The New Deal
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The New Deal

A Modern History

Free Press, 2011 more...

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Editorial Rating

9

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Recommendation

You may think of Franklin Roosevelt as a sepia-toned hero who smoothly guided the United States out of the Depression. As this captivating history makes clear, that is partly true – but not entirely. Roosevelt was a hero in some ways, but his path was decidedly messy. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik guides readers through the fits and starts of “New Deal” policies. It turns out that New Deal program ideas could spring from anywhere, whether Roosevelt’s avid imagination or the writings of an obscure economist. A few New Deal programs were miserable failures. And while FDR’s landslide victories paint a distant, historic picture of an overwhelmingly popular president, Hiltzik points out that Roosevelt had to overcome plenty of opposition to enact his policies. getAbstract recommends this revealing history to readers seeking a fresh look at a seminal chapter – and a seminal man – in American politics and economics.

Summary

Roosevelt Charts a New Path

In 1932, with the US economy in shambles, Franklin D. Roosevelt won the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination, making him hot favorite for the presidency. Republicans had controlled the White House for 12 years, overseeing a giddy boom and a calamitous crash. President Herbert Hoover seemed out of touch and unable to deal with the crisis, although the occasional signs of recovery in 1931 and 1932 improved his chances. Stocks spiked and fell again; bank failures ebbed. Hoover believed he had led the nation through the worst. But his confidence proved misplaced, and signs of life soon faded. Roosevelt won big in 1932, but he came to regret promising to cut federal spending by 25%.

Roosevelt pledged to reverse Hoover’s laissez-faire approach. During his 1933 inaugural speech, Roosevelt delivered his famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Not everyone was taken with the speech. Political essayist Edmund Wilson found it full of “vagueness” and “abstractions.” Lawyer Thomas Corcoran judged it “an empty collection of platitudes.” Yet FDR chose Corcoran as a top adviser, eventually nicknaming him “Tommy the Cork.”

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About the Author

Los Angeles Times journalist Michael Hiltzik won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for stories uncovering corruption in the entertainment industry. He is the author of Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century.


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