President Franklin Roosevelt

.. a Democratic party majority in both houses helped speed things along. What emerged from these 100 days was a 3-fold focus, RELIEF-RECOVERY-REFORM. One of the relief actions was known as the Emergency Relief Act. This established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and he pushed an appropriation of $500 million to be spent immediately for quick relief.

The Reforestation Act of 1933 killed two birds with one stone. First, it helped stop and repair some of the environmental damage that had occurred as a result of the industrial revolution. More importantly, however, it created the Civilian Conservation Corps, which eventually employed more than 2 1/2 million men at various camps. Projects included reforestation, road construction, soil erosion and flood control as well as national park development. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) was designed to raise crop prices and raise the standard of living for American farmers. Production was cut to increase demand, therefore raising the price. Also, various subsides were set up to add to the farmers income.

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It also gave the president the power to inflate the currency by devaluating its gold content or the free coinage of silver and issue about $3 billion in paper currency. The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), another recovery measure, was designed to balance the interests of business and labor and consumers/workers and to reduce unemployment. This act set codes of anti-trust laws and fair competition, as well as setting a new standard still existing today- minimum wage. NIRA also established the Public Works Administration (PWA), which supervised the building of roads and public buildings at a cost of $3.3 billion to Uncle Sam. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was the first agency to work much like a private enterprise. The goal of the TVA was to reform one of the poorest parts of the country, the Tennessee River Valley. The TVA was responsible for the construction and management of power plants, dams, electricity, flood control systems and the development of navigation systems.

The Federal Securities Act required the government to register and approve all issues of stocks and bonds. This act also created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates exchanges and transactions of securities. Other reforms included the HomeOwners Refinancing Act, which established mortgage money for homeowners to refinance and the Banking Act of 1933, which created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It was empowered to guarantee individual bank deposits up to $5000. After the initial 100 days, reform continued throughout the first part of the Roosevelt Administration. FDR was also empowered to fix the values of the dollar by weighing its value in gold.

He later set the price of gold at $35 per ounce, which in turn stabilized markets. The Silver Purchase Act followed, allowing the government to have not only gold in the Treasury, but silver as well- valued at 1/3 the price of gold. In Roosevelt’s Annual Address to Congress on January 4, 1935, he outlined phase two of the New Deal. The federal government would withdraw from the direct relief, leaving it up to state and local governments. A program of social reforms would also be included in the second half of the New Deal.

This would include social security for the aged, unemployed and ill, as well as slum clearance and better housing. One of the first acts of the New Deal, Phase II was the Emergency Relief Act. By Executive Order, Roosevelt created three new relief agencies in 1935. The first would be the Work Progress Administration (WPA), which would spend $11 billion on temporary construction jobs. This increased the national purchasing power.

Another part of the Emergency Relief Act was the Resettlement Administration (RA). Its goals were to improve the condition of farm families not already benefiting from AAA, prevent waste by unprofitable farming operations or improper land use and projects such as flood control and reforestation. Another aid to the farmer was the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). Its goals were to provide electricity to isolated areas where private utility companies did not see it profitable to run lines and set up service. The year of 1935 brought with it numerous reform efforts.

These were the final efforts of the New Deal before the nation geared up for war. A Revenue Act of 1935 capped off the New Deal with a tax on the rich and a tax break on the middle class. One of the most important and lasting effects of the Roosevelt Administration was his into push for the Social Security Act of 1935. This was an innovative plan that was supposed to lead to a nation-wide retirement system. A tax was levied on the employee, which was met dollar for dollar by the employer.

This tax went into a special fund operated by the Social Security Administration. Later in life, when a person reached retirement, they could draw the money out of this account that they had placed in for the last few decades. The Supreme Court was fairly conservative, and attempted to shoot holes in many of Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs. It felt that Roosevelt had taken his legislative presidential power to recommend legislation too far, and that Congress was equally responsible for allowing him to usurp the powers for reasons of what Roosevelt claimed was a national emergency. FDR was infuriated at the actions of the Court. He thought of them as nine old men who were living in days gone by– far too conservative to see the economic and social needs of today.

He soon began to plan retribution. Two days after inviting the Justices to a formal social function at the White House, he called upon his staff to write up the Judicial Reform Act of 1937. Essentially, this document alleged that the Judicial Branch of the federal government was overwhelmed. The Act described a desperate situation in which reform and recovery issues were not flowing through government on a timely basis–simply because the Supreme Court was backed up. His answer to solve the dilemma was to use his executive power of appointment and place more Justices on the Court. Another section of the Act suggested that at age 70 (most of the Justices were above this age), each Justice would be supplemented with an additional Justice.

This meant up to 15 Supreme Court Justices serving at one time. Roosevelt hoped to load the Court with social liberal Democrats who would not oppose his New Deal Programs. This became known as his Court Packing Scheme. After a long period of embarrassing debate, the Senate rejected Roosevelt’s proposal. This, in turn, caused Roosevelt to reject the Senate.

Roosevelt used his diplomatic and military powers in the later part of his Administration nearly as much as he used his executive and legislative powers in the first half. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, America became even more concerned with its own problems. However, seeing the importance of a global view and seeing the possible impact of World War II, Roosevelt directed the country toward nations abroad. Roosevelt described his foreign policy as that of a good neighbor. The phrase came to be used to describe the US attitude toward the countries of Latin America.

Under the policy, the United States took a stronger lead in promoting good will among these nations. Roosevelt was the first to sign reciprocal trade agreements with the Latin American countries, including Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua. In 1935, the US signed treaties of non-aggression and conciliation with six Latin American nations. This desire to spread ties across the Western Hemispheres led to reciprocal trade agreements with Canada. Roosevelt also used personal diplomacy by taking trips to various Latin American nations.

In July 1934, he became the first American president to visit South American in his trip to Columbia. In 1936, he attended the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace, in Buenos Aires. Roosevelt used his diplomatic power of recognition to resume trading between the Soviet Union and the US. The recognition was given to the Soviet government in November of 1933. This was the first attempt at civil relations since the Russian Revolution in 1917.

In 1933, for the first time in 16 years, the two nations exchanged representatives. In 1937, Japan, at war with China, attacked a US river gunboat, the USS Panay, on the Yangtze River, killing two US citizens. This event infuriated the American public as well as the Roosevelt Administration. However, the US protested the Japanese action rather than demanding action taken against them. Roosevelt used his diplomatic power and refused to recognize the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in Northern China until there was an official apology.

Shortly after Roosevelt’s statement, Japan made an official apology to the US and offends to pay for the damages in full. It is without question that FDR is one of the greatest leaders ever to grave the face of this earth. From his powerful, motivational speeches, to the fact that he was the leader of the most powerful nation in the world for 16 years, the facts are perfectly clear. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is well-deserving as being selected as the Outstanding Individual of the Twentieth Century. Biographies.


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