Franklin Delano Roosevelt Elanor Roosevelt Louis Brandies
Reform: The Great Depression created new opportunities for reform and allowed Franklin Roosevelt more scope for changing the role of the federal government than any president before him. Among other things, the New Deal created the basis for a federal welfare system, especially through the creation of a federal program of Social Security, which would help to provide for the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and those with dependent children. While limited by the standards of many other industrial countries, New Deal programs nonetheless acknowledged a new level of government responsibility for the nation's citizens. The New Deal also put into place the idea of the "broker state," in which the federal government would act as a mediator between large interest groups. New Deal policies helped to elevate labor and farms groups to the level at which they could balance the power of corporate interests, at least in some cases.
Economic Transformations: Although the New Deal failed to restore prosperity and end the Great Depression, it did create a number of important regulatory mechanisms that allowed the federal government to prevent the conditions that had led to the economic disaster of the late 1920s through the regulation of the stock market and the banking sectors. The New Deal provided a basis for post-World War II experiments in federal fiscal policy, as Roosevelt began to experiment on a limited basis with macroeconomic tools such as deficit spending to stimulate economic growth. The New Deal also promoted economic growth in the South and West, helping to improve lives in those regions and bring them to a standard of living closer to that enjoyed by people living in other parts of the country.
Politics and Citizenship: The New Deal helped to create a Democratic coalition that would shape national politics until the late 1960s. While the party had been badly divided between its urban and rural wings during the 1920s, FDR was able to shift the Democrats from a focus on divisive cultural issues to an emphasis on economic issues and thus unite a number of different constituencies. By the end of his first term in 1936, Roosevelt had brought together African Americans, organized labor, women, urban residents, southerners, and traditional liberals and progressives, creating a powerful grouping that made the Democratic Party the nation's natural majority for several decades.
American Identity: The New Deal fundamentally transformed how Americans thought about themselves and their relationship to the state. Traditional American ideology had stressed the nation's abundance and the equality of opportunity that was open to all who were willing to work hard in pursuit of prosperity. The Great Depression caused Americans to question their unbounded optimism and faith in individual initiative as the key to material progress and well-being. While the New Deal was criticized by conservatives for bringing the government into people's lives to too great a degree and by those on the left for not going far enough, the acceptance of FDR's programs by the vast majority of Americans represented their acceptance of a new belief in the possibilities of government and its ability to positively affect their lives.
The Great Depression was steeper and more protracted in the United States than in other industrialized countries. The unemployment rate rose higher and remained higher longer than in any other western country. As it deepened, the Depression had far-reaching political consequences. The Great Depression transformed the American political and economic landscape. It produced a major political realignment, creating a coalition of big-city ethnics, African Americans, organized labor, and Southern Democrats committed, to varying degrees, to interventionist government. It strengthened the federal presence in American life, spawning such innovations as national old-age pensions, unemployment compensation, aid to dependent children, public housing, federally-subsidized school lunches, insured bank depositions, the minimum wage, and stock market regulation. It fundamentally altered labor relations, producing a revived labor movement and a national labor policy protective of collective bargaining. It transformed the farm economy by introducing federal price supports. Above all, it led Americans to view the federal government as an agency of action and reform and the ultimate protector of public well-being.In addition to assessing the ideas that informed the New Deal policies, this section examines the critics and evaluates the impact of the New Deal. The Depression vastly expanded the scope and scale of the federal government and created the modern welfare state. It gave rise to a philosophy that the federal government should provide a safety net for the elderly, the jobless, the disabled, and the poor, and that the federal government was responsible for ensuring the health of the nation's economy and the welfare of its citizens.
Biography of America
FDR and the Depression (series 21)
Professor Brinkley continues his story of twentieth century presidents with a profile of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Brinkley paints a picture of America during the Depression and chronicles some of Roosevelt's programmatic and personal efforts to help the country through its worst economic crisis. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is at FDR's side and, in many respects, ahead of him as the decade unfolds.