The Evolution of the Imperial Presidency from FDR to Obama, and How it Has Changed the Fabric of American Society.
When the Constitution was first written by America’s founding fathers, they intended for the executive branch to serve the nation’s citizenry by keeping their best interests at heart, but stated that in no way should this branch be more powerful than any other—it be constantly checked and balanced by the legislative and judicial branches.. In James Madison’s Federalist Number 48, he states that in a representative republic, “the executive magistracy is carefully limited; both in the extent and the duration of its power”1. The founding fathers never intended for the role of President of the United States of America to become ‘imperialistic’, meaning that the government takes too much control, and is too involved in the affairs of the nation. However, during the time of the Great Depression and after Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated, the government became progressively more involved in American society; this trend has continued through Barack Obama’s presidency in present-day politics. Each new presidential term is faced with new dilemmas, which vary and have evolved significantly from issues of the past, and after each one, the federal government becomes more and more involved and, as a result, increasingly ‘imperialistic’. From the beginning of his inauguration on March 4, 19332, Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened the nation’s curtains to the new dawn of presidential imperialism, starting with his ‘One Hundred Days Congress’ as a response to the tragic state of America’s economy and general well-being as a result of the Great Depression. He started by passing the Emergency Banking Relief Act, where all remaining banks were closed in order to stop loans and to inspect each one to ensure that it was stable enough to reopen. If it wasn’t, it was remained closed until it was given enough money by the federal bank to reopen3. This was the first government bank bailout, giving the government more power by interfering with state and city banks. FDR enacted a number of changes to the executive branch within this initial period of his term collectively known as the New Deal, which was designed to help the nation out of an economic depression; however it was later recalled because the Supreme Court believed the federal system was controlling too many aspects of the economy. Some acts within the New Deal were the National Industrial Recovery Act, which allowed the executive branch to regulate all prices, wages, and working conditions within the labor force, and soon became national law(72)4, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a government funded project to put men aged 18-25 to work on building infrastructure for the nation, and the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which gave money to farmers for not using certain amounts of land, which raised crop prices and lowered production. Although all of these were beneficial to the nation’s economy, the AAA was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, stating that state government had to power to regulate agriculture, not the federal government. Roosevelt knew that if this ruling was to be applied to all his New Deal policies that it would soon crumble, however when the Supreme Court tried the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, the Wagner Act, and the Social Security Act, they ruled in favor of Roosevelt3. The effects of these programs on the fabric of American society then, and today, are important to note becasue they have also transformed the citizenry’s relationship with the government. The executive branch certainly seemed to over-extend its power and authority, however FDR was merely responding to the unique situation of his time – the Great Depression. Every time a crisis occurs within the nation, the government becomes more and more powerful in order to solve it. If the government doesn’t act appropriately, the people...
Bibliography: (Numbers correlate with subscripts)
1) Madison, James. United States. The Federalist. Cong. Doc. #47. Web.
2) "Presidential Inaugurations: Menu of All Presidents." Global Gateway: World Culture & Resources (Library of Congress). Web. 29 Mar. 2011. .
3) "American Experience . The Presidents | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. .
4) Healy, Gene. The Cult of the Presidency: America 's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2009. Print.
5) Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Cycles of American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print.
6) United States. Truman Loyalty Oath. 1947. H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. Web. 01 Apr. 2011. .
7) Emery, Fred. Watergate: the Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon. New York: Touchstone, 1995. Print.
8) Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Imperial Presidency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.
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