New Deal politics and the Great Depression is a time in American history that is often misunderstood. Herbert Hoover is the president seen as allowing the depression to take over the country, where as Franklin Delano Roosevelt is seen as the president that effectively saved many Americans, and put an end to the Great Depression, but what is really true? Herbert Hoover accepted the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 1928. In 1929 Herbert Hoover became the 31st President, when he took office he was a proponent of something called the public-private cooperation.
The term was known as ‘volunterism’. This idea would keep the government from intervening in economic policy. Hoover’s idea of America was individualism, and self-reliance. This kind of governing is called laissez-faire, and calls for the government to leave the economy alone. When the stock market crashed in the late 1920s, the nation could not ignore the depression that was sweeping the country, and most of Europe. This became known as the Great Depression. The Great Depression had devastating effect on countries rich and poor.
While President Hoover was still in office he tried to put in place minimal programs, all of which failed to help the failing economy. Many were unhappy with Hoover’s way of handling the countries economic downfall, and put much of the blame on him. Hoovers hands off way of handling the Great Depression, lead to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR as he came to be known as ran on the democratic ticket, and had much bigger ideas of how to handle the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the governor of New York, and came from a very rich family, and was also related to former Theodor Roosevelt.
After FDR accepted the democratic nomination he set out to beat Herbert Hoover. He did so by blaming Hoover for the Great Depression, as most Americans were doing FDR was an appealing candidate for poor, struggling Americans because he made his constituents believe he cared. FDR also stood on a platform to end probation, and brought in a conservative running mate; John Nance Garner. When Roosevelt became president he set out to change the economic state of the country. His idea of how to help the nation was something called the New Deal.
This was a series of programs that would focus on what historians would called the three R’s, relief, recovery, and reform. The New Deal came in phases, and the first phase was focused on the relief of people heavily affected by the Great Depression. Congress met for a special session in 1933, and was asked to pass multiple acts to help struggling Americans. FDR said in his Inauguration speech “This nation asks for action, and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.
And Roosevelt did just that, he pioneered the idea of getting as much as you can in the first 100 days of presidency, and this is now how most gauge the success the president might achieve. Since the nation felt that they were in a state of emergency congress was happy to give FDR the power to help, he had lots of acts past, and if they did not work he would try again. Almost immediately congress was called into a special session that was kept for three months. Democrats and Republicans alike were willing to bid for the President; they came together in the time of crisis to get as much accomplished as possible.
With the quick passage of multiple bills, the federal government gained more and more power. The first act passed in the special session was the Emergency Banking Act, this would give the President powers over the banks and foreign exchange. This ended the Bank Holiday Roosevelt had implemented, it stopped all transactions for four days, banks were able to reopen when they could prove they could effectively do business. FDR then passes the Reforestation Relief Act, which started the Civilian Conservation Corps , this provided work for about 250,000 men ages 18-25.
In the remaining time of 1933 Roosevelt passed about twelve more acts giving grants to states to provide relief for people needing jobs, and food. The acts were designed to help struggling Americans and help better the country as a whole, jobs were created by the government for men to work on railroads, construction, and other projects; they were receiving employment while helping the country. Agencies such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration were to help regulate farm production and helped to raise farm income; where as the National Recovery Administration was to help regulate business by establishing fair codes of completion.
There was government intervention in the economy, industry, and agriculture, and all was under executive control. In the beginning of 1934 FDR asked congress for ten and a half billion dollars to continue recovery programs for the next 18 months. But after the first hundred days Roosevelt began to see opposition to the New Deal. Opposition to the NRA, an agency regulation business was made public when The Supreme Court, a conservative Supreme Court claimed that the NRA was giving the executive branch powers that belonged to Congress, and Congress only.
The following year the court ruled that the Agricultural Adjustment Act was also unconstitutional, because aid for farms should be produced at a state level, not the federal. The Supreme Court heard many more cases on what came to be known as Alphabet Laws, and 11 out of 16 were pronounced to be unconstitutional. The argument was the FDR tried to imposes the powers of the federal government on to the state governments; if a state government wanted to declare that they had a farming crisis it was their right to handle it, not the federal governments.
With opposition from the Supreme Court the New Deal’s popularity dropped with some of the public, and was exploited by a senator from Louisiana, Huey Long. Long said that Roosevelt did not do enough to help the poor population, and came up with his own idea and called it “Share Our Wealth”. The program would take any personal fortune over $3 Million and distribute it to families in America, to buy a car, and a home. He also promised a national minimum wage, cheaper food for the poor, and an old age pension.
Huey Longs idea’s were no more popular then the President’s, Long had to have body guards because of the amount of people that opposed his ideas. But before he could put his idea’s to the test Long was shot and killed in 1935, and it was highly unlikely he would have won the presidency. Long was certainly not the only one that opposed the president, Charles Coughlin was a catholic priest who attacked the president calling him the ‘anti-god’, he aligned himself with a man named Frances Townsend both wanted the government to pay, or give the less well off money.
In 1936 the republican candidate was Alf Landon, the Governor of Kansas. Roosevelt still had the support of the country, and won the election with the greatest electoral landslide of all time. The voter was on the side of Roosevelt even if the critics were not. After being elected for another term it looked as though the New Deal would have continued success, but Roosevelt had other challenges to face. In early 1937 Roosevelt was involved in the Court Packing scheme. He proposed a bill to allow the president to add another justice to the Supreme Court for every justice over the age of seventy.
FDR claimed that the bill was needed to address the workload each justice had to take on, but it was more obviously proposed to weaken the power of conservative justices that were on the court at the time. The Supreme Court had previously not been supporting New Deal legislation, and this act made Roosevelt look weak, and desperate. The senate vetoed the decision and this became a blemish on Roosevelt’s otherwise clean record. New Deal legislation began to slow down again in late 1937, when the country went through another, smaller depression, known as the ‘Roosevelt Depression’.
It was a smaller depression but prolonged the span of the Great Depression, and with out New Deal legislation making a come back, Roosevelt took complete blame, Because of New Deal legislation many American’s then and today believe that Roosevelt is a hero and the reason the Great Depression ended, but others believe that New Deal legislation was a failure, and that Roosevelt failed to pass legislation that truly ended the Depression, and helped his constituents. Two economists working out of UCLA believe that Roosevelt actually prolonged the depression.
The two men argued that the programs Roosevelt signed into office were not helpful to Americans because they were ‘anti-competitive’ and did not allow people to rise and gain success because everyone was going to be paid the same amount and had typically similar jobs, from the government. The economist claim that had Roosevelt not implemented those policies that Great Depression would have ended faster, and with less hassle. Jim Powell of the Cato Institute would agree, he wrote an article “How FDR’s New Deal Harmed Millions of Poor People”.
He explains that many people living in poverty were actually victims of New Deal Legislation. Powell denotes that most of the money that financed that New Deal came from tax dollars, house hold items, and everyday essentials were taxed and the funds were used to help rejuvenate the economy. The excise taxes that were being taken would primarily fall of the middle and lower class, the classes that need the most help during the Great Depression. Excises taxes also affected business, they would receive a higher business tax which in turn would leave them less oney for growth and employment. Another point that Powell discusses about the New Deal is that money was funneled into ‘swing states’, states that Roosevelt did not have full support from; this meant that many programs did not reach to south. Powell explains that when American’s needed help with bargains, and saving money, they were asked to spend more on everyday items, food, and more. Furthermore, Robert Higgs a writer for FEE. org says that if American’s understood what New Deal legislation really entailed that would have had good reason to not support FDR.
Higgs agrees that FDR’s plans to help the economy, and bring wealth back to the country just prolonged the depression. The campaign promises that Roosevelt made in 1932 to balance the budget, and to cut federal spending could have helped the depression end in a timelier manner. Although Roosevelt made these campaign promises, he, his administration, and congress decided to go a different way with their new legislation. They embraced interventionist policies that caused a prolonged depression. Not only does Higgs accuse FDR of prolonging the depression, he and other historians believe that the New Deal was a large vote buying scheme.
Higgs states: “the Roosevelt administration recognized that the president and his Democratic allies in Congress could appropriate unprecedented sums of money and channel them into the hands of recipients who would respond by giving political support to their benefactors”. This means that the New Deal legislation was being used to gain political success, and continued success in office. At this point in time these theories are just speculation, showing that Americans do not really know the ins and outs of what they are supporting.
The way New Deal legislation was involved in everyday life for Americans changed the relationship between Americans and their government. But because of the invasiveness of some legislation people began to see the government as a means of employment or a provider. The New Deal ultimately brought relief to many Americans, but did not truly end the Depression. The end of the depression came with World War II. The war demanded the need for new government agencies, and the government’s need for private agencies went up.
The government had to create new markets, so that they had the materials, and means to go to war. These new markets began to rejuvenate the economy, and bring the country out of the depression. The government used wartime polices to change what America produced, the investments the government made were able to lead the country out of the depression. Not only did the new markets help bring America out of the Great Depression, the millions of young men that went off to war were receiving full time employment that also help rejuvenate the economy.
With new full time employees the government needed to provide living quarters, educational buildings, training facilities, and office buildings, this created a construction boom, effectively giving more people employment. The Great Depression was a hard, and confusing time in American history. Then and today Franklin Delano Roosevelt is seen as a president that brought Americans out of some of its darkest days. New Deal legislation is not always understood by many Americans, but what Americans do know is that the New Deal helped bring millions out of poverty, ad help bring American back to the place they wanted to live.
Courtney from Study Moose
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