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President Hoover seriously misjudged the depth of the Depression, and the effect it had on the American people. Although he was a brilliant engineer, he hardly excelled as an economist. Hoover believed that the fundamental economic structure of the nation was sound, and that it only suffered from a lack of confidence. He made numerous speeches asking people to keep up hope, for factories to stay open, and avoid layoffs if at all possible. He believed that the answer to the problems of the day were volunteerism, and stated that each community should undertake appropriate relief programs.
Hoover hurried the implementation of a number of government construction projects; but these were offset by similar cutbacks by local governments. a small tax reduction was passed, and the Federal Farm Board stepped up farmer's loans; but this too was offset by a bumper crop which lowered prices even further.
Even when it appeared that his ideas were not working, Hoover refused to change his policy. He believed that volunteerism and state action was the key to recovery. History, of course, proved him wrong.
Pres. Hoover is, in my mind, more maligned than he ought to be for his efforts to combat the Depression. He did more than any other president ever had to try to use the government's power to help the economy. However, he did not do enough to end the Depression. Worse yet, he did not do a good job of convincing Americans that he cared.
Hoover was not a do-nothing president. He did try lending money to businesses to get them to hire more people. He did try to create jobs through public works programs like the Boulder Dam. The problem was that the Depression was too deep for his efforts to be sufficient.
We should note, though, that FDR's efforts weren't sufficient either. Not even the New Deal actually managed to end the Depression. It took WWII to do that.
I think that Hoover's efforts were well-intentioned, but insufficient. The economic crisis was deeper than he could have imagined and so he did not do enough to end it. However, what he really did wrong was that he never talked as if he understood the problems that were going on in the nation. This is why he is remembered so badly.
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