There was a president named Herbert Hoover who was an evil corporatist fat-cat which lived in an evil castle in the sky smoking a big cigar. He stole kittens from the poor, burnt them and turned them into coal used by the rich to power their trains to hell, built on the death labor of the poor. The evil Herbert Hoover, though, had a bad Tuesday and out of nowhere “POP”, him with the work of the nasty league of rich crashed the stock market by mistake. People jumped out of windows, the poor suffered and overnight, the economy was in darkness. Hoover, being the man of wealth who hated the poor, tried to cut taxes on the rich, deregulate the market and do all in his power to help big business and give to the 1%. That was until the wonderful Franklin Delano Roosevelt put his cape on and wonder-wheeled himself to the White House, beating Hoover and his gang of fat–cats; thereby helping the poor, ending the Depression, being nice to Japanese people and giving free ponies and food to everyone! The end!
Well… That is, at least the more academic version of what would be taught in the average high school history class.
With earning voters, the breeding ground always seems to be the ‘get them while they are young’ approach. In American high schools, however, instead of going via the route of misleading economics or use of math, they use story time instead. A time to call Herbert Hoover a rogue conservative agenda with tax cuts, big oil and nothing for the working man. A time to call FDR a saint who evolved government massively and with taxes recovered America out of a depression which Hoover, Coolidge and Harding started. The story they tell is very simple and leaves this cheap lasting imprint on people which impacts how they vote forever. It is the false imprint that government spending creates jobs, Republicans cutting taxes hurts the economy, and the government is the answer to a recession or depression. It’s just short of Hobbits and Jedi until it escapes into becoming a JK Rowling novel.
To debunk this story and narrative with showing the true side of FDR, there are two halves to the tale. The first half is telling the story which was before FDR became president. The second half is talk about the FDR economy with his thirteen years in power. This story doesn’t get told often; because it lacks the traditional narrative people are used to hearing in storytelling. That thing being it lacks a protagonist or hero in the story. With history and fiction, people enjoy turning things into Harry Potter vs. Voldemort-type tales. That or they prefer the story of the tragic hero such as Jean Vejean, who, despite great efforts, ultimately falls victim. With examining the history of America from 1929 to 1943, it is clear there was no player in government doing the right thing or making a serious motion on economic reasoning. It was Herbert Hoover and FDR on a same two-sided coin, but just one landing on top in the eyes of history.
For debunking the first half, Herbert Hoover could be noted as the quiet Donald Trump. Hoover was an engineer who rose his way as an inventor and businessman in the mining sector. He never held any office before taking office, but did hold titles in United States diplomatic relations and coordinating trade talks as commerce secretary to Harding/Coolidge. He was originally a Democrat and was even vetted during the 1920 Democratic National Convention, where he was the nominee with the death of Teddy Roosevelt and FDR being unseasoned at the time. He instead held with the GOP to represent a progressive and protectionist era of the Republican Party. He ran in 1928 taking a landslide win where he ran as a moderate. 1929 happened, and what began as a sailing smooth administration sitting back at the good times, became a moment similar to what George W. Bush would face with 9/11 six decades later. It was the moment where Herbert Hoover had to go from being a fresh face and business mind to an actual president.
At this point in American history, market collapses weren’t a new thing. To the little awareness of those following what’s normally taught in schools, America less than a decade prior had a market collapse with the Depression of 1920. When Warren Harding took office, he was confronted with the same crisis Hoover was, a decade later.. GDP tanked, unemployment went up and in every metric a bad economy was created. The Keynesian advice was this being the result of a weak post-war market and the answer being gradual spending boost. Harding and Coolidge responded with spending/tax cuts, having budget surpluses every year and an emphasis on eliminating all of the post-WW1 debt and then some. They did. The outcome being that America went from under one-third of people having electricity to over 60% having it. Furthermore, more people than any point in history had an actual savings account with money in the market. An unemployment rate held at an average of 6%. This was the time the middle class truly became a thing and it was the birth of the modern economy where people had more traditional paths of birth, education, career and for the first time, retirement. This was the rarely spoken of Coolidge era, and it, while always marketed as the time of reckless Jay Gatsby inequality, was undeniably a time of growth for everyone, rich and poor.
With the decade of Coolidge being a massive success, with its inception being a depression caused by the stock market, one could make an obvious prediction for Herbert Hoover. He was in the Harding/Coolidge cabinet. He ran under the same party as Coolidge and Harding did. He should have been the man to continue their approach. The approach being better management of funds, lack of market involvement and cutting taxes collected to GDP. The story people in history classes pretend that is what happened. Instead, Hoover introduced the largest tariff in American history via Smoot-Hawley, he raised income taxes across the board right away, created the first forms of price controls via tax pressures and he ended his administration with doubling the income rates on top earners 100%. Capitalist hero right there!
With the Hoover Administration, the saddest fact is Black Tuesday might not have actually been the depression. Unemployment after that event shot up from 5% to 9% quickly, but shortly after fell to around 7% and held some metrics of GDP growth. The 7% rate being the exact number on the day Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff and within five months, unemployment would be up by over 100% at a staggering 15% with the market recollapsing and American exports falling. Disaster struck and capitalism was, sadly, given the blame.
The second half of the story hits and it begins with the icon of progressivism in America, Franklin Roosevelt. FDR ran as the relative of Teddy Roosevelt who at the time was as popular in America as what Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy would be today. People globally mourned the death of the older Roosevelt and FDR groomed himself for decades on a presidential run, grasped the opportunity with Hoover’s popularity being in a massive decline. With how history is told, people lie and say that Roosevelt ran a campaign built on him being the progressive and Hoover being the conservative; it being the first time America with major parties rumbled between a socialist and capitalist.
That is the false narrative. Instead, FDR ran promising a 25% across the board tax cut, a 10% budget cut, the end of Prohibition and the end to Smoot-Hawley. This was the capitalist campaign at the time. It was so much built on calling Herbert Hoover the big government candidate that soon to be Vice President John Garner opened up his acceptance speech to the DNC telling people that Herbert Hoover was a socialist. People such as Ayn Rand actually chose to vote for FDR under the claim he represented capitalism and social freedom in a superior way over Herbert Hoover. This was FDR running as a capitalist and the value of this being definitive proof that in every form, Hoover was not the conservative he was made out to be.
With FDR taking office in a landslide, the story and explaining the lies just becomes easier. FDR, with the exceptions of expanded free trade and ending Prohibition, didn’t carry on many of his promises. He raised spending massively, raised taxes to the highest rates in American history, introduced large amounts of new regulations and did everything the left would pride him under as their golden child.
The issue? It never worked. Under FDR, he never held a single day while president in which unemployment was under 10%. The average unemployment rate for his term being over double the unemployment rate for what Coolidge saw in his time. Growth wasn’t expanded and things such as middle class people having cars went from the Coolidge reality to an FDR luxury slipping away. He did absurd things in calls to “help” the economy. He would randomly do things such as killing and burning pigs, cows, and chickens, wrongfully confiscating them from farmers and claiming it was to “help” them. This was the era people such as Ronald Reagan grew up in and developed the greatest fear, being people such as FDR coming on and saying that they are from the government and here to “help”.
With the word “help”, FDR saw himself as by far the single worst president in regards to employment, economic growth, price stability, market growth, savings growth or anything of substance. Even policies such as Social Security now seen as staples of American living were originally called out as scams to be excuses to raise taxes for the government and have people never live to collect benefits on them. He stunted productivity offering “help” to the arts, but his programs quickly became cash grabs for people. An example being him offering financial aid to artists and watching the number of people going from marked as an actor, musician or artist in Louisiana go from under 1,000 to 40,000 in a year and no visible indicators it helped anyone. It was this reckless growth which would involve people literally digging holes and filling them up without any actual gains. Roads were built which would never find any serious use or wouldn’t for decades. This new birth of government power would give him the ability to do the crown jewel of American statism: the Japanese Internment. The often forgotten moment FDR would “help” American safety and just place 100,000+ people in concentration style camps purely based on ethnic group and regardless of having lived in America for generations, being forced to sell their property and liquefy assets in the name of safety. Many believing this just being “help” for wealthier property owners in California who benefited due to the cheap farmland for sale.
Why is FDR looked at as a success? Why is he not viewed as this borderline dictator who broke human rights and had a crashed economy as president? Why is he not where I’d personally place him as the worst president in United States history?
- He was a winner.
As sad as it is to admit, FDR lived and died a winner. He won four presidential elections each time as a success and held it with cheers. His victory margins were incredible and even though he never faced a particularly challenging opponent, it’s undeniable he did succeed. This Trump-style mentality of honoring people who win exists in American culture and it holds here.
- The Depression did manage to end.
Why did it end? Too many reasons to attach in one article. Everything from regained American confidence to a lack of new domestic laws to decreased post-WW2 spending to the fact the rest of the world is blown to hell, call it what someone wants, it ended. Even though it ended many years after FDR died and Roosevelt ended his time in office with horrible unemployment numbers, it was still a legacy he gets the title of holding.
- Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman
Ronald Reagan’s popularity is less of being a success as president, but could be linked more with him succeeding the failed administration of Carter and being better over George HW Bush. He was in the middle and was the good kid in class. For many presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, James Polk and yes, FDR, they seem to find success just based on them being in-between panned presidents. This creates a case where people are in the present with a bad president and can think back to hold nostalgia for the good and bad. While Truman does hold fonder memories looking back in time, the fact he held disapproval ratings that wouldn’t be matched until George W. Bush had the perfect storm of problems with Iraq, GITMO, the housing market, Katrina and a guy named Scooter. This all made FDR stand in the middle of the two least popular presidents in memory for anyone at the time.
In this all, there’s only one answer:
Make FDR the ultimate enemy!
It is time that people, whether they are 12, 18, 30 or 70, get the true story of the worst president in United States history. The people who go out and tackle racism in history should see him in the same light as Andrew Jackson. Anyone who ever dreams of owning a business or having a successful career should know him as the President who had the worst economy ever. His legacy being destroyed is a must in ever bringing about a libertarian United States. It’s simply time to tell the correct narrative of history.
This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, Charles Peralo, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC
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