The Presidency of FDR


In 1932, Americans realized that they had an increasingly
great financial problem on their hands, and tried to
correct it by centralizing power. The President acquired so
much power that the nation almost became a communism,
especially with Roosevelt's introduction of the New Deal.
When Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United
States in 1933, the nation was in the depths of the worst
depression it had ever experienced. President Roosevelt, a
very energetic and enthusiastic person, inspired the people
with his own confidence and faith in the future. He
gathered a group of people sharing his views to help him,
and provided food, clothing, and shelter for millions of
unemployed and poverty-stricken Americans. This was part of
what he called the New Deal, of which his three objectives
were relief, recovery, and reform for American citizens. In
another attempt at recovery, Congress attempted to revive
the nation's agriculture and industry and place the economy
on a solid foundation. They printed extra money to loan to
industries that quickly paid it back. By 1933 nearly 14
million Americans were jobless. In response, the Roosevelt
administration immediately launched what seemed at the time
to be a wonderful program of direct relief. In 2 years,
federal agencies distributed 3 billion dollars to the
states. However, the people unemployed wanted jobs, not
welfare, thus the Works Progress Administration (WPA) came
into existence. This helped restore some of the lost jobs. 

By 1936, the New Deal program faced a large and growing
body of opposition, some from within the Democratic Party
itself. Many critics felt that the government was
interfering too much with the free enterprise system, and
in doing so, was threatening individualism and democracy.
This absorption of power by the president is what is known
as the Imperial Presidency. By the end of 1938, the
opposition had become so strong that President Roosevelt
decided to postpone other large reforms he had been
Innumerable committees were created to deal with the
problems of the time, and the President was in control of
all of them. All this power that the President acquired
caused the executive branch to become bloated.
World War II also prompted the government to recruit many,
many Americans into the army. Since the President has
complete control over the army, a greater army gave him
more power. The president also had control over the federal
police. However, with all the manufacturing that had to
take place to accommodate for all the necessities of war,
many new ideas came into action. In order to boost the
economy, power was readily and radically centralized, and
the government introduced the policies of cost plus,
resource allocation, wage & price controls, and prohibition
of strikes. Cost plus and resource allocation gave the
government much power to control industries. The government
would withhold certain raw materials from companies unless
they were using them to make war utilities. However, if
they did choose to agree with the government, they could
set the prices for their products and make extra money.
Wage and price controls were another method of the
government to boost industry. The government would increase
the price for which a manufacturer must sell his goods and
the minimum wages allowable for different types of workers.
This made everyone happy because the only person suffering
this way was the consumer - or in this case, the government.
After the Second World War, a cold war with the Soviet
Union began. President Roosevelt anticipated that this cold
war would bankrupt the Soviet union in their trying to
outdo America's weapon production. Thus the United States
had to allocate much of its production into yet more weapon
manufacturing and research. With the government controlling
all of America's output, economy, and industry, the nation
had moved from a capitalistic economy to nearly a communism
Americans' social rights had also been tampered with in the
pandemonium caused by the Great Depression, World War II,
and the Cold War with Russia. The social revolution in the
1960s made many people happy, but also gave unnecessary
power to the government, especially the president. The
Civil Rights Act of 1964 revoked the right of states to
choose who gets to vote, and let the federal government
decide. The Roe versus Wade case put control over abortion
into federal hands, and Brown versus the Board of Education
let the federal government control segregation in schools
and other situations.
The nation has started moving back in the direction from
which it came before World War II, but until now has not
readjusted completely. Time and effort, however, may shift
some of the governments - and president's - power acquired
during the 20's back into citizen hands.

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