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Activist Federal Government

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America’s Activist Journey

“The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government or economics, or whether a system of government or economics exists to serve individual men and women…(p135,doc1)”. Since 1776 when our Declaration of Independence was signed, the government’s involvement in the peoples lives, domestically and internationally has always been a controversial issue. Since then, an activist federal government has had a positive effect and managed to supplement our economy in two major ways; one that enlarged the job market and two, minimized the level of poverty within our nation. International trade has always been the secret to a powerful economy, and with the rise of industrialism and our middle position between tensions of foreign nations we had to decide how much our (until recently) “hands off” government should intervene.

The Americans were plagued with fatigue, underemployment, hunger, and depression at the start of the 1930’s, still recuperating from the stock market crash of ’29 and the non-involvement policies of a non-activist government. Rich or poor, no one escaped from the throws of debt, and led the public to search for a solution in Government that would give them a sympathetic friend and guide. That solution became Franklin Roosevelt, who on the campaign trail, reached out to the working class, and used his words not only to inspire the people, but offered efforts of relief with his “New Deal.” The New Deal gave hope to restore employment and to regulate wages, hours, and working conditions.

Winning a landslide election in 1933, Roosevelt declared in his inauguration speech that, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.(p860)” As a man who was willing to try anything, he immediately presented his New Deal, which was his first attempt to amend the depression by giving immediate relief (social security), recovery (economic), and reform (structural). This was an extremely positive achievement for the overwhelmed administration. Roosevelt’s New Deal ensured that America would never secede into another depression again. In the first 100 days, five legislations went into effect that began America’s relief. The Emergency Banking Act involved first, Roosevelt closing every bank, calling it a “bank holiday” to inspect each one to ensure that they were stable. After declaring the bank stable, the government authorized the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) to supply funds (p862). This was significant because people had been withdrawing their funds because the declining market and banks weren’t able to supply loans that would increase the money flow. By instituting this act, people trusted their banks and began depositing money once again which made it possible for national spending to circulate. The Agricultural Adjustment (AAA) and the National Industrial Recovery Acts (NIRA) were just as significant in the first steps to recuperation. The AAA provided credit on mortgaged properties to head off foreclosures that would drive debt-ridden farmers from their homes, as well as minimize the surplus that farmers were creating (p866). This was beneficial because it allowed the manufactured goods to gain value and allowed businesses to turn profits rather than build more debt. The NIRA supplemented laborers in much the same way, with its objective being to coordinate management, labor, and the federal government though a network of industrial codes that governed working conditions, prices, and trade practices (p867). The act ultimately empowered labor unions, which was a breath of fresh air to millions of laborers who were under worked, underpaid, and/or unemployed. It opened up jobs nationwide, along with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which employed young men. It took young men out of overcrowded cities and acted against the depression by conserving America’s natural resources, and were paid extremely well ($30 a month) which achieved significant results among the communities. Through the CCC, the workers erected dams, replenished forests to check dust storms in the southwest, strung 83,000 miles of telephone wires, constructed 122,000 miles of minor roads and rails, and located 23,000 new water sources to provide for the nation at its darkest hour (p865). Although the successes of these acts were small relative to the depressions depth, it was enough to give hope to a dreary nation. Roosevelt however still had yet a greater challenge, and that was foreign policy.

While America was struggling, politics overseas were increasingly becoming impossible to ignore. Adolf Hitler was rising to power in Germany, and by 1938 had already taken control of parts of France and Austria, and the entirety of Czechoslovakia. Japan was taking control in the far east, and launched invasions into China in 1933. Recognizing that these events did not yet affect America, the Roosevelt administration instituted 3 separate Neutrality Acts to protect our shaky economy, which was best at the time because at a point where we could not feed ourselves, fighting strong nation’s with starving stomachs was not an option. Although involvement in the war was inevitable, Roosevelt had to prolong taking part as long as possible to give our markets time to stabilize enough to support armies and warfare. The depression had forced Roosevelt to retreat from his internationalism, but knew he must recognize that the growing aggression surrounding us. He responded by establishing the largest expansion of the US Navy since 1916, building our defenses to protect our faltering economy. By 1940, as Japanese armies crept closer to Southeast Asia, which was controlled by our US government, we sent warnings and eventually set an embargo against Japan, hoping to bring their invasions to a halt by depriving them of their oil, which we supplied. The effect of this embargo became bittersweet as we curled in turmoil December 7 when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese armies sent our invitation to join the war. The government immediately reacted and the number of jobs



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