The Film Archives: Jonathan Alter- How FDR Saved Capitalism, America & Changed The World

Source: The Film Archives: Jonathan Alter- How FDR Saved Capitalism, America & Changed The World

To understand the FDR Presidency I believe you have to understand the 1930s especially 1933 and the state of the union then. Franklin Roosevelt becomes President of the United States in March, 1933 during the Great Depression. The worst economic period in American history. With over 20% unemployment and poverty at around 40%. Businesses and banks collapsing everyday, more people getting unemployed everyday. Food lines, food banks, and soup kitchens, not just open but flooded wth people who just recently were employed and working middle class jobs. Being unemployed, bankrupt, and in poverty, were common experiences back in the early 1930s in America.

There was this feeling that American capitalism and private enterprise, was facing and collapsing and that it needed to be seriously reformed and perhaps even replaced. Not just socialism but communism, was looking okay and looking like a reasonable alternative to liberal democracy and capitalism in America by a lot of Americans back then. This is the state of the union that Franklin Roosevelt was facing when he becomes President of the United States in 1933 a situation that just five years ago looked impossible and that it would never even be taken seriously let alone be seen as a possible solution, now looked like a serious possibility in 1933.

This is the situation that Franklin ( does anyone call Franklin Roosevelt Frank or Franky? ) inherited when he became President of the United States in 1933 and it became about what should President Roosevelt and his administration do about it. Keep in mind, FDR wasn’t seen as a Progressive or Progressive Democrat even when he was Governor of New York. He was sort of all over the place on key issues back then including prohibition and foreign policy. It’s as President of the United States where FDR becomes the great Progressive Democrat that he’s seen as now and has been seen at least since the 1940s when the American economy finally returned to health and became strong again.

So FDR and his administration had some options and choices to make when he becomes President in 1933. One option was to do nothing and stick with the status quo which is what the President Herbert Hoover and his Administration were doing in the late 1920s and early 1930s when the Great Depression started.

Another option was to do what Communists and even Democratic Socialists back then were suggesting, which was to nationalize American business’s and then prop up failing ones to try to put people back to work. As well as severely raising taxes on the wealthy to put back into the economy though increased government spending that way.

Franklin Roosevelt wasn’t a laissez faire Ayn Rand Randian or a Socialist and certainly not a Communist. He believed in American capitalism but that it needed to be reformed which is the option that he chooses instead and how we got the New Deal and an expansion of the regulatory state that his cousin Theodore Roosevelt created as President thirty years earlier. The New Deal was the creation of the safety net in America. Where people could go to when they faced rough economic times. Like hing out-of-work or not making enough money to adequately feed themselves and their families. As well as pension insurance which is what Social Security is for people who don’t have a private pension when they retire or not a big enough pension to support themselves in retirement.

President Franklin Roosevelt was labeled as a Socialist and even Communist, in the 1930s and 1940s because of his push for the New Deal which was a progressive agenda filled with all sorts of progressive laws. And then later in the 1940s for his push for an Economic Bill of Rights, which was more of a socialist agenda and creating a British or Scandinavian welfare state for America. But as far as how President Roosevelt addressed the Great Depression and what he got passed into law as President, he was a Progressive. With the attitude being what needs to be done and what can done to make things better in America and create progress and what government can and should be done about that.




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