Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an American President who was the first and the last president of the United States to serve and become elected for more than two terms. Also referred to as FDR, by his initials, Franklin Roosevelt, during his serving period, introduced communications, finance, and labor regulatory reforms that received major recognition in the United States. Franklin Roosevelt, to his fate, was sworn in and elected during the Great Depression and went straight down with developing policies to bring the country back on its feet. Let us revisit history and try to understand the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and its impacts during the most crucial times.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Foreign Policy
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s obsession with domestic policy was nothing that could be kept hidden. By 1939, it was quite evident that the foreign policy was being overshadowed by domestic policy. Even though Roosevelt initially did not agree with the idea of international currency stabilization, by 1936 he had the dollar well-balanced in the market and had signed stabilization agreements with France and Great Britain. While there was that, Roosevelt at the same time worked on improving relations with the Soviet Union’s government, and by launching and initiating the Good Neighbor Policy with Latin America had agreed to bring down the barriers and ease trade between the U.S and other countries.
On the other hand, Congress was ruled by isolationists, who were of the view that America cannot be drawn into another war. Starting with 1935’s Neutrality act, Congress introduced several laws that would limit America’s involvement with belligerent nations. While Roosevelt agreed to the laws, he however at the same time warned about the isolation and its impacts it could have on America while Italy, Germany, and Japan were experiencing an increase in dictatorial regimes. Then, Roosevelt, in October 1937, had called out all the friendly nations to join hands to quarantine aggressors. Even though what he meant was nothing more than breaking diplomatic relations, but his speech had created so much panic that he had to take a step back.
Later during the year in December, Japan had attacked and sunk USS Panay, an American gunboat, which again gave rise to fear amongst the public that another war was awaiting. However, opposed to the fear, the public was pleased when Roosevelt accepted the apology of the Japanese. When World War II broke out, Roosevelt had called on Congress to review the neutrality acts so that both France and Britain could be allowed to purchase American arms on a “cash-and-carry” basis. While the objection of the isolationists still prevailed, the policy was enacted.
Upon France losing to Germany in the summer of 1940 and Britain standing alone to face the Nazis, Roosevelt again successfully convinced the Congress to help Britain. As a result, 50 old destroyers in exchange for eight naval bases were sent by Roosevelt to Great Britain, who was feared to undergo an invasion.
The First New Deal
After assuming power, Franklin Roosevelt introduced several bills that were focused on solving the economic troubles of America. The first new deal was aimed at providing relief and jobs to the needy in addition to stabilizing the financial system and rescuing the capitalist economy of America as well. Franklin Roosevelt began improving the relationship between the government and businesses by forming a partnership and introducing the federal government as playing a significant role in the political and economic life of Americans.
Finance and Banking
Upon being sworn into power, the first thing Franklin Roosevelt went after were the banks. Since the country was going through a terrible phase, the need for stabilizing the banking system was the only way for the country to survive. FDR, in response, introduced a “bank holiday” that would apply across the entire country, preventing depositors from withdrawing money from the banks that were faltering.
Furthermore, Congress was called into an emergency session, and a banking proposal was introduced to save the banking system. The proposal proposed to reopen the banks that were already stable and solvent while organizing the ones that could be saved and, finally, closing those that could not be repaired. Furthermore, FDR communicated with the American public through a fireside chat and assured the public that their money would be safe while the banks were reopened. As a result, the bank vaults received nearly $1 billion in return by the American public.
FDR’s policies to stabilize the financial axis of the country were impressive as well. Several reforms were introduced solely to resuscitate the financial system of the country. For instance, the Securities Act, signed in May 1993, regulated the corporations and stockholders to communicate accurate information to the investors about stocks. The Glass-Steagall Act in June 1993 gave birth to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which ensured that the savings of the average American citizen were not only saved but also limited the engagement of commercial banks in investment banking. The Securities and Exchange Commission you see today was introduced as part of the same efforts to regulate the financial markets.
Jobs and Relief
In 1933, considering the starving situation of the country as well as the needs of the unemployed, several relief programs were introduced. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, for instance, helped the states to pay off the unemployed by making direct cash allocations. The Civilian Conservation Corps allowed 300,000 young men to earn a living by participating in building bridges, tree planting, and cleaning the beaches. Even though the Conservatives were not all that positive about the moves, but in reality, the programs did help the nation, particularly the starved and the unemployed young individuals who had nowhere to go.
Rural America and Agriculture
Franklin Roosevelt was hopeful that he could revive the agricultural sector by introducing several reforms. The Agricultural Adjustment Act is one such example. Both FDR and his advisers believed that overproduction had resulted in price-dropping and plummeting of the income of farmers due to glut in the farm market. The program was designed to help the farmers by providing cash incentives if they agreed to cut the production. The program witnessed more than three million farmers shaking hands with the government’s program and resulted in an increase of 50% in the farm market between 1932 and 1935. However, as with most of FDR’s policies, the AAA program as well received a lot of criticism as it was believed that it only helped the large farm owners instead of the poor African and White American sharecroppers and tenant farmers.
The Second New Deal
As the first hundred days of Franklin Roosevelt passed, there was still a significant need for better reforms and policies to create an overall better America. However, it had regenerated hopes amongst the public that the economy could and would revive. The New Deal had for sure alienated the conservatives in addition to many businessmen, but it had the support of the public. The Second New Deal took off in 1935, which included hallmark measures such as the Social Security Act, the Wagner Act, and the Works Progress Administration. The Social Security Act was introduced and designed to provide social security to every American citizen, along with disability and unemployment insurance and old-age pensions.
The Works Progress Administration focused on sharpening the skills of the unemployed individuals by offering them work on different projects related to construction of bridges, roads, public buildings and airports, culture, and artistic programs such as public mural painting and writing regional and local histories. Lastly, the Wagner Act was installed to look after the disputes of labor and allowed them to bargain collectively and equally. Moreover, a significant tax revision was passed as well, which would impose bigger tax rates on individuals and corporations that were comparatively earning better than the average American citizen or corporation. Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts did show results up to some extent but at the cost of many well-developed and settled corporations and businessmen, respectively, who severely criticized the government. The response was quite natural, but considering the situation of the country, Franklin Roosevelt just did what was needed and, in return, earned himself two more terms in the coming years.
In the end, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a president who was equally admired and criticized for his decisions and policies. However, one cannot deny that not only did it help the starving and the unemployed but also prevented the country from becoming a complete wreck. As with any President, who strives to earn the trust of the public, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did the same with Americans. His policies did have their dark side, but as believed by many critics and historians, it could not have been done any better. Therefore, today, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s legacy as a brilliant politician who helped America through the darkest period, seems intact and secure.