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I would argue that President Herbert Hoover did not try to solve the problems that would eventually lead to the Depression because he did not perceive them as problems. Once the Depression actually began, he did try hard to remedy the situation. However, most history textbooks say, he failed because he did not do quite enough to overcome the economic problems.
Before the Depression hit, Hoover did not think anything was wrong. Even after the stock market crash of October 1929, he remained optimistic. He told the press that
The fundamental business of the country … is on a sound and prosperous basis.
He went on to say that the evidence indicated that the economy was in “a healthy condition.” Clearly, Hoover was not worried about the economy.
Once the Depression truly hit, Hoover did take notice and he did try to do things. He tried to persuade businesses to keep paying wages. He proposed tax cuts so people would have more money to spend. He increased government spending on public works to try to create jobs for unemployed people. He tried to persuade state and local governments to set up relief efforts and he tried to persuade wealthy people to give to charity. He also tried to encourage people not to give up hope, telling them that things would get back to normal soon.
History books typically say that Hoover’s ideas failed because he did not do enough. They criticize him for trying to persuade people to do things to alleviate conditions instead of enacting laws to force them to do so. They criticize him for thinking small on his public works programs because he (like almost everyone else at the time) felt that the government needed to have a balanced budget no matter what. They criticize him for saying that the federal government needed to stay away from giving people welfare so it did not cause them to become dependent on government. In short, they think that he tried to do some good things but that he was not willing to act aggressively enough to actually end the Depression.
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