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The program never embraced wealth redistribution, extreme ideologies, the nationalization of private property, or state-protected racial equality. What are historians to make of this seeming paradox between the radicalism and conservatism of the New Deal?The following paper will briefly explore this question through an analysis of New Deal history.As Kathryn Olmsted states, “Roosevelt wanted to save capitalism” through reform.
Political parties realigned, the federal government’s role in society mushroomed, labor and consumers received support against capital, Progressive legislation redefined welfare, and the landscape was redrawn with new infrastructure.The end result of the decade was not communism, socialism, or government. Unemployment soared in the years following “Black Thursday,” reaching a high-water mark of about 25%; the Gross National Product was halved; and unregulated marketplace competition—joined by declining purchasing power and a lack of consumer confidence—created a situation of unprecedented deflation.Banks were failing; factories were closing; local governments were defaulting; city and state treasuries were depleting; farmers were over-producing; industries were cutting wages, reducing hours, and laying off employees; consumers were not purchasing; and the wealth gap was yawning. As Cohen demonstrates, they were falling back on traditional institutions of family, neighborhood, union, and religious and ethnic solidarity.Perhaps two million people hit the road as tramps. Meanwhile, European nations turned to radical forms of government like bolshevism, fascism, and communism.As Harvard Sitkoff writes, the effects of the Depression increased the likeliness that people would accept these ideologies at home.As Cohen summarizes, “When the male breadwinner suffered…traditional authority relationships within the family, between husbands and wives and between parents and children, began to break down.” Disastrous conditions in the city were mirrored in the countryside by falling farm prices, unpayable debt and land dispossession, a glutted market, droughts, storms, and chronic homelessness.Rauchway writes that a total of 11.5 million workers, representing the income of about 30 million Americans, lost their jobs.Once in office, he immediately began enacting a series of wide-ranging domestic measures known as the New Deal.These reforms were designed to address the Great Depression, which reached a tipping point after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.Out-of-work veterans and their families camped near the Capitol in hopes of receiving an early redemption for their service certificates.General Douglas Mac Arthur used the United States’ own army to violently evict them.