WAS THE NEW DEAL A SUCCESS?
Roosevelt was supported by the masses in the 1932 election for a number of reasons. Arguably the main factor was the failure of Hoover and the Republican Party. Hoover was seen as a “do nothing” President and had lost almost all support from the Americans. Hoover failed to accept that there was a major economic problem after the Wall Street Crash: he insisted that “prosperity was just around the corner”. Roosevelt realised that the American people wanted “action, and action now” so that was what he offered. In Source A Roosevelt mentions a “New Deal”, this shows the citizens that change is on its way. For the people of America, a different leader and a different party was their best hope. Roosevelt’s main objective was to restore confidence after the Depression. This was not to be a gradual process, but an immediate, drastic change in the way the country was run. Roosevelt did this by making a “pledge” to the American people that a new start was coming. By promoting the New Deal so enthusiastically, the people gained confidence not only in the new scheme to deal with the Depression, but in Roosevelt himself. Roosevelt represented the ordinary American throughout his political career; in Source A he identifies his audience, “the American people”, showing his honesty and relatability. Lines like “Give me your help” show his sincerity and willingness to admit that the USA was in economic exigency. Contending with polio since the age of 39, Roosevelt managed to become Governor of New York State and pass on the message of determination and hard work to America. Roosevelt was so far proving to be the unmitigated opposite of a “do nothing” president. His fighting spirit emerged magnificently in his election campaign with expressions such as “call to arms”, “crusade” and “waging war”. A “call to arms” was Roosevelt’s manner of saying that America need to act against the Depression instantly. “This crusade to restore America” demonstrates the fact that Roosevelt is keen to work hard to do whatever it takes to bring America back to the superpower it was considered to be. “Waging war” shows both Roosevelt’s intention to play a dynamic role in the governing of America and also the austerity of the situation and its possible consequences. Roosevelt goes on further to enforce his strategy of “action, and action now” by announcing himself against delay (whilst Hoover insisted “prosperity was just around the corner”). In fact, “Destruction, Delay, Deceit and Despair” seems directly targeted at Hoover and his time in office. “Deceit” refers to the fact that Hoover convinced America that the stock market worked in a “boom and bust” fashion and that it would repair itself. “Despair” was a common feature in many communities in America. During the Great Depression, under Hoover’s government, America saw a vast increase in shanty towns (nicknamed Hoovervilles). This was due to overdue taxes, rising unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, etc. “Hoovervilles” were arguably one of the heaviest burdens to overcome for the presidential candidates and Roosevelt’s New Deal and overriding theme of change certainly won over the most indigent citizens. It was Roosevelt’s infectious confidence and belief in the New Deal that enchanted America and left them with more hope and optimism than any other period of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s campaign was a tremendous success.
Although Sources B and C were both written by American historians, they have very different perspectives on the New Deal. Source B starts off by asking what the “major achievements of the New Deal” are, displaying the fact that the source has cherry-picked the most impressive and positive features of the New Deal. Source C, from a book entitled “The Roosevelt Myth”, exhibits a highly negative opinion of The New Deal and begins by firing out a bunch of unfavourable statistics.
Source B goes on to say that “Roosevelt introduced unemployment assistance...old-age pensions, and he banned child labour.” Source C, however, states and focuses on the fact that “he had 11 million unemployed” and that “the cities were filling with jobless workers”. It strongly disapproves of the level of government employment, describing the war as Roosevelt’s saving grace that majorly decreased unemployment levels. Furthermore, Source C previously mentions the fact that “one in every four people depends on employment by the government,” whereas in Source B the writer describes the Civilian Conservation Corps as a much needed organisation to keep America from destruction. It is seen more as Roosevelt giving important jobs to citizens, rather than citizens yearning for insignificant jobs from the government.
Source B describes the New Deal in an extremely positive manner and accounts various achievements of the New Deal: “restoration of self-confidence,” “physical rebuilding of the country,” “strengthening of the government”. On the other hand, Source C pushes the negatives: “national debt of $250 billion,” “inflation has doubled prices,” “reduced the lower paid to poverty.” Source B definitely expresses that the New Deal has benefited America and poured hope into the citizens. Source C proposes that the New Deal was actually detrimental towards America and its people and it was only the war that saved Roosevelt when employment levels started to decline again in 1938. After the depression, Source B describes the excitement and optimism along with the democratic nature of Roosevelt’s administration.
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Additionally, Source B talks about the “expansion of government activities to help people” through having “far greater responsibilities.” Source C views these responsibilities differently. “This gave him a power which he used ruthlessly. The only result of this will be dictatorial government. Source B counters this very argument by saying that “all power is still in the hands of the people. The can vote out of power governments they do not like. The charge that Roosevelt has been a dictator is not true.”
All three sources were published in the 1930s but they portray different messages. Source D is undoubtedly against Roosevelt, Source E is pro-Roosevelt, Source F is ambiguous and can be argued both ways.
Source D depicts Franklin D. Roosevelt pouring buckets full of water, representing money, into the “New Deal Pump.” The leaks in the pump represent the problems and imperfections of the New Deal and as a consequence, the “16 billion spent” is not helping and not enough water is coming out of the pump. Roosevelt is saying, “I hope this will make ‘er work,” showing us his many failures in the past and his somewhat ignorant attitude in terms of the New Deal – he felt it was the only way. Behind Roosevelt we can see “the taxpayer” sweating, exhausted and carrying “7 thousand millions more.” This signifies the fact that taxes were incredibly high and almost all went towards the New Deal, this Source suggests that it was wasted. Overall, the cartoon is displaying the flawed New Deal and how Roosevelt is supportive of it to the bitter end, no matter how badly it is fairing.
Source E shows us that Hoover’s policies and promises were rubbish, quite literally. Roosevelt is pictured with rolled up sleeves and no jacket, showing his readiness for action, throwing away a rusty bin of Hoover’s quotes. He is smiling and confident as he feels he is restoring the country and bringing everybody to a higher life after the Depression. Hoover promised “a chicken in every pot” and “a car in every garage”. The author is obviously supportive of the fact that Roosevelt has taken action and introduced a new way of doing things immediately after Hoover has left. “Prosperity is just around the corner” was another of Hoover’s quotes – Roosevelt was completely against just waiting for the stock market to “boom” again. Hoover is pictured lying low looking at supposedly a train timetable (without a car) which exaggerates the message that Hoover did not fulfil his promises. Overall, Source E is very much for Roosevelt and shows him at the beginning of his presidency when he had the overwhelming support of the nation.
Source F can be interpreted as being both for Roosevelt and against. It portrays a sick, old man being treated by Roosevelt with various remedies. The sick man represents America’s weak state and the remedies are the expensive Alphabet Agencies that are part of the New Deal. One could argue that Roosevelt has tried so many different remedies and nothing is working, he is failing. Roosevelt does not look sure of his remedies and has adopted a haphazard method of treating the situation. He is throwing money at the situation hoping that it will help, just like in the “New Deal pump,” but it is not working and he is running out of ideas. Congress is illustrated as an obedient nurse who is far below Roosevelt and has no input on his decisions. This implies a somewhat dictatorial government with money being wasted on hopeless remedies.
However, it could also be argues that Source F is in fact in favour of Roosevelt. The source shows Roosevelt as a doctor curing the depression of America. The Alphabet Agencies, like the National Recovery Administration, are his remedies. The NRA is pictured as the largest bottle; it was put in place to revive industry by setting out certain fair practices (such as wages, hours) and supporting labour unions. The author clearly felt it played a great part in the success/failure of Roosevelt. Roosevelt is shown with his hat off, ready to work (as in Source E) and is prepared that change may indeed be needed. “Of course we may have to change remedies if we don’t get results.” He carries the “New Deal remedies” after realisation that the others had not worked.
Overall, one can conclude that although the sources are all written in the 1930s, they have individual judgements on Franklin D. Roosevelt. Source D unmistakably is against Roosevelt, displaying him as ignorant, slap-dash and wasteful; Source E is evidently in support of Roosevelt and shows his determination to make a better tomorrow whilst Source F is questionable as to which side it is leaning to. After evaluating the points, it could be said that Source F may lean slightly towards a negative impression of Roosevelt. Nevertheless, there is a strong argument for both.
Source G is a letter sent to Roosevelt from a supporter who had been struggling financially. It was later published as part of his election campaign in 1936. Source H is an excerpt from a celebratory song in 1936.
Source G may not look reliable after knowing it has been published as part of Roosevelt’s election campaign. However, the writer was not hired to write what he wrote and these are genuine words of content. This man represents the people who cannot afford to live their old life and have been forced to apply for loans, re-mortgage their homes, etc. “The bank agreed to let our loan go on for a while longer” is a great example that shows how the public must have loved the New Deal - The Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) was a New Deal agency that was used to extend loans on home mortgages. The tone of the letter is very much casual and friendly rather than a formal thank you. This indicates that the public could relate to Roosevelt easily and feel a stronger sense of security and trust. Roosevelt amplified this by holding 30 “fireside chats” from 1933-44. Roosevelt received “up to 8,000 letters a day” that were similar to Source G, and the author of Source G definitely believes that the public have a positive opinion of Roosevelt: “we join those millions of other in praying for you every night.”
However, this letter was clearly selected as the best from a massive pile for it to be used as part of the election campaign. “I have never heard of a President like you” is highly complementary of Roosevelt and is exactly the type of evidence his campaign required. The various other letters are undoubtedly not as celebratory as this one is meaning that the source might not express the general public’s opinion, just this particular person’s. Also, the writer of Source G is a poor man – “losing the furniture” – and not everyone will have been affected in the same way. For example, the rich didn’t benefit at all from the New Deal and their taxes were raised significantly.
Source H is joyous, jubilant and optimistic. It also portrays happiness and approval of the public for Roosevelt. The fact that it is a “popular song” is very important; it shows us that it definitely was not just a one-off opinion, but widely believed throughout the USA. Lines like “we’re all working and getting our pay” show the complete assurance in Roosevelt. It also shows that schemes like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were genuinely working and had increased employment rates.
Despite its popularity, the reliability of Source H is still weak. There are historical inaccuracies such as “we’re all working” - in actual fact there was still an extremely high unemployment rate albeit lower than before. Songs are produced for entertainment purposes, and therefore the authenticity of the lyrics comes second. Facts can be changed or exaggerated to suit the tune/rhythm and ultimately voice a somewhat incorrect message. Also, similarly to Source G, it does not portray the opinion of the Republicans or the rich.
After studying the sources, one would argue that Source H is more useful. This is because although the lyrics may be slightly exaggerated, the mood and opinion of the public cannot be altered too much. Conclusively, the public were not going to enjoy a song that disagrees with their personal beliefs. The fact that Source G is a one-off letter that was used in Roosevelt’s election campaign is enough to consider it almost useless. There are bound to be hardcore supporters, and indeed adversaries, of a presidential candidate. The public opinion towards the New Deal was most certainly optimistic and merry like the song.
Sources I and J are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the New Deal. Source I is strongly against it whilst J is firmly supportive of it. The reason they disagree so greatly is mainly to do with their position in society and their occupations. Whilst Source I is written by S. B. Fuller, a “self-made businessman”, Source J is written by the Secretary of Labour in Roosevelt’s New Deal government, Frances Perkins.
Source J’s opening line is “The New Deal meant that ordinary people would have a better chance in life.” S. B. Fuller is in utter disagreement with the New Deal as he feels that it is an easy way out. He built himself up from a deprived background to become a profoundly successful entrepreneur and believed that everybody else could do this too. He is a prime example of “rugged individualism” and also is a full-blown Republican that believes in a “laissez-faire” style government. “Welfare kills a man’s initiative” tells us that Fuller feels greatly that the New Deal is doing too much. The notion that the New Deal was doing too much was not a new one, many Republicans and sections of the business community felt this way. Schemes like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) were unpopular as it was considered unfair competition for private companies. Furthermore, some people felt that the economic plans taking place were much like the Communist USSR ones and not suitable for the democratic USA. Fuller says, “[Roosevelt] thinks it’s right to give...when you give to people, you hurt them” showing us that he believed that people (“lost confidence in themselves”) were discouraged from working hard as the taxes were so high for those who earned a lot. Instead, people chose an easy life where they got money for doing nothing or useless jobs. Fuller believes this is because Roosevelt himself had an easy life as he was given everything he needed and now he is using that approach to rule the USA.
Frances Perkins takes an altogether different view on the New Deal and supported her good friend Roosevelt dearly. She views the situation in a much more socialist manner than Fuller, aiming to please the majority of the USA, regardless of the potential unfairness. She believed that “the rich had been hard hit too, but at least they had something left,” and sympathised with the poor. Frances was a close friend of Roosevelt’s and a loyal supporter, writing about her friendship with him in her book, “The Roosevelt I Knew.” She was an advocate of the New Deal and had confidence that Roosevelt was doing the right thing. In her opinion schemes like the Agricultural Adjustment Act were crucial for “desperate people” like “the farmer who worked the soil.” She had never known what it was like to be “desperate” but still had confidence that the New Deal was giving the American people what they could not do themselves.
Fuller and Perkins disagree so tremendously due to the fact that they both grew up so differently. Fuller feels he was in the same position that the poor are in now (after the Depression) and that they are taking the lazy route and feeding off the government. Perkins, however, insists that they are indeed “desperate.” She calls it “a better chance in life” but Fuller thinks that the poor are not even attempting to make a life. The context of Source J is a remembrance of Roosevelt, two years after his death, making it relatively unreliable seeing as it is extremely unlikely that she would speak badly of him. Overall, the sources disagree because they’re writers come from such contrasting backgrounds and work in dissimilar sectors.
The New Deal certainly solved major economic issues after the Great Depression and boosted employment in tough times. It was a breath of hope for the people of America and it encouraged them like never before. However, even the New Deal had its problems. National debt and inflation decreased drastically while Roosevelt was in office and not all Americans were benefited by the New Deal. Overall, the New Deal was a success that was slowly weakening America. The war marked a turning point in employment figures and saved Roosevelt’s leadership as well.
Although Source A was written before Roosevelt was elected and he put the New Deal into place, we can still gain a lot of knowledge about the motives and goals of the New Deal. Roosevelt calls out to the people and almost begs them to buy into his idea of change and action. He expresses his intentions to “restore America” and to fight “against Destruction, Delay, Deceit and Despair” which were all fields that Hoover’s “laissez-faire” tactic failed to address. Roosevelt exudes confidence and determination through his speech and in turn wins over the nation. Source A shows us that America were assured by Roosevelt and were convinced he was the way forward for the USA. It also grounds the basis for a restoration of confidence in the citizens of America. Source B describes the incredible amount of “excitement and hope,” especially after the Great Depression.
Employment rose tremendously when Roosevelt was elected President and it was all down to the New Deal. The Civilian Conservation Corps employed “three million young men” alone, but it was also joined by agencies such as the PWA, NRA and TVA. Source B explains the outstanding venture into physically rebuilding the country and creating jobs as a consequence. After the Great Depression and Hoover’s failure to boost employment, any available jobs were a godsend. Roosevelt provided millions and therefore was forced to increase taxes. Source E displays a bin of Hoover’s quotes being thrown out by Roosevelt. One of the quotes is “rugged individualism,” something which the President didn’t rely on at all, believing that it was his job to provide for the desperately poor. Source H portrays the optimistic public opinion of employment – “we’re all working and getting our pay.” Moreover, Source J defends Roosevelt’s decision to create more jobs at the expense of the country by explaining the “desperate” situation the poorest were in.
Nevertheless, not everyone justifies the decision to raise taxes and inflation to provide the poorest with a “better chance in life.” Source C lists the abysmal statistics of Roosevelt’s leadership: “one in every four people depends on employment by the government...national debt of $250billion...inflation has doubled prices.” It goes on to describe his management as a “dictatorial government” where Congress had no power. Source D depicts Roosevelt pouring more and more water into a leaking “New Deal Pump” representing the fact that extortionate amounts of money were going into the New Deal without substantial results. “The taxpayer” is also shown adding even more money and struggling under the weight of it. All of this tells us that Roosevelt is wasteful, ignorant and the New Deal simply isn’t good enough to restore America. Source F could also be interpreted to be saying that the Alphabet Agencies did not help cure America, and Roosevelt has to find a new solution. Meanwhile, a submissive Congress lingers in his shadow. Republicans, the rich, and some businesses were not benefited by the New Deal whatsoever. In fact they were considerably damaged by it. Source I is written by a self-made successful businessman who is now having to pay immensely overpriced taxes as a result of his hard work. In addition, his money is being used to feed those who are not working. Some felt that the New Deal schemes were more similar to those of Communist USSR than the democratic USA.
By 1938, the New Deal seemed to have come and gone. Roosevelt had “11 million unemployed...cities filling with jobless workers...taxes rising...debt was soaring” and had lost some of the confidence of America. Many historians argue that the New Deal merely tricked the unemployed into thinking they’re problem were over. They may continue by saying that it was only World War Two which actually got America out of the depression. Roosevelt certainly did an amazing job of bringing out confidence and determination in the Americans and managed keep the economy at a relatively steady pace for at least 4 years. Source I, however, feels it was the wrong kind of confidence; it expresses that although the Americans had confidence in Roosevelt, “men lost confidence in themselves” and were too enclosed by the easy, boondoggling lifestyle that they didn’t have the motivation to work hard and earn a living for themselves.
In conclusion, one could establish that the New Deal had its fair share of success and failure, as well as controversy. Writings like Source G praise Roosevelt and the New Deal immensely but clash with the opinions of others such as Source I. Although the New Deal created jobs for millions of men, it was by no means a costless effort. The amount of money put into the New Deal, and consequently taken from the American people, could be said to have outweighed the good that has come out of it. Nonetheless, no-one doubts the fact that Roosevelt physically rebuilt the country and provided jobs for desperate citizens. The New Deal hardly solved America’s economic problems at all, especially after the slight increase in unemployment in 1938. The Second World War was the critical moment in the turnaround of the American economy. I believe that the New Deal was a favourable idea that wasn’t executed to its full potential. Roosevelt managed to deliver in almost every other part of his presidency, including “fireside chats.” The sources are more supportive of the New Deal than not, but fully show both sides of the argument. I think that the paper ultimately allows the reader to decipher and choose whether or not the New Deal was a complete success. The New Deal did not, however, completely solve America’s economic problems. Au contraire, it was merely a short term boost of confidence and employment for the depressed and desperate people.
Ben Walsh OCR GCSE Modern World History Third Edition