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The Great Depression: Essay Questions

Compare President Hoover's response to the stock market crash of 1929 to his response to the Great Depression in the early 1930's

After the stock market crash of 1929, President Hoover acted as if the economy was fine. Many officials agreed with this attitude of doing nothing. They thought the economy should be allowed to repair itself naturally, as it had in some previous depressions. At the same time, many people were calling on the government to take more action to aid public well-being. While Hoover wanted to do something to solve economic problems, while strictly limiting governmentís involvement in the economy.

During most of the depression, Hoover did almost nothing which affected the economy. He met with leaders of industry and asked them not to do anything which would make the situation worse, but it did nothing to solve the problems. Public opinion turned strongly against Hoover, including people who had hailed him before. Eventually Hoover gave in and began doing things to restart the country financially, such as the building of Boulder Dam.

In what ways was the economic prosperity of the 1920's genuine, and in what ways did this prosperity disguise serious economic problems?

Many people were getting richer during this time period, which hid the underlying problems of large debts and investments. Economic classes were becoming noticeably separated, as if a mountain had come up in the middle of the classes, forcing people far to either end.

Do you think Americans were justified in feeling that the actions Herbert Hoover took to end the Great Depression were too little and too late? Support your opinion.

Hoover may have delayed doing something about the economy, but I donít think that the continued criticism was justified. It is unreasonable to complain that he is not doing something, and then complain when he does something that it was to late. Certainly, it is unreasonable to accuse him of being a communist (the connotation being negative, while it is clear that a more government leaning more towards communism would have been beneficial at this time) for doing something to end the suffering of the majority of Americans.

Explain one way in which each of the following groups was responsible for the conditions that led to the Great Depression: political leaders, business leaders, and common citizens.

Politicians contributed to the Great Depression by keeping interest rates low, which allowed people to build up large debts, and by doing nothing to regulate the stock market. Government also could have helped prevent the depression by doing something do distribute income more evenly, because the working class was becoming very poor. Businesses helped cause the depression by not keeping up with technology, making some industries less able to compete. They also made credit easily available, which allowed people to go far in debt. The publicís part in the depression was abusing credit and over-investing in the stock market. Also, farmers produced more food than they could sell, forcing the price down below the cost of producing the food.

Why was Eleanor Roosevelt interested in the New Deal, and what role did she play in it?

Eleanor Roosevelt was interested in the New Deal because it was an opportunity for her to further womenís rights and human rights, and these are the areas she focused on. She urged the president to takes stands, and spoke out against social and economic injustices. She also reminded the president to appoint women In her efforts for human rights, she talked to the United Nations, among other things. She traveled the country seeing how the common people were living, and reported their suffering to the president.

Identify some of the problems that conservative and liberal critics have with the New Deal and its legacy.

Liberalsí criticism of the New Deal was that it did not do enough to help poor people and fix the countryís economy. Conservatives said that too much money was being spent, and thought Roosevelt was trying to control industry with his programs. They felt that some of the programs gave too much control to the government. The were afraid that the country would become socialist if the programs were instituted.

Why was Franklin Roosevelt able to quickly instill confidence in the federal government's ability to end the Depression? Give 2 reasons.

Franklin Roosevelt was able to instill confidence of the governments ability to end the depression in the American public because he was friendly and because he had a ďcan-doĒ attitude, the opposite of Hoover, which was exactly what the public wanted. He was also very practical and honest. His fireside chats, the first of which was about 2 weeks after he took office, helped the public understand what the government was doing, and further boosted their confidence.

What unique problems did farmers, migrant workers, and other people living in rural areas face during the Great Depression? How did the New Deal address those problems?

People living in rural areas, such as farmers, as well as migrant workers, faced additional problems such as massive dust storms, which would accumulate to 1 inch on the floors of buildings, even when all doors and windows were sealed tight. Without rain, even a little wind would stir of the dirt. It was impossible to get anything clean. Food had to be washed immediately prior to being eaten. People did not go out much, even when the dust relented, because they had to clean their homes. It was useless for them to plant anything in the soil, so most did not bother.

The New Deal instituted vast numbers of irrigation and erosion control projects across the country, which were the major factors in ending the Dust Bowl.

Describe the effect of New Deal works projects on the economy, the environment, and people's personal lives.

The New Dealís work projects provided work to many people. This money for the working class was key to building the base for the economy. People spent long hours at these new jobs, reducing personal lives. There were also programs to safeguard the economy from another depression. Several environmental protection programs were also a part of the new deal.