Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #4

The fourth chapter, “Reflation and Relief,” details President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s accession to the presidency and the role he played in regenerating a broken America. FDR has been portrayed as a progressive, ‘for the people’ president, with infrastructure named after him, such as the FDR free highway that passes through Harlem, providing access to an alternate route to a tolled road. 


The reading in this case has supported the portrayal as it mentions the economical growth of “ averaged rates of around 8 to 10 percent a year” (Rauchway 1) which can be a correlation towards FDRs efforts like The New Deal in which allowed for unemployment to dramatically fall from as Rauchway states it as “its unconscionable 1932 peak” (Rauchway 1) in which the Great Depression hit the economic struggle the hardest. The Emergency Banking Act was one of the initial steps toward economic recovery, and it worked as it allowed banks to close and provide accessible money. Unlike other politicians, he spoke to the people and explained his decision via radio, an accessible communicative resource, and made it a habit to it, as he created “”fireside chats” in which he explained how the banks worked, what he had done” (Rauchway 2), allowing people to not be startled but also to fully comprehend. This gesture reveals FDR’s true connection and caring for American citizens since he decided to be a communicative leader rather than merely dictate the order without complete knowledge to a common American.


Corollary, FDR authorized federal economic assistance to states through the passage of the Federal Emergency Relief Act, which authorized “grants, rather than loans, to the states to support relief.” ((Rauchway 6) which allowed for the “sum amounted to an extraordinary 5.9 percent of the American economy’s overall size that year.”(Rauchway 6)  FDR’s accomplishment in reviving the economy and enacting legislation to prevent another Depression can be viewed as a progressive contribution to American society. Due to FDR’s judgments and actions, as indicated in the reading, enable for the picture of a great president to be drawn as he aided the economy as well as the financial state of many afflicted citizens.

One thought on “Blog Post #4”

  1. Interesting that you start with by noting FDR Drive (which by way runs up the length of the east side of Manhattan, not just Harlem) as one of Roosevelt’s legacies. Many other New York City landmarks, including the Triborough Bridge, the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Lincoln and Brooklyn-Battery Tunnels, LaGuardia Airport, and many of the public parks, schools, hospitals—and even CUNY campuses—are also the legacy of New Deal-funded programs.

    I’m also glad to see you point out FDR’s deft use of the radio and his ability to communicate with ordinary people as signs of his “greatness.” But, just to play devil’s advocate, critics at the time and since have compared FDR’s use of the media, as well as the unprecedented powers he exercised as president, as being signs of demagoguery or even quasi-dictatorship. Is it possible that those kinds of powers could have been abused by someone with less benevolent intentions?

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