkableness is often forgotten in her incredible wake.
Michelle Obama, nee Robinson, was educated at Princeton, and went on to graduate study at Harvard. With the income status Michelle had known on Chicago’s south side, the affluence of her classmate still came as something of a shock. But she has proved herself a memorable First Lady, and a positive role model in all possible fields.
1. The “Bonus Army”
The recent government shutdown threatened benefits to military veterans, and even attempted to block veterans from visiting memorials. In response, conservative radio host Mark Levin threatened to march veterans on Washington D.C.
The fact is, such a demonstration actually did occur during the Hoover administration. Congress had approved additional pay to World War I veterans but, due to the economic problems, had delayed payments. The veterans were issued a bond which they could borrow against. When Congress attempted to fund the bonds fully, Hoover personally vetoed the legislation. This series of events led to the march on Washington in 1932, which was called the “Bonus Army.” The veterans marched for their pay, and clashed violently with local authorities. It was the spring of an election year, and was a big factor in the election of Roosevelt the following November. It is not completely inconceivable that another “Bonus Army” could arise on the steps of the Washington Mall, especially if this mess isn’t fixed by 2016.