speculative bubble that resulted in the stock market crash of 1929. He made strenuous efforts to confront and resolve the situation; his success in dealing with the situation ended up making him the obvious choice for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination going into the 1932 elections. During 1932’s tour campaign, Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced a set of policies that he grouped under the term ‘New Deal’ (which was also a part of his acceptance speech after having won the 1932 presidential election). Upon becoming the 32nd President of the United States (beating the incumbent president, Republican Herbert Hoover), FDR took immediate action to get the first part of his New Deal program approved by Congress; the proposed “new deal for the American people” was coursed through Congress easily and was immediately approved.
The New Deal comprehended a series of economic policies and programs that were implemented between 1933 and 1936 by the Federal Government in order to bring stability and growth to the economy following the Great Depression. Under the New Deal, FDR’s administration formed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC); the RFC was meant to bail out the country’s financial sector, but its results were mildly successful. Another program consisted on Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA); under the AMA program the government purchased agricultural produce surplus. The problem with this program, however, was that this created an incentive for farmers to increase production, and in the end the government ended up managing excessive surpluses of corn and cotton.
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Given that the New Deal proved vastly ineffective, FDR’s administration decided to direct its efforts towards achieving what came to be known as the 3 R’s: Relief the poor and unemployed; Recover the economy to normal levels; Reform the financial system. In achieving the 3 R’s, government launched its Social Security program (the American equivalent of the United Kingdom’s National Issuance).
There is no question that at the time it was necessary for the government to invest in the down-sloping economy. One-fifth of the population lived in the countryside and was involved with farming. The assumption was that investments would lead to farmers purchasing machinery, tools, and miscellaneous farming equipment. If the country was reactivated, this would signify the reactivation of the overall economy because factory production would surge (in order to cope with the increased farmers’ demand). This logic indicated that it was necessary to deal with agriculture-related problems first. However, in order to prevent overproduction and excess agricultural surplus, the recovery policies contemplated subsidizing farmers for taking land out of production. In other words, farmers would be paid not to produce. This strategy, however, was also ineffective. After two years of implementation, under-consumption became a widespread problem. The upside of under-consumption was that it contributed in reducing poverty given that it impeded the market from drowning product prices (which was the case when there was over-production); the New Deal contributed to increasing farmers’ income via higher prices.
New Deal policies continued being applied after FDR’s death; they continued into Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in the 1960s. Johnson built on FDR’s legacy; he promoted the expansion of a liberal agenda, sponsoring the largest reform agenda since Roosevelt’s New Deal. Lyndon B. Johnson was deeply concerned for the poor, the unemployment, and the uprooted. According to Johnson, it was important to retrieve the history of racial bias that was deeply embedded in American social policy. His heartfelt interest in promoting social integration for ethnic minorities drove him to commit to Civil Rights cause. In 1964, Senator Everett Dirksen announced the Civil Rights Act just as the United States began taking a more ethical approach to law-making. During this time laws that forbade employment discrimination based on race, creed, gender, nationality, etc., were passed. Although Senator Dirksen did not support every aspect of the New Deal, he voted in favor of most of its provisions because he had experienced poverty firsthand during the Great Depression. He would dedicate most of his life lobbying to get the Supreme Court’s support for the Civil Rights movement. Luckily, his bill (for the Civil Rights Act) was passed, largely thanks to Johnson’s forceful leadership and the alliance with Civil Rights’ leader Martin Luther King Jr. which was sealed on reached on July 2, 1964. Following this symbolic alliance, Martin Luther King Jr. organized a voter-registration for African-American people in 1965; several states joined, protesting for African Americans’ voting rights. Johnson encouraged Congress to vote in favor of the Voting Rights Act (1965); the president provided federal troops for protection against any possible instigators.
Through this act, the federal government formally took a position in favor of ending segregation (by eliminating restrictions on African American voting rights, thus contributing to stop rioting in the country’s inner cities). Through Congress’s legislation, Lyndon B. Johnson believed that he had the opportunity of materializing his ambitious reform plan and establishing what he called the Great Society. This plan, which was as ambitious as FDR’s previous New Deal, aimed at improving health insurance, public education, and ending poverty (through the reduction of unemployment). Truman’s determination to having “gun and butter” without raising taxes would end up proving reckless; it ended up having a profoundly negative impact on the American economy.
Through the passing of the Civil Rights Act, a vastly underrepresented group (African Americans) benefitted “in areas of employment, education, and business” after enduring a long history of discrimination. The way in which state governments handled Civil Rights, however, did not emerge as a strong program (as it did at the federal level). In states, the Civil Rights Movement, which started taking force since the 1930’s, worsened the already stressed relationships between American whites and blacks; according to Katznelson, “it played an active role in exacerbating the social-economic chasm between whites and blacks in the post-World War II years”.9 It is also important to make note of the fact that African Americans were denied access to the economic relief provisioned by the New Deal; this resulted in rural poverty hitting African Americans the hardest. In September of 1965, Executive Order 11246 enforced affirmative action for the first time by requiring government employers to hire individuals without making any bias based on race and/or religion. It intended to promote equality and in a sense compensate African Americans for past discrimination.
Finally, the remarkable Vietnam War also involved the New Deal, specifically the ensuing protests throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Vietnam War proved to be a strategic error, committed during the Johnson administration. Even though the public initially supported the war effort, this support quickly eroded as opposition broke out in colleges throughout the country. In 1965, and again in 1967, protests escalated, taking force in New York and at the Pentagon, and bringing about the end of the war. During Richard Nixon’s administration, an attempt was made to end the war through “Vietnamization,” which consisted on increasing the number of Vietnamese troops directly involved in the conflict while at the same time reducing the amount of American troops. Following the end of the Vietnam War, Nixon proposed a guarantee annual income for the poor called Aid Family for Dependent Children (AFDC) and got support from Daniel Patrick Moynihan. However, this program was rejected by Congress because Liberal Democrats were very sympathetic to the idea of the New Deal. Many ordinary Americans were against taxes and regulations that had been growing since the New Deal; many realized that the relationship between government and the economy in the late 1960’s and 1970’s was actually more conductive to right-wing than left-wing change.
Despite failing in its most important objective, the New Deal changed the United States as Franklin Delano Roosevelt built a new political coalition with a Democratic majority. Moreover, the New Deal relieved the effects of the Great Depression, making reforms that underlay a postwar economic boom that many would go on to see as the “Golden Age of American Capitalism.” Later, the Civil Rights Act, affirmative actions (by both the Executive and Legislative branches), and civil protests contributed the New Deal’s chief shortcoming: racial equality and integration for African Americans.
Was Cold War avoidable? Was postwar harmony after 1945 possible? Were opportunities missed after 1943 that might have reduced tensions and produced détente earlier than the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992?
World War II ended with Harry Truman as the President of the United States, Josef Stalin as Russia’s Premier, and Europe in ruins. Furthermore, the Cold War (1947-1991) was the inevitable outcome because of a prolonged buildup of political and military tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union following the success of their wartime military alliance against Nazi Germany. Recalling the Cold War’s most tense situations, one can mention the Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, the Berlin Crisis of 1961, the Vietnam War, the Soviet War in Afghanistan, and the “Able Archer” NATO military exercises. Nevertheless, in recounting the history of the Cold War, David Reynolds began with the conventional wisdom that it was not inevitable in 1945. According to him, there were two leaders: Stalin and Soviet Dictatorship. These two figures rendered a confrontation both reasonable and predictable. Stalin was forced to ally with the United Kingdom and the United States by Hitler. The Soviet Union demanded a second front of attack in order to release pressure from the Soviet forces. However, it was only when Japan was ready to negotiate its surrender that Stalin agreed to the alliance; this evidences that Stalin demanded much and gave little in return to his allies (in the war effort against Germany). Furthermore, his chief priority in Europe was to eliminate potential opponents in Eastern Europe, not destroying the Germany army.
Stalin was characterized as “the most feared man of 1945” by Time Magazine while Harry Truman dropped the number of American military troops during May of that year. In addition, the invention of the Atomic Bomb was also a major factor that brought about the Cold War. Both the United States and the Soviet Union wanted to prevent the Cold War because they knew how devastating a nuclear escalation would be. However, Soviets seemed more determined to prevent the Cold War from going “Hot” in 1962 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis by withdrawing Soviet missiles and bombers from Cuba. Perhaps if Hitler had not become convinced that he could simultaneously go to war with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, the Cold War might have been avoidable, but this was not the case.
In January 1942, twenty-six nations that were originally allied with the Axis Powers signed the Declaration of the United Nations. The Big Three – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin – met in Yalta in February of 1945 and decided that Europe should be divided into occupation zones. The Allied Nations agreed that they would all support the celebration of free elections and the subsequent establishment of democratic governments. However, Stalin would not honor that agreement. Fortunately, the end of the war had a positive effect on the American economy. Economic growth was a direct result of increased productive activity (as well as women’s full integration into the labor force). During the war workers were needed for aircraft factories, munitions plants, etc.; this signified increased household income and government spending. During the postwar, the United States became the strongest nation at home and abroad; this is why the twentieth century is often regarded as the “American Century.
American leadership wanted to maintain a democratic government structure. This proved impossible given the conflicts that brew between the United States and the Soviet Union due to their conflicting political ideologies. Soviet politics were influenced by the Marxist-Leninist ideology that championed centralized, autocratic government; the United States was influenced by democratic and federalist principles. By 1947, the relation between Soviets and the Americans had become even more complicated when Harry Truman and his advisers created Containment theory in order to prevent the Soviet’s lust for power to reach beyond Eastern Europe. As the United States did not want Communism to take over Europe, the oncoming of the Cold War proved inevitable; it started with the division of Germany (through the building of the Berlin Wall) and then spread into Korea and Vietnam. After the Soviet Union also harnessed the power of the Atomic Bomb, the Cold War fully materialized; the greatest war deterrent (nuclear power) ironically became the catalyst to war. The Cold War finally ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, year in which Boris Yeltsin assumed the head of the Russian government following a failed coup to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev.
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