How successful was Roosevelt in solving the problems facing the USA in the 1930”s? Essay

During the 1928 elections America was at the core of its boom and the Republican candidate Herbert Hoover was facing the Democratic Al Smith. The Republicans had been in power during the boom and were seen as the people who had made it happen. Al Smith was a “wet” (anti-prohibitionist) and a young city boy as opposed to Hoover who was much older and a dry” (pro-prohibition). Inevitably Hoover clinched a landslide victory and put the Republicans in power for a second term.

However on October 24, 1929 (“Black Thursday”) prices in the New York Stock Exchange fell by astonishing amounts. This led to the market collapsing five days later. Many investors tried to sell what shares they could in order to retrieve some of their money but the markets were valueless. The instant collapse was bought about by an unconfirmed speculation that there were problems in the financial sector. Many investors who had borrowed heavily from banks to invest and take advantage of the booming stock market had lost all and were unable to repay and debts. Many investors lost what little confidence they cherished and were unwilling to continue to invest. This led to the remainder of factories closing and unemployment increasing.

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By 1930 four million people were unemployed in America, this increased to six million in 1931 and twelve million in 1932. The production rates had reduced sharply too. America did not have any scheme of unemployment insurance or social security and people began o turn towards charities to help them. “Breadlines” became popular and many people would cue for hours in order to receive the charity of some bread and some soup.

Homelessness was a major result of the high numbers of jobless people, as many could no longer afford to pay for their rent or mortgages. As a result many people took shelter in car parks and train stations or as tramps. There was also an affect on the farming industry that could not sell any of their produce and thus were unable to profit from their works. In turn after not being bale to pay their rents or mortgages they were also thrown out.

Banks had been introduced to people during the boom and many people saw them as a safe way of saving their money. However, after the Wall Street crash many people withdrew what money they had deposited in a bank and hence many banks began tom fail thus prompting others to withdraw their money from other banks, which also failed. In 1932 1616 banks had closed.

President Hoover then decided to plough some money into banks and other institutions using government loans. These banks would supposedly lend money to businesses that would begin to reemploy people but then consecutively they would fail again due to problems in another area of the business sector. The people of America insisted that this money would be better used in a system of unemployment benefit.

During the height of the depression the campaigning for the 1932 elections began. People had lost hope and homeless, jobless, poverty and other statistics were at their all time highest. Roosevelt addressed the public during his campaign speeches and managed to gain their support by using his ever famous sentence of “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a New Deal for the American people”. This led Roosevelt to a landslide win in 1932 and he came into power in 1933.

Roosevelt began to introduce his emergency measures, which included the Emergency-Banking Act, which reopened the banks that had suitable means of funding and properly managed accounts. Theses were opened after America’s bank holiday and consequently people began to trust the banks more and deposit their savings.

Roosevelt then introduced the Economy Act, which cut the salary of government workers by 15% and the budgets of government departments by 25%. This saved nearly a billion dollars, which could be spent on other uses.

Roosevelt also passed the Beer Act, ended prohibition. This allowed the government to benefit form taxes and many people were now happier. It also reduced crime rates as the majority were due to rival gangs competing over turfs.

Roosevelt had now sorted out the economy, the banks and the beer and felt it necessary to start focussing on other areas. He set up the FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration), which attempted to put people into employment. This was followed by the CWA (Civil Works Administration) and they both managed to build or improve 800,000km of roads, 1,000 airports, 15,000 public toilets and 40,000 schools. Unemployed actors were hired to give free shows and many other people were given worthless jobs but Roosevelt insisted they were boosting morale and increasing motivation. In 1933 the CWA was abandoned and these people were unemployed again.

The PWA (Public Works Administration) was also an attempt to employ people but in worthwhile areas. It built 70% of school, 35% of hospitals, four big river dams, electrified the New York- Washington railway line, built great military equipment and a new sewage system. The PWA was not accused of employing people for useless jobs but claimed it only employed the skilled.

The WPA (Works Progress Administration) was attempting to employ the unemployed. It built 11,000 schools, 70,0000 km of road and an airport. It also employed writer, artists etc. who made use of their skills.

The AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) was an attempt to help the farmers. It paid them to destroy their corps and receive money form the government. This was due to he extensive produce from such farms. This resulted in vast areas of cropland being destroyed and million of animals being slaughtered. This was angering the public who hated the idea of seeing such sites. The main problem with this scheme was for the sharecroppers who were unable to benefit as once they had destroyed the crops they were no longer required and thus poverty stricken.

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was an attempt to employ young men and allow them to gain a living for themselves and their family. They would plant trees, build reservoirs, treat ill trees, clear beaches and historic battlefields. They would receive some pocket money and have $25 sent back home to their parents. This seemed to be a success as there were no complaints.

The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) was a scheme set to make the area safer. Ti was prone to flooding and many of these problems caused a lack of farm produce. In turn the TVA built dams, lakes, transport routes and other efforts to restore the area to prosperity. It worked, as the workers no longer faced poverty and then by 1940 the Tennessee valley district was prosperous again.

The NRA (National Industry Recovery Act) was an attempt to save the industry of America. This asked factories to sign an agreement, which stated it would pay a minimum wage, not use child labour etc. the companies who signed would benefit from a blue eagle, which would boost their records. However, later companies like Ford refused o sign due to the threat of unionising and therefore the workers turned against them. This resulted in long strikes and problems. Within a year it was abolished.

In conclusion the majority of Roosevelt’s ideas were good but they soon ran into problems. He was also face by an opposition who wanted to find such mistakes. In my opinion he did a good job of improving the country but certain oppositions have to pose problems.


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