Sunday, November 13, 2011

FDR's New Deal

The First New Deal

I)       Poor People’s Campaigns

A)    Communist Party and Unemployed Council – led the agitation for rent relief and anti-eviction actions, as well as for direct relief, in many large cities.  The Communist Party was not the only left-wing political party active in this type of activity, however; the Socialist Party was active, as well as the American Workers’ Party, led by A.J. Muste (a former minister)

1)      Sharecroppers’ Union – active in Alabama, helping croppers fight for their rights; one such organizer, named Angelo Herndon, was charged and convicted of inciting insurrection in the States

2)      Scottsboro – role of Communist Party in publicizing this miscarriage of justice, as well as paying for the defense of the Scottsboro Seven (or the Scottsboro Boys, as they were popularly known at the time), increased the popularity of the party in the African American community.

3)      Ford Hunger March – from Detroit to River Rouge plant in Dearborn; Ford shutdown had forced more than 60,000 people onto relief rolls in Detroit.  A crowd of about 3,000 people marched, and were met with tear gas, fire hoses (in sub-zero weather), and bullets from the Dearborn police and the Ford Service Bureau thugs.  Four people were killed and more then 60 were injured; the funeral procession attracted 20,000 marchers while thousands more observed.

B)     Bonus Marchers – Congress had promised each veteran of WWI a bonus to be paid in 1945; 20,000 were soon camped out on the Mall to urge an immediate payment, which the House passed by the Senate did not.  In July, the Hoover administration decided to evict the protestors, which McArthur did with tanks, tear gas, and bullets.  Most American people were repelled by this action when they saw it on newsreels, and even more so when Hoover defended this action.

II)     1932 Presidential Election

A)    Hoover’s popularity – Hoover, of course, was hugely unpopular; most of the blame and frustration with the economic woes most people were facing were placed upon him.

B)     Franklin Delano Roosevelt – promised to balance the federal budget (Hoover was running the largest peace-time budget deficit in the country’s history at this time) and trim the federal payroll; his stand on religion and drink were completely unexamined during the campaign (much to his benefit).  Roosevelt campaigned on the slogan “A New Deal for the American People.”

1)      Background – patrician (meaning he came from old money, as did his cousin TR).  In many ways, he tried to model his political career with that of his cousin’s—he served as New York assemblyman, secretary of the Navy, and he was the Democratic Party’s choice to run as Vice-President in 1920.  In 1921 he was stricken with polio, and was never able to walk without some kind of assistance after that.  That he was able to make a political comeback from this disease was due in large part to the assistance of his wife, his second cousin Eleanor.

2)      FDR won 57% of the popular vote (against an immensely unpopular Republican candidate); the only state that he lost outside of New England was Pennsylvania.

III)  First 100 Days – this has often been treated by historians as the implementation of the Roosevelt “plan;” however, Roosevelt operated during this time period without any plan, and often under conflicting advice from his advisors.  Most of the actions taken during these 100 days were forced upon the administration by events.

A)    March 1933 Bank Holiday – the first action that Roosevelt took during his administration was to order all banks closed to prevent a “run.”  Banks were allowed to reopen when they were able to prove that they were solvent.  While this sounds like a very drastic measure, it should be pointed out that 36 states had already closed the banks they chartered (and at this time there were only 48 states). This caused some temporary hardships, but as banks reopened they did so with the assurance that they were solvent—and thanks to the insistence of Michigan Republican Arthur H. Vandenberg, the federal government now protected bank deposits up to $2,500 through the predecessor of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

B)     Fireside Chats – FDR became the first president to regularly use the radio to communicate with the American people.  FDR used a friendly, conversational tone on the radio, and many people came to look upon the president as a personal friend, someone who was interested in their welfare.  Because he also came to embody the government, many people came to see the government as directly interested in their welfare, as well.

C)     “Alphabet Agencies” – these agencies were populated with young Jewish and Catholic intellectuals, who were largely unwelcome in the Protestant-dominated business world.

1)      Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) – the agency charged with providing funds for the unemployed.  Although the agency did hand out direct relief, much of the relief that people received they had to work for.

2)      Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – largely served young adult males; moved city boys into the country (away from those corrupting influences) to work on conservation projects.

3)      Civil Works Administration (CWA) – small scale public works projects, mainly road-building.

4)      Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) – implemented a whole series of laws and policies to assist farmers; restored “parity”; government made payments to farmers for NOT planting crops, which acted to decrease the supply and force prices upward.  The timing of the implementation of this piece of legislation meant that many farmers had to destroy crops that were already planted as well as livestock.

(a)    Who benefited? – most of the benefit of these policies went to larger and corporate farmers, who could take more land out of cultivation

(i)     Southern Tenant Farmer’s Union – formed to protest this development; it was a bi-racial group, which of course was threatening to those in power in the South, and therefore was swiftly and violently put down (evictions, and attacks on road side camps)

5)      Public Works Administration (PWA) – funded larger building projects, like University Hall and the Glass Bowl, as well as much of the expansion of the Toledo Zoo, and eventually a new public library.

6)      Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – provided flood control for the Tennessee Valley (the Tennessee River flows northward from Alabama, through Tennessee and Kentucky to the Ohio River); the dams for this flood control also brought cheap electricity, which attracted industrial development in the area as well.

7)      National Recovery Agency (NRA) – perhaps the most famous of the alphabet agencies was the NRA. What the NRA proposed to do was to foment the development of cartels in the US economy—that is, to encourage the formation of monopolies. It was thought at the time that this would help stifle cut-throat competition, because companies would be allowed to collude together to fix prices and divide the market between themselves.

(a)    Section 7a – in return for being allowed to form cartels, businesses were to allow employees to join unions “of their own choosing.” This section was ambiguous on the point of whether these had to be independent unions, or whether they could be company unions. United Mine Workers president, however, sent organizers into the field with the message that “The President wants you to join the union.”

(b)   The NRA was overturned by the Supreme Court, and was the impetus for Roosevelt’s attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court (which had to this point blocked much of the New Deal legislation).

(c)    The NRA, headed by the mercurial (and possibly unstable) Gen. Hugh Johnson, had largely failed before it was killed by the Supreme Court. Compliance to the NRA codes was largely voluntary, and therefore businesses often failed to comply. Additionally, the union provision proved unsatisfactory to both businesses (who were, for the most part, extremely reluctant to work with labor unions) and labor (who were disappointed that Section 7a allowed the creation of company unions to compete with them).

The Second New Deal

I)       Works Projects (Progress) Administration (WPA) 1935-1942

A)    Productive jobs – WPA employees saw themselves as workers and citizens, not welfare cases; workers received nearly double to rate of pay of workers on earlier programs (although, at FDR’s insistence, still below the rate of the private sector, so that no one would be tempted to live on government largess), and they were exchanging their labor for money, just as they had during their employment in the private sector

B)    8,000,000 people put to work during the life of the life of the program

1)      Toledo – Anthony Wayne Trail, Toledo Zoo

2)      Cleveland – numerous bridges, Memorial Stadium

3)      The Ohio State guide series

C)    Popular Culture and the New Deal

1)      Art

(a)    Murals – numerous murals were painted in public buildings, inspired by Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco (local examples include the Perrysburg Post Office and various buildings at the Toledo Zoo).

2)      Federal Writers Project

(a)    State guides – government funded “guides” were produced for each of the 48 states; larger cities also got their own guides.

(b)   Slave narratives

(c)    Narratives of immigrants and cowboys, as well

3)      Federal Music Project

(a)    Created 34 symphony orchestras

(b)   Sponsored numerous dance bands

(c)    Collection of folk music (Alan Lomax)

4)      Federal Theater Project – perhaps the most controversial of the federal projects

(a)    Living newspaper – writers and actors collaborating to produce drama out of recent news, and dramatizing current events.

(b)   Ethnic theater groups – Yiddish, Spanish language.

5)      Photography – not strictly WPA; photographers were also hired by the Department of Agriculture, and particularly the Farm Security Administration.  The photographers often were able to publish their photographs in popular magazines of the day.  When viewing these photographs today, one should keep in mind that these photographers were hired to take photographs by government agencies, in the expectation that these materials would help the government build its case for specific government programs.

6)      Cultural forces outside of government

(a)    Woody Guthrie

(b)   John Steinbeck – Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men

(c)    Warner Brothers Studio – the unofficial house studio of the New Deal; Jack Warner was FDR’s main supporter in Hollywood, outside of the acting and production talent.

7)      Screen Actors Guild – although established earlier, the Screen Actors Guild becomes more of a force to be reckoned with during this time period (in fact, a second banana actor named Ronald Reagan begins a second career when he rises to the presidency of the organization in the 1950s).

II)    Social Security Act (1935) – now synomomous with an old age pension, the program encompassed much more than this at its inception; it was an attempt to build a European-style welfare state, with cradle-to-grave coverage.

A)    Help for the elderly

1)      Immediate aid – a whopping $15 a month

2)      Federal pension financed by payroll tax split evenly between workers and employers

B)    Unemployment insurance – administered at the state level, which meant that compensation was higher in the north than in the south; the program was meant to counteract the insecurity caused working families caused by temporary layoffs.

C)    Political, rather than fiscal, issue – because the program was supported by a tax paid by workers and employers (for whom the workers produced a profit), workers felt that they had “earned” benefits, which made it appear to them (and some of the more conservative elected officials who represented them).

D)    Aid to Dependent Children – granted on a monthly basis, after a social worker visited the family to ascertain their needs.

E)     Racial Inequalities – as the potential for more non-whites began to receive these benefits, the benefits became more controversial.

1)      Racial code of the Social Security Act – the act excluded, at the insistence of Southern legislators, agricultural workers and domestic servants—or about 60% of the African American workforce.

2)      Sharecroppers and farm laborers – excluded from benefiting from unemployment insurance, as well

3)      Disparities in Aid to Dependent Children – families in Arkansas received approximately 1/8 of the total aid given to families in Massachusetts

F)     Fair Labor Standards Act – ended ½ day on Saturdays as a usual workday, and made the 40-hour week standard nation wide; the FLSA also pegged the minimum wage to Southern wages of textile and lumber workers, in the hopes of eventually raising those rates.

G)    Wagner Act – officially known as the National Labor Relations Act, but named for its Senate sponsor, Robert Wagner of New York.

1)      Hoped to answer two problems

(a)    Industrial unrest and social turmoil – as was seen in the labor actions in 1934

(b)   Wage stagnation and under consumption – these two problems were seen by an increasing number of people in the New Deal as the reason for the Depressions grip on the economy of the country.

III) Rise of the CIO – initially these letters stood for the Committee for Industrial Organization; after the break away from the AFL, the organization became known as the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

A)    Formed in the fall of 1935 – by unionists inside the AFL who believed that unions had to begin organizing workers by industry to begin combating the economic clout of large corporations.

1)      John L. Lewis – president of the UMW; to this point Lewis was an autocratic leader (and he remained that in the UMW).  Lewis’ change of heart was probably dictated by his unions inability to organize “captive” mines—that is, the mines owned by the steel companies

(a)    Communist organizers – Lewis utilized numerous Communist and Socialist organizers in his drive, mainly because of their superior organizing results.  When asked if he were concerned that these organizers might persuade workers to join these other organization, Lewis replied, “Who gets the pheasant, the dog or the hunter?”

B)    Flint Sit-Down Strike (1936-1937) – in many ways, this strike was the defining moment for the early CIO, and certainly for the fledgling United Automobile Workers (UAW).

1)      GM employed 80% of the Flint workforce at this time, either directly or indirectly, so the economic impact of the company on the community was huge, and the corporation could usually rely upon city government to be compliant with their wishes.

2)      GM workers began strikes around the country in November and December of 1936.

(a)    Toledo GM workers – had successfully struck the Chevrolet Transmission plant on Central Avenue in the spring of 1935, with hardly any violence; many Toledo union members had advocated asking other GM workers to go out on strike as well—in fact, a caravan drove to Flint.  The AFL representative actively discouraged this action, however.  The corporation responded by pulling out half the machinery in the plant over a Thanksgiving lay over, with a resultant loss in jobs.

(b)   UAW plan – the leadership of the union planned to strike Fisher Body plants in Cleveland and Flint after the start of the year, when workers received a bonus from the corporation, and more labor-friendly administrations took office in Ohio and Michigan

3)      The Sit-Down Strike – this tactic allowed a militant minority to shape events; by occupying the building, workers were able to ensure that their would be no scab replacements—and that the threat of attacks on the workers would be minimized because they were inside with all of the expensive machinery

(a)    First utilized in Akron – this tactic was first used by tire workers in Akron, even if Flint workers get most of the credit

(b)   Battle of Bulls Run (January 11, 1937)

(c)    Workers seizure of Chevrolet Plant #2 forced GM to bargaining table.

IV) Presidential politics

A)    1936 Presidential election

1)      Roosevelt Landslide – Roosevelt used a great deal of populist rhetoric in the election, calling the Republican Party “economic royalists” and “organized money.”

2)      Roosevelt won 60% of the popular votes cast (greater than his victory over Hoover), and the electoral votes of every state except Maine and Vermont.

(a)    African American vote – by 1936, African Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of FDR over the Republican standard-bearer, in a reversal over long-standing tendencies to vote for the party of Lincoln.  This occurs, despite some discriminatory practices in New Deal programs, for several reasons.

(i)     “Black Cabinet” – second level bureaucrats and black leaders outside of the administration who provided advice to the administration; these African Americans were particularly influential upon Eleanor Roosevelt.

(ii)   Eleanor Roosevelt – when African American singer Marion Anderson was refused the use of the DAR Hall in DC to hold a concert, Eleanor R. resigned her membership in the organization, and arranged for Ms. Anderson to give her concert on the Mall, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

B)    Roosevelt Recession – FDR’s lack of ideology comes back to haunt him; because he was not a true believer in Keynesian economics (explain Keynesian economics), Roosevelt was never comfortable with the sizable deficit that his government was running; with his sizable victory in 1936, he decided to greatly reduce spending in 1937, with disastrous results.

1)      Economic recession – the Roosevelt Recession probably contributed most to the disenchantment towards Roosevelt, and the gains by conservatives in the elections in 1938.

2)      Political backlash

(a)    Reaction to “packing” the Supreme Court – a reactionary court had ruled against Roosevelt policies in numerous cases to this point; FDR advocated being enabled to nominate an additional justice for each one over the age of seventy-five (which would have added four additional justices to the bench); both Republican and many Democrats claimed Roosevelt was attempting to become dictator. The public fallout here was probably less severe than the bad press this generated for the President.

3)      Backlash against labor

(a)    Monroe MI – Republic Steel private police force gassed SWOC headquarters and set fire to it.

(b)   Youngstown – Gov. Davey, who labor had supported in the 1936 election, read the handwriting on the wall, and used the National Guard to protect and escort strikebreakers to another Republic Steel plant on strike in this city.  Phil Murray, whom Lewis had appointed to head up the SWOC Little Steel organizing drive, called for FDR to assist in this crisis, which he refused to do; this was the beginning of the rift between Lewis and FDR.

                   (c) Chicago Memorial Day Massacre – Republic Steel employees in Chicago on strike were rallying when Chicago police opened fire on the unarmed crowd, killing several; newsreel footage of this incident was withheld because officials feared it would be incendiary.

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