Category Archives: FDR

FDR: The Forgotten Man at the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid

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                                       Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Radio Broadcast Address, April 7, 1932

Although I understand that I am talking under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee, I do not want to limit myself to politics. I do not want to feel that I am addressing an audience of Democrats or that I speak merely as a Democrat myself. The present condition of our national affairs is to serious to be viewed through partisan eyes for partisan purposes.

Fifteen years ago my public duty called me to an active part in a great national emergency, the World War. Success then was due to a leadership whose vision carried beyond the timorous and futile gesture of sending a tiny army of 150,000 trained soldiers and the regular navy to the aid of our allies. The generalship of that moment conceived of a whole Nation mobilized for war, economic, industrial, social and military resources gathered into a vast unit capable of and actually in the process of throwing into the scales ten million men equipped with physical needs and sustained by the realization that behind them were the united efforts of 110,000,000 human beings. It was a great plan because it was built from bottom to top and not from top to bottom.

In my calm judgment, the Nation faces today a more grave emergency than in 1917.

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FDR: “RESTORE AMERICA TO ITS OWN PEOPLE”

1932 Acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago
From the American Presidency Project  (subheadings and emphasis added)

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            Franklin D. Roosevelt accepts the nomination for President in 1932 in Chicago.

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Chairman Walsh, my friends of the Democratic National Convention of 1932:

I appreciate your willingness after these six arduous days to remain here, for I know well the sleepless hours which you and I have had. I regret that I am late, but I have no control over the winds of Heaven and could only be thankful for my Navy training.

The appearance before a National Convention of its nominee for President, to be formally notified of his selection, is unprecedented and unusual, but these are unprecedented and unusual times. I have started out on the tasks that lie ahead by breaking the absurd traditions that the candidate should remain in professed ignorance of what has happened for weeks until he is formally notified of that event many weeks later.

My friends, may this be the symbol of my intention to be honest and to avoid all hypocrisy or sham, to avoid all silly shutting of the eyes to the truth in this campaign. You have nominated me and I know it, and I am here to thank you for the honor.

Let it also be symbolic that in so doing I broke traditions. Let it be from now on the task of our Party to break foolish traditions. We will break foolish traditions and leave it to the Republican leadership, far more skilled in that art, to break promises.

Let us now and here highly resolve to resume the country’s interrupted march along the path of real progress, of real justice, of real equality for all of our citizens, great and small. Our indomitable leader in that interrupted march is no longer with us, but there still survives today his spirit. Many of his captains, thank God, are still with us, to give us wise counsel. Let us feel that in everything we do there still lives with us, if not the body, the great indomitable, unquenchable, progressive soul of our Commander-in-Chief, Woodrow Wilson.

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Roosevelt to War on ‘Economic Royalists’

Battle Today Is Like That of 1776, He Says, With New Set of ‘Royalists’ in Power

Reprinted July 10, 2000
By ARTHUR KROCK at the 1936 Democratic Convention
Special to The New York Times

FRANKLIN FIELD, PHILADELPHIA, June 27. — Under a cloud-veiled moon, in skies suddenly cleared of rain, to a mass of more than 100,000 people gathered in the stadium of the University of Pennsylvania, and by radio to unnumbered millions all over the nation and world, Franklin Delano Roosevelt tonight accepted the renomination of the Democratic party for President of the United States and, avoiding personalities of any description, defined the issue of this campaign as it appears to him.

fdr32olympics1 2The President said that, as the fathers of the Republic had achieved political freedom from the eighteenth-century royalists, so it was the function of those who stand with him in this campaign to establish the economic freedom they also sought to establish, and which was lost in the industrial and corporate growth of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Vice President John N. Garner of Texas, in this same place, renewed his pledge of allegiance to the President, made four years ago, and added a vow of fealty to the New Deal. The President was notified of his renomination by Senator Robinson of Arkansas, permanent chairman of the Democratic National Convention that closed today. Senator Harrison of Mississippi acted as proxy for Senator Barkley of Kentucky, temporary chairman, whose function it was to notify the Vice President, but who sailed for Europe on official business today.

Crowd Roars Its Enthusiasm

The arrival of the President in the stadium was greeted by a real demonstration, as distinguished from the artificial efforts of conventions. One hundred thousand people rose and roared unmistakable acclaim as Mr. Roosevelt entered the platform on the arm of his eldest son and clasped the hand of Vice President Garner while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung.

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FDR’s 1932 Commonwealth Club Address

From American Rhetoric online

Delivered 23 Sept 1932, San Francisco, CA

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“Every man has a right to life; and this means that he has also a right to make a comfortable living.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My friends:

I count it a privilege to be invited to address the Commonwealth Club. It has stood in the life of this city and state, and it is perhaps accurate to add, the nation, as a group of citizen leaders interested in fundamental problems of government, and chiefly concerned with achievement of progress in government through non-partisan means. The privilege of addressing you, therefore, in the heat of a political campaign, is great. I want to respond to your courtesy in terms consistent with your policy.

I want to speak not of politics but of government. I want to speak not of parties, but of universal principles. They are not political, except in that larger sense in which a great American once expressed a definition of politics, that nothing in all of human life is foreign to the science of politics…

The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government of economics, or whether a system of government and economics exists to serve individual men and women. This question has persistently dominated the discussion of government for many generations. On questions relating to these things men have differed, and for time immemorial it is probable that honest men will continue to differ.

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The New Deal: An example for today?

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By Susan Sward, The Sacramento Bee,  April 27, 2014

When Gray Brechin decided several years ago to develop a catalog of thousands of New Deal projects built in the 1930s, one of his goals was to show how government could help Americans when it embraced a humanitarian ethos.

At the time, Brechin, a UC Berkeley geographer, could not have known how much his effort would be relevant to the debate being waged in America today over the extent to which government should aid the least fortunate among us when a growing gap divides the top 1 percent and the rest of us.

1r2pno.Xl.4With his website catalog, Brechin offers a spectacular gift: Accompanied by thousands of photos, the website chronicles the schools, hospitals, courthouses, city halls, post offices, bridges, water systems, art works and other projects across America that owed their existence in whole or in part to New Deal projects carried out during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Brechin’s work is particularly powerful because most Americans, as academicians will tell you, tend to live very much in the now with only a minimal grasp of their country’s history and what it says about their nation’s future.

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10 Reasons for a National Youth Service

by John Hooper, The Living New Deal, May 15, 2014

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National Youth Administration Recruitment Poster

Ever since the New Deal’s National Youth Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and a brief flurry of public-spiritedness during the Kennedy years, America has minimized both expectations and opportunities for public service. Fewer Americans than at any time in our history — less than one half of 1 percent— are engaged in public service (including those serving in the military). Yet, the enormity of our country’s current challenges and chronic unemployment point to the need to give young people the chance to work helping their communities.

Here’s why we need a National Youth Service (NYS).

1. A NYS would be a job-creation program. Sure, it would be expensive, but 6.7 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are out of work and out of school currently cost taxpayers $93 million per year.

2. A NYS would be an immediate and lasting stimulus to our economy. Requiring participants to send some of their pay home (as the CCC did of its recruits) would also help struggling families.

3. A NYS would have long-term benefits for both the individual and society. The youth would obtain marketable job skills through rebuilding infrastructure, installing green energy, restoring the environment and helping during natural disasters.

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Bring Back the WPA

by Stephen Seufert, The Seufert Papers, July 20, 2012

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“The overwhelming majority of unemployed Americans, who are now walking the streets and receiving private or public relief, would infinitely prefer to work.” FDR, 1933

It may seem hard to believe, but back in the 1930s the Federal government put Americans to work who couldn’t find a job in the private sector. Imagine that, the government assisting the unemployed by providing them a job. Instead of giving them a handout, able bodied men and women out of work joined Federal programs such as the WPA (Works Progress Administration). The WPA was and still is considered to be one of the most successful New Deal programs, yet it’s largely forgotten today.

The WPA employed over 8 million Americans from 1935 to 1943 and pumped $11 billion into the economy($170 billion total/$19 billion each year by today’s standards). In the first year alone, the WPA employed over 3 million Americans on public works projects across the nation. In total, the WPA constructed 116,000 buildings, 78,000 bridges, 651,000 miles of road and improved 800 airports.

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FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights- “Full Employment” Part II

by Stephen Seufert, The Seufert Papers, January 15, 2014

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“The WPA was one of the most productive elements of FDR’s alphabet soup of agencies because it put people to work building roads, bridges, and other projects… It gave men and women a chance to make some money along with the satisfaction of knowing they earned it.” – Ronald Reagan

In my last article, I explored the idea of Youth Social Security. Many said it was a good idea in theory but would be difficult to pay for. Sure, it would be difficult for us, the average American, to pay for. It’s well known that nearly 70% of income taxes are paid by the wealthiest Americans (keep in mind their rates have also steadily dropped over several decades); while almost half of those currently working don’t pay any income tax. However, has one ever considered that half of the country is too poor to pay? All the while, the shrinking middle class is wondering whether it will end up richer or poorer.

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FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights- “Youth Social Security” Part I

by Stephen Seufert, The Seufert Papers, January 15, 2014

“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.” FDR, January 11, 1944, State of the Union Address

Now more than ever, there is a fear of what the future will bring. Americans of all walks of life are struggling to make ends meet. It has become abundantly clear that “trickle-down” economics bore little fruit. The millennial generation, my generation, is looking for leadership and solutions to guide them through these difficult economic times.

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Declaring “War” on the Great Depression

FDR's First Inaugural

By late winter 1933, the nation had already endured more than three years of economic depression. Statistics revealing the depth of the Great Depression were staggering. More than 11,000 of 24,000 banks had failed, destroying the savings of depositors. Millions of people were out of work and seeking jobs; additional millions were working at jobs that barely provided subsistence. Currency values dropped as the deflationary spiral continued to tighten and farm markets continued to erode.

During the previous summer the Democratic Party had unveiled a generalized plan for economic recovery in its platform. They called their platform a “contract” and set forth in it a series of provisions to remedy the economic disaster. Although frequently lacking specifics, the platform addressed a wide range of issues: among them were agricultural relief, Prohibition, unemployment, and old age insurance. While not followed very closely by Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, the platform did indicate that election of the Democratic candidate would result in unprecedented governmental growth to deal with the problems pressing on the nation. Roosevelt set about to prepare the nation to accept expansion of federal power. Roosevelt recognized that the programs he was about to introduce for congressional legislative action to relieve the dire effects of the Great Depression were unprecedented in peacetime.

In his 1933 inaugural address Roosevelt stated: “Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.” Yet, at the same time, he was prepared to recommend measures that he knew could succeed only with strong public pressure in support of extraordinary federal powers to deal with “extraordinary needs.”

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