roosevelt

Topics: New Deal, Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt Pages: 11 (7986 words) Published: October 30, 2014
THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE NEW DEAL, 1929-1939 THE CHAPTER IN PERSPECTIVE By the 1920s, the corporate industrial economy had grown for more than half a century. Along with its strengths, serious weaknesses developed. Few Americans noticed them because of the hot pursuit of material wealth. The consumer culture of the 1920s and a businessoriented government promoted the pursuit not only of money but of debt as well. When mass purchasing power could no longer sustain prosperity, the economy collapsed. The greatest depression in history dawned, bringing massive unemployment, withering prices, and a stagnated economy. Unlike his predecessors, Herbert Hoover took action. No president before him had dared to stimulate the economy for fear of throwing it hopelessly out of balance. But Hoovers policies, for all his good intentions, were too wedded to the old order to make any difference. The New Deal was no revolution in public policy. In many ways it was quite conservative. It sought ultimately to reform capitalism by modifying some of the excesses that led to the Great Depression. If there were a revolutionary aspect, however, it lay in the New Deals willingness to commit government to compensating for swings in the economy and to supporting those in need. The New Deal marshaled the government activism and executive leadership of Progressivism, but with none of the moralizing that often accompanied progressive reform. With the New Deal, the modern liberal state was born. OVERVIEW This chapter opens with federal investigator Lorena Hickok traveling across America in search of the New Deals impact on the lives of ordinary people. The deprivation, anguish, and courage she finds upsets the common stereotype of lazy loafers in search of government handouts. She also discovers that the New Deal is restoring hope and confidence, and because of it Americans are looking to Washington as never before for help. The stock market crash of 1929, one of the worst in the nations history, signaled the onset of a precipitous decline that shrunk the economy by almost half. The Great Depression caught the nation by surprise. Despite the best efforts of its leaders, recovery remained elusive. In October 1929, the speculative bubble on Wall Street burst and the market crashed in a heap of nearworthless stock. The Great Crash did not bring about the Great Depression that followed it only accelerated the slide. Overexpansion of major industries, uneven distribution of wealth and income, the relative decline of mass purchasing power, a weak banking and corporate structure, and plain economic ignorance were the underlying causes. The American People in the Great Depression The Great Depression was also the great leveler. It reduced differences of class, ethnicity, geography, and race through deprivation. Most people did not plummet to rock bottom they simply lived leaner lives. Some tightened family budgets others moved to cheaper quarters. A few starved to death, and more than a few foraged for food. For the first time, more people left than entered the country. With hard times came shame, selfdoubt, and a loss of confidence. Birth and marriage rates dropped, and troubled unions broke apart. In strong and weak families alike, the role of homemaker took on added importance. More and more women worked outside the home to supplement meager family incomes, and the home itself became an inexpensive center of recreation and companionship. A depression culture emerged, but whether on film, radio, or in print, it tended to reinforce the basic social and economic tenets of American culture middle-class morality and family life, capitalism, and democracy. An ecological disaster transformed 1,500 square miles from the Oklahoma panhandle to western Kansas into a gigantic Dust Bowl. Made partly by man, partly by nature, the Dust Bowl emptied of large numbers of its people, as 3.5 million farmers left the Great Plains, the only states of the country to suffer a net...
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