Promise and Performance, FDR and the New Deal in the USA, 1933-45

It is my personal opinion that President Roosevelt believed that the government of America needed to get more involved with the affairs of the state.

At the beginning of his speech Roosevelt states that ‘A small group’ of people had taken almost complete control over ‘other people’s’ property, money, labour, and even ‘other people’s’ lives. The ‘small group’ that Roosevelt refers too are Capitalists; people such as Henry Ford who in previous years had managed to gain so much wealth that they now had great economic status and control over others. By saying that the power had been concentrated into ‘their own hands’ Roosevelt is suggesting that power had only been invested into a small group of people, the wealthy business owners and employers. The ‘other people’ Roosevelt describes in his speech are ordinary American citizens, and Roosevelt believed that the capitalists should not overpower them, and there should be more equal opportunity.

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Roosevelt also says that the public should have a right to appeal against the government, and at the end of his speech he says that ‘this generation of Americans has rendezvous with destiny’ This is a significant quote because it shows that Roosevelt feels that it is his duty, along with his government to stick up for the common man. It is a socialist idea and one that shows the government should be more active and feel the compulsion to act, Roosevelt believed they should be more involved with the people, and the government should be more centralised. Roosevelt believed that it was the government’s primary task to put the American people to work, he said that that this was ‘no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously’. Roosevelt could see the problems with economy in the United States and he believed that by becoming more involved his government could take drastic steps to change the situation.

During the first ‘100 days’ of his administration, Roosevelt tried to restore confidence within the United States many different ways. The most pressing concern for Roosevelt was the banking and finance in the USA. Banks were closing at the rate of 40 per day in 1932 and it was obvious that this could not continue. One of the most important effects of these bank closures was a flow of gold from the Federal reserve of New York banks. This was to support bank deposits elsewhere in the country and also to meet the demands of foreign investors who wanted to remove their capital from the USA. To help solve these problems, Roosevelt set up what he called the ‘Emergency Banking Relief Act’, which gave the treasury power to investigate all banks threatened with collapse.

In the meantime, Roosevelt appeared on radio and gave what was known as his ‘fireside chats’, which were fairly intimate chats that gave the impression that he, was alongside the listener in their living room. In this radio interview Roosevelt came across as a saviour, he talked to people in a way they could understand. His message for the people of America was that they should put their money in the bank, rather than under their mattress. Roosevelt wanted to stop the flow of gold and increase the amount of money in circulation in the US and raise prices, his fireside chats were a good method of helping him to do this.

Roosevelt also drew up another legislation known as ‘The Glass-Stegall Act’ in 1933. Many small banks were opened, rather than having a few of the typically large banks, and there was no loaning to people who could not pay back the withdrawn money.

The promotion of industrial recovery was a priority for Roosevelt and the New Deal and ‘The National Recovery Administration’ was set up to help all groups involved in industry. The argument behind this administration was that if industrial expansion was to be promoted, it was crazy to maintain laws that in fact restricted it. Different firms were encouraged to agree codes of practice to stop unfair competition such as price-cutting, also to agree on matters such as minimum wage and working conditions within the industry.

Finally, Roosevelt wanted to ensure that the USA did not return to the excesses of the 1920’s. The way Roosevelt proposed to deal with this problem was by passing to measures to regulate the stock exchange. Firstly Roosevelt set up the ‘Truth-is-Securities Act’ in 1933, which required brokers to offer their clientele realistic information about the securities they might be selling. Secondly, Roosevelt set up the ‘Securities Act’ in 1934 to oversee the stock market activities and prevent fraud. The two acts proved to be highly successful despite opposition from Wall Street insiders, and Wall Street gained a new credibility.

Roosevelt tried to improve the lives of the poor and disadvantaged within the United States in the years 1933-45 in many ways. Roosevelt set up many of what were known as ‘alphabet agencies’ to conquer the problems within economy and society. In 1933 Roosevelt passed ‘The Economy Act’ which cut government and ex-soldiers’ pensions.

The promotion of industrial recovery was a priority for Roosevelt and the New Deal and ‘The National Recovery Administration’ (NRA) was set up to help all groups involved in industry. The argument behind this administration was that if industrial expansion was to be promoted, it was crazy to maintain laws that in fact restricted it. Different firms were encouraged to agree codes of practice to stop unfair competition such as price-cutting, also to agree on matters such as minimum wage and working conditions within the industry.

Agricultural recovery was given higher priority than industrial recovery. The main reason for this was that it would help the common man, and Roosevelt believed that they were a priority. Roosevelt took a personal interest in US agriculture, as he believed that the farmer was the backbone of America. Roosevelt set up a lot of agencies for agriculture, ‘The Farm Credit Act’ of March 1933 brought all the various agencies dealing with agriculture credit into one body. The first of the agencies regarding agriculture set up was the ‘Agricultural Adjustment Act’ (AAA). This act agreed to pay farmers to reduce their production of what was known as ‘staple’ items, such as cotton, corn, milk, pigs, rice tobacco and wheat. The programme was to be self-financing through a tax placed on companies, which processed food.

Another scheme that Roosevelt set up for the lower classes was the ‘Federal Emergency Relief Act’ (FERA) in May 1933. The scheme was given $500 million dollars to be divided equally among the states to help provide for the unemployed. Roosevelt was very willing to involve the government in direct relief measures and take care of the common man so he also set up the ‘Civilian Conservation Corps’ (CCC) a project where young men between the ages of 17 and 24 were recruited to work in national forests, parks and public lands.

On the outset it looked as if Roosevelt was dong a lot for the USA and sticking to his promises, yet there were quite large amounts of people who did not benefit from the New Deal. The alphabet agencies set up were often focused around men and male jobs so women did not really benefit. There was not an individual scheme set up for unemployed women like the CCC for men. Native American/Indian men and women both suffered because they could not get any of the higher paying jobs. In the southern states of the US the white Americans were still very prejudiced against the blacks/native Indians, and these people were still treated like slaves. Another majority group that did not benefit from the New Deal were the people of the dust bowl. Severe drought hits the Midwestern and southern plains of the US. As the crops died, the ‘black blizzards” began. Dust from the over-ploughed and over-grazed land began to blow, and the number of dust storms increased. The people in these states of the US suffered greatly because dust storms spread from the Dust Bowl area. The drought was the worst ever in U.S. history, covering more than 75 percent of the country and affecting 27 states severely. These people did not benefit from the New Deal.

To conclude I would say that Roosevelt looked as if he were helping the people of the US. In my opinion he certainly did more than Henry Hoover, however even though Roosevelt set up such a vast variety of schemes to look after ‘the common man’ He seemed to leave out certain groups of people. IT was certain that his main focuses were Agriculture and Industry, Roosevelt wanted to make the USA economically strong once more, and although the majority of people benefited, lot’s of others did not, and found that because the alphabet agencies only employed certain groups, they had no choice but unemployment. FDR made a promise that the government would become more centralised and involved with the US as a whole. I believe that he kept to this promise, and he knew how to play up to the media and keep his promise (Fire side chats). What he did not do however, was reform the lives of all the poor and disadvantaged within America to the full extent that he promised.

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