Saturday 10 December 2016

We need to find our Roosevelt

Published 19/12/2010 | 05:00

IN 1932, America was in the grip of the greatest depression the world had ever known. Herbert Hoover was a lame-duck president on his way out who still insisted it was all down to a worldwide economic storm, that there were signs of recovery and that the markets would eventually correct the problem.

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Before leaving office he invited the man who had trounced him in the election, Franklin Roosevelt, to the White House. He wanted to make an announcement that would show a united front and agreement on the question of allowing default with foreign debt. Hoover was trying to save his own reputation. He claimed that a slight upswing in the markets before the election showed his policies were working, (and a downturn immediately afterwards demonstrated that Roosevelt's victory had frightened investors). Roosevelt refused.

In a fit of pique Hoover reconvened the international debt commission anyway, hoping that any decision it would make would tie the hands of the new president. But Roosevelt was resolute in his belief that if he were to take on the job of getting America out of recession, he must have the moral as well as the legal authority to renounce the policies of his predecessor and implement a 'New Deal'. To this end, he had fought for every vote up to polling day, even though his supporters assured him he was so far ahead he could ease up his campaign. He knew that the great changes he envisioned in dealing with the big beasts of capitalism would require the support of the people and a complete repudiation of what had gone before.

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