During the Depression, Roosevelt’s support continuously wavered. The Depression was a time of high emotions and concern for the well being of all Americans. While Roosevelt had the right idea and motivation, he was ill equipped to take on the financial crisis in America. Roosevelt’s lack of understanding in finance caused his New Deal to be a failure. The President’s limited understanding of inflation and economic recovery was cause for him to make financially unwise decisions for America. Roosevelt’s constant wavering support depended on who was benefiting the most from his plan at any given time.
Roosevelt was not elected based on his abilities but more on his character; his ability to inspire a crowd. This was not a difficult task when he first took office; given the state America was in when he was first elected. There was financial panic in America when President Roosevelt first took office. Banks were forced to close and both conservatives and radicals looked to the government for intervention. Roosevelt was seen as source of the American reenergizing; giving Americans’ the push they needed. Americans were overjoyed with Roosevelt’s inaugural speech; and Congress was more than willing to approve his proposals.
While Roosevelt was willing and ready to act on America’s financial crisis, yet he had no “comprehensive plan of action”; this caused him and congressman to put to many plans into action at once (712). The depression was worsened by this; for example the Economy Act, which reduced federal employees wages, also cut veterans’ benefits and thus caused more severe financial problems. The Hundred Days after Roosevelt’s inauguration were fast paced and driven at improving the American way of life by getting Americans out of financial debt.
Unemployment and industrial stagnation were the most important concerns to Americans during the Hundred days; which is why Americans’ were so eager to side with Roosevelt and his optimistic beliefs. The new legislation was impressive; taking such measures as removing the gold standard and establishing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In hopes to help Americans keep their homes, congress approved the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) and gave Americans the right to full information on stocks and the regulation investment transactions by the Federal Trade commission.
It would seem that the government was working for the people, trying to improve their way of life. In order to tackle the problem of unemployment and industrial stagnation; the government created a relief fund for the poverty stricken and created a job outlet for young men called the Civilian Conservation Corps. Measures were taken to create a more stimulating industry, such as the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA); giving industry employees a secure work environment with consistent minimum pay and hours, as well as the right to use union or other representatives for fair working conditions.
Business codes were supervised by the newly formed National Recovery Administration (NRA). This, along with the NIRA, caused problems for industry since each wanted its own agreement on its own terms; plus many manufacturers were not happy with the idea that workers had bargaining power. NIRA was a good idea in theory, Congress created it on the basis that it would help Americans, which in some cases it did. In other cases, however, it made things worse. By trying to control the economy with changes to business ethics and the activities of private businesses it was more of a hassle and failure than a success.
The goal to end the Depression by the NIRA, did not happen. Rather than improving employment opportunities, it caused head industry leaders to raise prices and reduce production. The one area the NIRA was successful in ending child labor industries because wages and hours were federally regulated. Roosevelt’s concern with America becoming over-industrialized led land owners to become wealthy with the Agriculture Adjustment Administration. The way Congress went about removing unneeded farm land however were wasteful, destroying crops and livestock that could have been used to help feed the American people.
Farm labor was reduced as farmers bought more equipment and machinery with the money granted to them by government, more and more farm workers found themselves out of a job. While many of Roosevelt’s new plans during the Hundred Days had considerable flaws, many middle class Americans felt that overall, things had improved for the better. The growth of special interest groups increased drastically however, because of the many changes occurring in America’s economy. Although unemployment was still high, there was a significant increase in employment in 1934.
The most likely reason for the seemingly high unemployment rate in America during this time was Roosevelt’s fear of an unbalanced budget. Many of the programs during the Hundred Days were costly and in 1934, Roosevelt realized the need to slow funding. Writers during the Depression remarked on America’s economy during Roosevelt’s presidency, Faulkner however shed light into the lives of America’s poor. His work demonstrated the obvious imbalance of society’s wealthy and poor. Although Faulkner’s characters were severe in their emotions, many attributes of these characters could be seen in the extremists of the day.
Huey Long, while not very politically correct in today’s standards, did fight for the rights of the poor regardless of race. While Long at first supported Roosevelt’s New Deal, he came to realize the minimal support it gave to the poor; thus he turned against Roosevelt. Roosevelt was call a liar by the priest Father Charles E. Coughlin, because he felt Roosevelt’s financial policies were wrong and inflation was the answer to ending the Depression. Coughlin attacked bankers and programs concerning the New Deal, and had many supporters. Together with the likes of Long, Democrats were being strongly opposed.
Democrats were blamed for the poor state of America’s elderly, the head criticizer being Dr. Francis E. Townsend. Townsend fought for the rights of elderly; suggesting a pension plan, with conditions. All three extremists pointed out the need for redistribution of wealth in America; the neediest being the poor and the elderly. Although all three extremists had substantial support, only Long really understood practical affairs. Regardless of their flaws, Roosevelt chose to listen to their advice and stopped focuses on big business in America and take action by voiding the NIRA.
In a renewed cycle, set forth by the failure of Roosevelt’s New Deal in ending the Depression, a Second New Deal was created along with the “Second Hundred Days” (720). Issues concerning America’s poor and elderly were finally addressed with acts such as the Social Security Act. The Second New Deal moved away from trying to establish a planned economy. This proved a successful change when reelected in 1936. The Second New Deal benefited farmers, elderly, blacks and union workers who in-turn supported Roosevelt.
The majority of Roosevelt’s approval was undeserved; he was credited by the American people for economic improvements which he had little to do with; such as the start of the second New Deal. He made the changes that many extremists called for just in time for reelection; which backfired shortly after. It wasn’t long however before Roosevelt was once again disliked by many American’s, especially after the Court Fight. Roosevelt’s lack of understanding the need for spending in order to stimulate recovery caused him to cutback on the relief program causing a further recession.
Roosevelt’s presidency was a time of high emotions, which likely explains the impulsive plans and misguided financial strategies. While Roosevelt was a likable character he lacked the ability to set consistent, financially strong programs to improve America’s economy during the Depression. It was only after the war that America was finally freed from the Depression; yet American’s at that time needed an inspirational leader which is why for the most part they supported Roosevelt’s unwise decisions.
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