2012: 1932 Redux?
If Congress continues to obstruct efforts to revive the economy, today’s incumbents may suffer the same fate as Herbert Hoover.
The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.
We need enthusiasm, imagination, and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 22, 1932
Seventy-nine years ago today, on November 8, 1932, the people of the United States elected Franklin D. Roosevelt President of the United States. No one was absolutely sure what FDR would do as president, but everyone understood that the United States — and much of the rest of the world — was in deep trouble.
Since the start of the Great Depression three years earlier, unemployment had climbed above 20 percent, average annual family income had fallen by 40 percent, and thousands of banks had closed their doors, wiping out the savings of 9 million individual bank accounts. Roughly half of all the home mortgages in the United States were in default, with another 1,000 homes going under every day. American industry had all but collapsed. To take but one example, in 1929 United States Steel Corporation had 225,000 full-time employees; by the end of 1932 it had no full-time employees save its corporate officers and a mere handful of part-time workers. The same was true in the financial sector, where overall stock market values had declined by 85 percent since their high in September 1929.