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A Tale of Two Conservatives: Comparing Bush and Hoover on the Economy

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Publication Date: June 2008

Publisher(s): Center for American Progress

Author(s): Jacob Pawlak; David Madland

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Topic: Government (Executive power)

Type: Report

Abstract:

It may seem premature to compare President George W. Bush to Herbert Hoover, the president who helped steer the economy into the Great Depression in 1929, and then presided over steady economic deterioration until the end of his term in 1933. After all, the current economic downturn under President Bush’s watch hasn’t even officially been declared a recession, while under Hoover the United States experienced four straight years of severe economic decline.
Yet close inspection of the economic track records and ideology of these two presidents reveals that they are quite similar. Both presided over a suddenly deteriorating economy yet resisted taking action to prevent further economic losses. Both believed the market would naturally self-correct, and that government intervention would be harmful. And both took limited government action once it became clear that it was needed—to help businesses, rather than working families—to weather the storm.
There are certainly areas, of course, where the comparison does not fit. And any comparison will inevitably reveal that in some cases President Bush’s record is much better and in others that Hoover’s legacy is tarnished by such comparisons. We’ll explore some of those policy differences and similarities, but first a straight-up comparison of broad economic trends under the two presidents is in order.