Hundreds of thousands of Americans were made homeless in the Great Depression, leading to precarious "Hoovervilles."

Hundreds of thousands of Americans were made homeless in the Great Depression, leading to precarious "Hoovervilles."

I remember The Depression pretty well, not only because I saw some of it with my own eyes (I was 11 in 1931) but because I did a lot of research on it for a book I never published. What you youngsters don’t know is that it came in two halves, like a football game.

First half was The Crash, in 1929. As the country was gradually beginning to try to get over that, along came the second half, around 1931. That’s when European banks began to fail, and the contagion spread to American banks, so that when Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1932, America’s banks were going bust so fast that the first thing he did after he was sworn was issue an executive order for a national bank holiday so teams of examiners could see which ones were about to fold, and keep them closed until they could be shored up. Or if they couldn’t, they would at least pay back part of what they owed their depositors. That was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as getting nothing, and the banks that stayed open had the confidence of their depositors, because the weak sisters had been screened out.

If we do come to that over Europe’s present tawdry banking messes — it seems that their bankers aren’t any more honorable than our own — I think Obama, if re-elected, would do something like what Roosevelt did, with, I hope, similar results. Mitt Romney I do think likely to perform more like Herbert Hoover. That is, urge everybody to be calm and not make things worse, while he watched the banks go under, one by one.

Oh — and speaking of Europe’s banking scandals, one of the first things Romney did on arriving in London was to go to a fund-raising gathering of London bankers. A number of them appear to be implicated in the rate-fixing Libor scandal. As long as they’ll give him money, Romney doesn’t seem to care.


  1. Matthew B. Tepper says:

    “Did you know he’s listening to you?” Except that in that case (when you castigated former President Herbert Hoover on Long John Nebel’s radio show), Hoover had paid for his failed policies, and lived to hear himself excoriated for many years. In the case of Governor Romney, he NEEDS to hear you say this (although it might not make any difference whatsoever).

    Years ago, at a con, I heard a couple of fans seated next to me discussing politics. Not an unusual thing in itself, of course. But then, one of them said, “You know, we ought to elect an ENGINEER to the presidency. He’d fix things up, all right!”

    I couldn’t let that go unremarked, so I leaned over and said, “We’ve already had TWO engineers as president: Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter.” Then I hightailed out of there as fast as my feet would take me.

  2. Robert Nowall says:

    Since most of the “New Deal” programs were started under Hoover and continued under Roosevelt—who ran in 1932 to Hoover’s right—it would be hard to say which one to expect the eventual winner to perform like…

  3. Kris Herzog says:

    Sadly, I think history will repeat itself regardless of whom is elected. Neither major party candidate really has shown any regard to fixing the economy, just on how they can make themselves look better.

    Romney is costing himself the election, Obama was elected on the promise of a violation of the checks and balances system, leading people to believe that the President can legislate…

    I firmly believe in voting, and that I have no right to complain if I don’t, but this year, I will either not be using that right, or voting Green. Either way, I won’t be happy with the results, so it’s a lose-lose for me. And America as well.

  4. John Armstrong says:

    What surprises me about Romney and self-professed economics wonk Paul Ryan is the decision to ignore not just history but virtually every economist of note … frightening

  5. Stefan Jones says:

    Reinstate Glass-Steagel and impose a fraction of a percent tax on investment transactions.

    Families could write off a hundred or so transactions a year, to cover sales of stocks and bonds in their personal investments.