Despite many dissatisfied Americans, the national mood was mixed as the 1932 election approached. Many discouraged Americans had blamed themselves for their economic hardships. Other unemployed Americans felt the deeper frustrations of the nation’s economic hardships. Regardless of their circumstances, most Americans believed that something completely new had to be tried. The Republicans unenthusiastically renominated Hoover, while the Democrats turned to New York governor Franklin Roosevelt.
The Democrats won the 1932 election and Franklin Roosevelt was elected as president (The Election of 1932). Roosevelt won with his personal charm and willingness to experiment. Elected in November, Roosevelt would not begin his presidency until March 1933. Meanwhile, Americans suffered through the worst winter of depression. Unemployment continued to climb, and in three major industrial cities in Ohio, it was staggering, from 50 percent to 80 percent (Henretta, James A. ). Even with the help from private charities and public relief agencies, the needy were hardly helped at all.
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The nation’s banking system was so close to collapsing that many state governors closed banks temporarily to avoid further withdrawals. At this time, the nation had hit rock bottom. The ideas between Hoover and Roosevelt were not much different. Both wished to maintain the nation’s economy and to save capitalism. They also believed in a balanced government budget and praised the values of hard work, and sacrifice. Roosevelt’s willingness to experiment made him more popular and more effective than Hoover. His New Deal programs put people to work and restored hope for the nation’s future.
Roosevelt’s New Deal shocked Americans because it was so different from anything presented by other presidents. His close relationship with the American people was critical to his political success. Roosevelt’s use of the radio, especially his “fireside chats,” made him a special presence by comforting millions of Americans (The Fireside Chats). In Roosevelt’s “Hundred Days,” Congress enacted fifteen bills that focused on four problems that focused on banking failures, agricultural overproduction, the business slump, and unemployment.
The New Deal had an immense impact on American’s lives. Its principles of social welfare liberalism transformed Americans’ relationship with the government and provided assistance to the unemployed, the elderly, workers, and racial minorities. During the New Deal labor unions increased because of the Wagner Act, which upheld the right of industrial workers to join unions. These labor unions began to take political action, as well as beginning an alliance with the Democratic Party.
The ultimate goal of the separation of public aid and social insurance was that social policy must either effectively incorporate social and cultural values that relate to the evaluation of individuals or use programs to create common social and political interests among large groups of dissimilar people. The separation of social insurance and public aid in the American model segregated the poor and marginal people in the work force from social programs. The separation also created a class that was dependent on programs that were less than generously funded and always seemed to be at the center of controversy.
The losers in this American policy model were women, children, and people of color, because they all had a lower probability of having their needs well met by work-based social insurance (National Labor Relations Act (1935)). The banking system was the nation’s economic backbone, which soon failed, causing consumer spending and business investment to decrease. Widespread bank failures had cut into the savings of nearly nine million families. Bank failures also had account holders race to withdraw their funds.
Roosevelt’s main focus was to tackle the nation’s economy and get banks back up and running. On March 5, 1933, Roosevelt closed all banks and four days later, Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act. This act permitted banks to reopen if a Treasury Department inspection showed that they had sufficient cash reserves. When Roosevelt reopened the banks, he reassured citizens of the safety of their money because deposits exceeded withdrawals. He also created the Glass Steagall Act, which created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
This act insured deposits up to $2,500 and prohibited banks from making risky investments. Roosevelt also allowed the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates by removing the U. S. Treasury from the gold standard (Powers, n. pag. ). After battling the weak banking system, Roosevelt and Congress then turned to agriculture and manufacturing. Farmers were always given cheap prices for land and low interest rates but the problem was overproduction. To solve this problem, Roosevelt created the Agricultural Adjustment Act.
This act provided money to farmers who cut production of produce like cotton, rice, and tobacco. By supplying farmers’ money, they hoped farm prices would rise as production fell. The Agricultural Adjustment Act briefly stabilized the farm economy until the benefits became unevenly distributed. Roosevelt also created the National Industrial Recovery Act and the National Recovery Administration to help improve the declining industries production. The National Recovery Administration created self-governing associations in hundreds of industries.
In order for industries to begin their own self-governing associations, they had to agree on prices and production quotas. The National Recovery Administration limited the power of large businesses so smaller businesses could gain consumer interests (National Recovery Administration). Both the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Recovery Administration were created to improve the U. S. ’s industries and stabilize the economy, and left many positive effects (Agricultural Adjustment Act). One of the most widespread problems Americans faced was unemployment.
Private charities had done all they could and soon looked to Washington for help. Trying to help the people, Roosevelt asked Congress to provide relief for the millions of unemployed Americans. In response to the president, Congress established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which provided federal funds to state relief programs (Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)). The New Deal was a proven way that put people to work because in 1933 and a month after Congress established the Public Works Administration, over 2. 6 million men and women were put to work.
The Public Works Administration was a construction program where Americans repaired bridges, built highways, and constructed public buildings. A more long-term program was the Civilian Conservation Corps, which consisted of 250,000 men to do conservation work. The Civilian Conservation Corps built bridges, roads, trails in many state and national parks (Public Works Administration). Throughout this period, women continued to play a prominent role in social welfare policy and program development. They had achieved suffrage in 1919 and had leadership roles in many organizations that promoted social services and social reform.
However, the policies that developed from the depression emphasized the traditional role of women in social and economic life and tied the interests of women to maternity, childcare, and marriage. Groups such as African Americans, had a more visible role in the New Deal than in any previous government, but the New Deal coalition depended on southern Democrats and was constrained from supporting full equality. This was a time of legal segregation in the American South, and although organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had some visibility, civil rights gains were hard to come by.
The employment programs of the New Deal did try to reduce discrimination, and Roosevelt ultimately created a Fair Employment Practices Commission in 1941. However, programs like the New Deal’s Agricultural Adjustment Act displaced thousands of minority farmworkers while compensating farm owners, and programs like Aid to Dependent Children would come to be seen as both prohibiting the economic participation of women and contributing to family problems (Batlan, n. pag. ). The civil rights movement had been a continuous element in American life, but it took on a new character after World War II.
Beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott and the response to the murder of Emmett Till, it led to widespread protests and often-violent responses by southern authorities and segregationist individuals and groups. Martin Luther King, a young Baptist minister, became a national figure when the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee brought thousands of college students to work for voter registration in the South. The Kennedy administration was pressed to support a variety of measures that were introduced into Congress, and the administration proposed its own civil rights bill.
In June 1963, President Kennedy gave a passionate television speech on behalf of the bill and the civil rights of African Americans. The speech was seen as courageous and a position that came to symbolize the Kennedy presidency for many Americans. That Civil Rights bill passed Congress in 1964 and became one of the hallmarks of American social policy (Lovey). The Supreme Court joined the civil rights forces in the 1950s, while adding to the historical pressure for sweeping legislation.
After World War II, the federal courts began to protect the civil rights of minorities in specific circumstances, gradually making it possible for African Americans to participate in some activities on an equal basis with whites. The Supreme Court took its most memorable step in this direction when it agreed in 1954 to hear a case dealing with racial segregation in public schools. The practice of separating African American and white children in public schools had always been unpopular among civil rights leaders. These civil rights leaders saw proper education as a means for African Americans to escape racial discrimination.
They argued that the segregation in schools doomed African Americans to inferior education and deprived whites and African Americans of an important educational experience. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court struck down the legal support for maintaining “separate but equal” educational facilities (Public Broadcasting Service). Although political pressures prevented President John F. Kennedy’s administration from proposing legislation to Congress in 1961 and 1962, the President took steps to ensure minority rights in voting, employment, housing, transportation, and education.
The stage was set for a new legislative initiative to deal with the problem of federal protection of civil rights. Until the New Deal, blacks had shown their loyalty to the party of Abraham Lincoln by voting Republican. By the end of Roosevelt’s first administration, however, one of the most dramatic voter shifts in American history had occurred. In 1936, 75 percent of black voters supported the Democrats. Blacks turned to Roosevelt, mostly because his spending programs gave them a measure of relief from the Depression and the Republican Party had done little to repay their earlier support.
Following the 1955 unification of the American Federation of Labor with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO became an ally of civil rights organizations. Martin Luther King spoke of the shared goals of the civil rights and labor movements, noting in his 1961 address to the fourth AFL-CIO national convention that both African Americans and union members were fighting for decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.