Economic growth in the 1920’s was impressive, many Americans would purchase new cars, houses and appliances, many of these were new products that had recently been invented. The other aspect of the economy was mass production on assembly lines; automobile manufacturing skyrocketed in part because of the assembly line, these new techniques and inventions to manufacturing led to more production and lower labor cost.
One of the items which would find its way into American households was the radio, in 1921 there was one radio station in the United States but by 1929 there was 606 this in part to the sales of radios which increased from 100,000 in 1922 to nearly 4.4 million in 1929, the same increase could be seen in automobiles, 1920 there was 1.9 million automobiles manufactured and by 1929 this number jumped to almost 4.5 million.
What caused these increases was in part new technology, but also the booming economy in the 1920’s allowed for the common American to purchase these items also which in turn would cause the government to increase spending on certain projects. One of these projects was the federal highway system, with so many people now owning cars and traveling the government started building roads to accommodate these cars, the number of miles created rose throughout the decade.
Within the population there was an increase in school enrollment, from 2.2 million in 1920 to 4.3 million in 1930 and this just in the secondary schools, this caused the government to build more schools to house these students.
During the 1920’s there was less need for foreign workers and this caused action by the federal government, the immigration act of 1921 limited the number of immigrants entering the U.S. by limiting the people coming from a specific nation to 3 percent of that nationality’s resident population in the United States, again in 1924 another immigration act was passed and it limited the number even further to only 2 percent. With the number of immigrants entering the country being limited the labor force grew more than the population but this was not simply because of the government limits but because the economies of other countries were also doing very well and less people wished to immigrate.
During the years of 1925 to 1929, U.S. Manufacturing production represented more than 42 percent of the manufacturing that took place throughout the world and exports were nearly double the amount of imports for the entire decade, in fact the government had little to do with this, after the first world war ended the United States was one of the few countries which it’s infrastructure did not suffer the devastating effects of bombing and destruction. Even with the increase in output most workers did not see an increase in wages or jobs, with automation came need for less workers and profits for business increased, big business did very well in the 1920’s.
Big business had such power that unions did poorly in the decade, unions were weekend in the early 20’s, this in part because employers used “yellow dog contracts” to keep unions out, and this contract was signed by employees stipulating they had nor would associate with unions, the memberships in unions declined by half by 1930.
Both presidents Harding and Coolidge were considered pro business, they had been businessmen themselves before politics so often decisions made by government favored the business firms, Herbert Hoover also favored business, the Norris-La Guardia Act limited judicial intervention in labor problems, this gave an advantage to business, none of these men favored “big government” and the government regulations that were already in place at the time were limited.
The agricultural sector did not fare as well, in 1920 it was already in a slump, at the beginning of the decade income per farm fell drastically, farmers were losing their land by foreclosure, this led the federal government to create agricultural programs as farm production in 1919 was at $21.4 billion but by 1929, production had dropped to $11.8 billion dollars, this while farm land values declined 30 to 40 percent between those same years.
One of the government’s solutions to the agricultural problem was to extend the existence of the war finance corporation, this government agency was responsible for dealing with issues from the First World War and now would be responsible for making agricultural loans to farmers, and they continued operating through 1931.
Then in 1923 the feds passed the agricultural credits act which created 12 federally owned banks which were to make getting agricultural loans easier, and then again in 1929 the federal farm board was created to support the prices of agricultural products, they had the ability to purchase and store agricultural commodities and this would control prices.
Other government plans to support farms included tariffs on farm products, the Fortney-McCumber Tariff tax had an astonishing 40 percent tax on imports, this had a negative effect as other countries retaliated with their own high tariffs on United States exports, then there was the Capper-Volstead act which passed in 1922 and exempted agricultural cooperatives from antitrust laws, but none of these government plans really helped American farmers, and the time of the small farmer was nearing an end.
The last boom of the decade was the stock market, companies borrowed to buy stock, when the crash happened companies lost everything and went out of business and the employees lost their jobs and income to make purchases which had a domino effect on the economy.
When Herbert Hoover was elected president it was just months before the collapse of the stock market, Hoover thought government should stay out of the way of the economy, but his soluoution with raising unemployment and facing a major recession was to have the federal reserve raise interest rates and Hoover also increased taxes, both of these just added fuel to the fire and made things worse for the population.
In 1929 personal disposable income was 1,254.00; it would not reach this point again until 1940, unemployment increased and manufacturing output declined, during the 1920’s and average of 600 banks a year went bankrupt, in 1933 during the depression over 4000 closed their doors in that one year.
Hoover did little in 1929 but would cause more problems in the years to come, government did nothing until after 1933 while the GNP dropped, also since international trade was shrinking the government decided to raise tariffs once again, Hoover believed in not running a deficit in government which made much needed programs that would help the population unimaginable but what he did do was cut government spending since he believed that government debt would cause more economic problems he opted to raise taxes on a largely unemployed and struggling population, rather than use government to help the economy, when Hoover left office the unemployment rate was 25 percent, this would continue until the second world war.
Government growth in the 1920’s was less than any decade before, Presidents Harding and Coolidge both did little to move the economy or improve income levels for Americans, this was left to business which made a great deal of money for themselves but little improved in everyday lives of the overall population, when the stock market crashed in ’29 big business took the blame, though lack of government actions to control the economy by both Harding and Coolidge could be looked at as doing little to prevent such disasters.