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 considering. 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
decide. The Roe versus Wade case put control over abortion into federal hands, and Brown versus the Board of Education let 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.