FDR and the New Deal
During the Great Depression, many serious political, economic, and social problems were left behind by former president Herbert Hoover that called for greater government intervention that had never been previously implemented before. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was elected president at the darkest hour of the Great Depression, and re-created the role of the president and the federal government when he pledged to “use the power of the federal government” to “combat the economic crisis” that was “paralyzing the nation” (Norton et al). Through his expansion of the government and response to the problems of the Great Depression, Roosevelt introduced his New Deal policy, a legislation aimed to stabilize and fix the economic disparity plaguing America through relief, reform, and recovery. FDR was devoted to “guarantee…every American a minimum standard of subsistence” through his New Deal programs as well as dissipate the crisis of the Great Depression (Leuchtenberg). Along with setting a standard of living for every citizen, Roosevelt was determined to create a more humane industrial system to protect the rights of workers and their families, but clashed with big business barons along the way. While FDR expanded the role of the federal government and created the New Deal to address the problems from the Great Depression, his administration’s response to these problems was not completely effective as it failed to end the Great Depression entirely, resulting in a half-way revolution of American politics and society.
Throughout his presidency, FDR dramatically and positively changed the government by expanding its role significantly. According to Leuchtenberg, FDR “re-created the modern Presidency” by “greatly expand[ing]” the president’s “legislative functions”, shifting from a laissez-faire presidency to directing the course of Congress. FDR made unprecedented shifts around the White House by creating the Executive Office of the President, shifting the Bureau of the Budget from the Treasury to his wing, and created “The Brain Trust”, a group of appointed officials that gave many “devoted and highly skilled men” the chance to have their interests and ideas a chance to be recognized and encouraged everyone to have a voice. Roosevelt exhibited thoughtfulness by procrastinating new proposals in order to arrive at “a sense of national consensus” and “reach…a decision by observing a trial by combat” among “rival theories” (Leuchtenberg). Through the expansion of government, FDR was also able to set a minimum standard of living of every citizen and implemented acts to preserve and maintain this right. Although FDR made great strides in re-creating the presidency, some were critical of his expansion of the federal government. In Document F, Charles Evans Hughes criticizes the National Recovery Administration, part of FDR’s New Deal that guaranteed government protection of the rights of workers by setting minimum wages and maximum weekly hours and allowed collective bargaining and union organizing activity. Hughes argued that the “persons employed” were “not employed in interstate commerce” and that “their wages ha[d] no direct relation to interstate commerce”. He strongly believed that the expansion of government was unconstitutional and that the “authority of the federal government may not be pushed to such an extreme” (Document F). However, Document C, a political cartoon published by The Evening Star, demonstrated an opposing view from Hughes that the growth of the federal government was not a rejection of the American constitution. The cartoon shows that the expansion of the federal government was an evolution of government ranging from its cabinet members to the labor forces and the American people rather than a revolution of government. The artist depicts FDR as a Progressive president who is simply building upon the nation’s Progressive past rather than trying to create a socialist nation. The author...
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