Segment descriptions
Politics & Society in
    20th Century America Series
Depression 30s &
    World War, Part

          Description: FDR 1

Depression 30s & World War,
Part 1
    sampler 3-17    (58 lecture).

Why is it so crucial to understand that it is WWII that ended the Great Depression, and not the New
Deal programs?

                play sampler




Hoover as President


Failing the Depression .  Hoover believes in volunteerism-- the role of state, local governments and charities.  But the Depression needs the enormous resources of the federal government.  The cycle of business contraction, layoffs, and consumers unable to consume.  The Hooverville slums.  The devastating impact on middle class families.  Grinding rural poverty.  The psychological impact of people irrationally blaming themselves. 


Hoover's recovery theory.  He believes that the best way to help is the "trickle-down" theory.  Help those at the top.  This is a failure because business lacks confidence and the money is not invested in job-making production.  Hoover lacks charisma but makes things worse by his personal insensitivity to the calamity.


The Bonus Army.  Bonuses are promised to war veterans but funds not appropriated.   Veterans' protest is smashed by the military.




Roosevelt as President.


FDR's background.  He is from landed wealth, believes in service to the people as career.  He is charismatic.  Returns to politics after suffering polio paralysis.  A dangerous drift between election and taking office 4 months later.  Bank "holidays."  His inspiring inaugural speech, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."


FDR's political philosophy:  either pragmatic or opportunistic, depending on whether you approve or disapprove of him.  His fireside chats.  Passes emergency banking bill.  He continues the "trickle-down" approach, but he engenders trust.


The first 100 days.  A spate of legislation-- fixing prices, fixing standards.  The NRA (National Recovery Act) fails.  Farmers prosper during war but prices drop after disarmament in 1921.  Dust storms due to drought causes havoc to farmers.  The Agricultural Aid Agency is enacted to aid farmers.  It raises prices by producing scarcities, but fails in practice, hurting sharecroppers the most, and is declared to be unconstitutional as well.


FDR extends the federal role.  He creates relief agencies, following John Keynes' theory of under-consumption of the jobless.  Therefore, jobs must be created, a "bottom-up approach, the opposite from the "trickle-down" approach.  Direct relief is provided by the federal government.  The PWA for large public projects for skilled workers, and the WPA for smaller level projects employing unskilled labor.  It also aims to help creative people: artists, actors, musicians, photographers.  The agencies are later cut back after demonstrating effectiveness, but are reinstated when the cutback results in  an economic nosedive.