So Mr. President, What Did You Do During Your Term In Office? 1931

The Herbert C. Hoover Administration : Year 1931

The nation's economic health, poor in 1930, continues to deteriorate. At least 9,000,000 are unemployed before the year is out. In September U.S. Steel announces that is cutting wages for over 200,000 employees, and other large companies follow. There are 2,294 bank failures during the year, twice that of 1930. The movement of people from farm to city is reversed for the first time; in some industrial cities one out of three workers is unemployed. As the number of those without jobs grows, private charity is unable to cope with the situation: so the states step in. During the summer, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt sets up the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration with $20,000,000 to be distributed through local governments, and other states quickly adopt similar plans. On the national level President Hoover is reluctant to take such a drastic step as direct Federal aid, but in August he appoints the President's Organization on Unemployment Relief (POUR), whose main activity is to assist private charity to raise money. Later in the year Hoover asks Congress to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) with a $500,000,000 fund to provide emergency loans to banks and large industries in financial trouble. The move, however, is of no apparent help, either to the unemployed or to the economy.

January 15, 1931
President Hoover signs a bill easing the penalties of those caught violating the Prohibition law. Cases involving less than a gallon of liquor are no longer a felony.

February 19-26, 1931
Congress passes the Veterans Compensation Act, which permits veterans to borrow up to half the amount of their 1924 bonus certificates at a maximum interest rate of 4 1/2 percent. A week later President Hoover vetoes the Bill, claiming that it would benefit many veterans who are not in need and would put a heavy burden on the Government's budget. Congress passes the measure over the President's veto.

February 23, 1931
Congress passes a bill to provide funds for government operation of the Muscle Shoals power and fertilizer plants on the Tennessee River, originally built during the Great War (World War I). President Hoover refuses to sign the bill, stating in his veto message that he is "...firmly opposed to the Government entering into any business the main purpose of which is competition with our citizens."

May 14, 1931
The major national forests already had been established by previous administrations. The total acreage of the national forests was increased over 2,250,000 acres. In order further to conserve this important resource, President Hoover directed on May 14, 1931, that all leasing of the Federal forests for new lumbering operations should cease for a while.

June 20, 1931
President Hoover, in an effort to bolster the international economic situation, proposes a one-year moratorium on payments of war debts and war reparations.

August 7, 1931
In time the state legislatures of California, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas established state conservation controls. Each of them prorated and restrained production and volume of each oil well in new fields so as to conserve gas pressure. Texas would not undertake these measures and great wastes were going on. On August 7, 1931, The President issued a statement to the effect that all the great producing states except Texas had acted, saying: "Except for the failure of the Texas authorities and legislature so far to cooperate by controlling their big new oil pool in east Texas, the whole oil situation would have been corrected months ago. The waste in total production of this pool will be enormous due to unlimited release of the gas." (Memoirs)

August 11, 1931
The moratorium agreement proposed by President Hoover is signed by 18 countries in London.

The bank panic increases as over 800 banks are closed in two months. Individuals start to hoard gold.

November 4, 1931
As an indication of the expansion of the building program, President Hoover said in a progress statement in mid-term, November 4, 1931:

"That portion of the Federal program of aid to unemployment comprised in the great expansion of public buildings under the Treasury Department shows the following progress since the report of September 1. There is a total of 817 projects which have so far been specifically authorized...

A) A total of 131 buildings have been completed at a total cost of $41,934,569....

B) There were 270 buildings in construction at the first of November by contract, at an estimated cost of $229,772,700...

C) There are 64 projects in which sites have been arranged, drawings are completed, for which construction contracts have been invited, of a total estimated cost of $19,970,500.

D) There are 240 projects in which sites have been selected, and on which plans are now under way of a total estimated cost of $141,947,923...

It is estimated that the number of men now directly and indirectly employed on this program is 50,000. It is estimated by the Treasury Department that the number that will be directly and indirectly employed on January 1st is 100,000. (Memoirs)

December 8, 1931
The President's annual message to Congress calls for increased taxation to make up for the deficit of $902,000,000 for the fiscal year 1930-1931. The message also asks Congress to set up an agency to make emergency loans to banks, railroads, and other businesses.

December 8, 1931
(These are selected excerpts from President Hoover's Annual Message to Congress)

"Business depressions have been recurrent in the life of our country and are but transitory. The nation has emerged from each of them with increased strength and virility because of the enlightenment they have brought, the readjustments and the larger understanding of the realities and obligations of life and work which come from them."

"As an aid to unemployment the Federal Government is engaged in the greatest program of public building, harbor, flood control, highway, waterway, aviation, merchant and naval ship construction in all history…."

"The emergencies of unemployment have been met by action in many directions. The appropriations for the continued speeding up of the great Federal construction program have provided direct and indirect aid to unemployment upon a large scale. By organized unity of action, the states and municipalities have also maintained large programs of public improvement. Many industries have been prevailed upon to anticipate and intensify construction. Industrial concerns and other employers have been organized to spread available work amongst all their employees instead of discharging a portion of them. A large majority have maintained wages at as high levels as the safe conduct of their business would permit. "

"Although some of the causes of our depression are due to speculation, inflation of securities and real estate, unsound foreign investments, and mismanagement of financial institutions, yet our self-contained national economy, with its matchless strength and resources, would have enabled us to recover long since but for the continued dislocations, shocks and setbacks from abroad…."
"Our first step toward recovery is to reestablish confidence and thus restore the flow of credit which is the very basis of our economic life. We must put some steel beams in the foundations of our credit structure. "

"The first requirement of confidence and of economic recovery is financial stability of the United States Government. We must have insistent and determined reduction in government expenses. We must face a temporary increase in taxes. Even with increased taxation, the government will reach the utmost safe limit of its borrowing capacity by the expenditures for which we are already obligated and the recommendations here proposed.

" I recommend the establishment of a system of home-loan discount banks as the necessary companion in our financial structure of the Federal Reserve Banks and our Federal Land Banks. Such action will relieve present distressing pressures against home and farm property owners. It will relieve pressures upon and give added strength to building and loan associations, savings banks, and deposit banks, engaged in extending such credits. Such action would further decentralize our credit structure. It would revive residential construction and employment. It would enable such loaning institutions more effectually to promote home ownership. "


Website: The History
Article Name: So Mr. President, What Did You Do During Your Term In Office? 1931
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The above information is compiled from my collection of books: The American Presidents by David C. Whitney; Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (1996), The New York Public Library American History Desk Reference; A Stonesong Press Book (1997) The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, Macmillan Company (1952); The Bicentennial Almanac Edited by Calvin D. Linton, Ph.D. Publishers, Thomas Nelson Inc. (1975) The Presidents of the United States Vol 2, A.S. Barnes & Co. (1973)
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