March 24

Blog #32 – Was the New Deal too radical?

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1933, he was under tremendous pressure to do something about the horrific economic conditions that plagued

 the nation.  He and the Brain Trust, his group of young, economic advisers, had planned to tackle the worst depression in American history in a variety of ways.  As our textbook called it, there were the 3 Rs: relief, recovery, and reform.   And with any type of change, one knows that someone will be displeased.   So FDR heard it from all sides on both the left and the right.



One of FDR’s critics, Huey Long, said that the New Deal went too easy on the corporate and banking interests.  Long may have turned against Roosevelt when Long did not win a Cabinet post or other executive branch job even though Long was already a U.S. Senator from Louisiana in 1933.  As you’ve read, Long’s “Share the Wealth” plan was extremely popular with the poor because of its generosity (at the expense of America’s rich).  Louisiana was one of the poorest states in the nation at that time and could benefit greatly from Long’s plan.   The socialist way that Long planned to pay for his plan threatened many wealthy, and a number who were familiar with him openly wished for his assassination.  They got their wish in 1935, but it’s unclear how much popularity he could have gained if Long chose to run for president the next year.


Another critic came from our neck of the woods: Charles Coughlin of the Shrine of the Little Flower Church (@ 12 Mile and Woodward).  Father Coughlin rallied also for the poor and blasted President Hoover for not doing enough.  This criticism initially cost him his radio license in 1931, but with small donations from supporters all around the country, he was able to continue broadcasting.  Initially supportive of FDR’s New Deal because the country went off the gold standard (Coughlin, like Long, also saw corporate and wealthy interests as the cause of the Depression) , the priest also turned on the president for not going fast enough.  Coughlin’s newspaper, Social Justice, called for many radical reforms and criticized the New Deal as not having gone far enough to alleviate suffering.

Here’s Glenn Beck comparing himself to Father Coughlin (in a rather ironic manner) while slamming “social justice,” his own code word for progressive groups who advocate helping the poor.

Coughlin was so angry with FDR that he formed a 3rd party, the Union Party, to run a candidate against the President in 1936, and even promised to go off the air if his candidate did not get at least 9 million votes!  Well, Coughlin’s candidate, William Lemke, got less than a million and Coughlin followed through with his promise, but only for a short time.

“The great betrayer and liar, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who promised to drive the money changers from the temple, had succeeded [only] in driving the farmers from their homesteads and the citizens from their homes in the cities. . . I ask you to purge the man who claims to be a Democrat, from the Democratic Party, and I mean Franklin Double-Crossing Roosevelt.”   Father Charles Coughlin

After coming back on in the air in 1937, Coughlin spouted even more radical views, calling this time the “darkest days since the assassination of Christ” and added his own anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  He cast FDR as a dictator and the New Deal was a Communist conspiracy.  Coughlin even expressed sympathy towards the Fascist regimes in Europe (which would eventually get him censored and kicked off the air for good in 1942).   As Coughlin drifted into more radical territory, he lost most of his audience as well and the funds to continue broadcasting dried up.


On the right, criticism came from the Republican Party (as expected from the minority party) and also from a star-studded group of individuals who feared that America was going off the gold standard.   The Liberty League included former presidential candidates Alfred Smith and John W. Davis as well as GM executives Alfred P. Sloan, jr. and Jouett Shouse.  Official LL statements criticized planned, socialist economies (like the NRA and AAA programs were doing), and it spent $1.2 million on politicians running against New Deal Democrats in 1934 and 1936, including Republican governor Alf Landon.   The author of Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the Radical Right, Sally Denton, even claimed that members of the Liberty League tried to influence a retired general to lead a large group of Bonus Army veterans to overthrow FDR in 1934 (much like Hitler tried to do with the Weimar Republic in the 1920s and exactly how Mussolini took power in 1922).  Luckily for FDR, the retired general refused to be used as a tool of the Liberty League.


So, some ideas for you to consider when answering the blog question:

– even our textbook states that the New Deal didn’t end the Depression, the war did;

– why was there still so much unemployment throughout the ND?;

– the country was going from a laissez-faire style government under the past 12 years of Republican rule to an activist government under FDR, the peoples’ psychological adjustment to this had to be tough;

–  desperate people are willing sometimes to try anything, including demagogues like Coughlin and Long;

– FDR was still dedicated to balancing the budget in 1937, and when he cut back on some of the spending / jobs program, the country slipped into the “Roosevelt Recession” by 1938;

– New Deal programs didn’t benefit everyone, especially black and Latino Americans b/c much of the relief was passed out at the state level where prejudices still ran deep.

Your question: Was the New Deal too radical to solve America’s economic problems?  Or wasn’t it radical enough to fix the broken economy?  Why?  

300 words total, due Tuesday, March 27 by class time.  


Father Coughlin and Huey Long:

Liberty League







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Posted March 24, 2012 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

106 thoughts on “Blog #32 – Was the New Deal too radical?

  1. Iain Mason

    I believe that the New Deal was partially a radical idea. Though Roosevelt and his cabinet members came up with many plans and “alphabetical soup” groups to clean this mess of the depression, in the end it just wasn’t enough. Roosevelt made many groups to make it seem as if he was helping the country, when really he wasn’t. Some of these groups were contradicting also. As Steven Brown said, when people cried out how they had no food, ironically the Agricultural Adjustment Act ordered the slaughter of 6,000,000 swine that never got eaten. Roosevelt failed to concentrate on working to improve on one ultimate goal, and instead tried to focus on many points at the same time. This plan improved most of the trouble just a little bit, whereas if he focused on that one point, he might have made a real big impact on the economy. As I citizen of the United States living in that time of the depression, I might probably would have thought that Roosevelt was trying to help the economy back to its proper state. However, looking back on that today, I realize the little change he brought upon the United States. My opinion is the same as that of Huey Long because I would have wanted everybody to “share the wealth” instead of the wealthy folks getting all the money and the poor suffering. Everybody has a chance to win and become a king of their own. If Huey Long had not been assassinated and was running against F.D.R. for the presidential election, would F.D.R. still win? In my opinion the votes would be close but F.D.R. would lose. People would be tired of all the ‘alphabetical groups” F.D.R. was making and would elect Huey Long as their new President of the U.S.

  2. Grant Bail

    I believe that the New Deal was not radical enough to get America out of an economic depression the magnitude of the Great Depression. FDR from the beginning should have radically reformed the banking center and focused much more on minority unemployment than white men unemployment. Also, FDR should have given money directly to city and municipal governments, rather than state governments where racism is widespread. I think FDR also should have realized that with spending large amounts of money on social welfare projects, it would be impossible to balance the budget and there should be no effort to until America has produced steady GDP growth for over a year, while gradually limiting the amount of money the government gives to the private sector. This would allow the private sector to get on sound footing while not being able to fall back into a depression, and limit the outrageous amount of money being spent on the private sector. I also believe that FDR did not do enough to increase employment. He did provide many blue-collar jobs, but not many white-collar jobs. While being broke may humble you to take a lesser paying job, it will not make a man take a job paying 100 thousand less than his previous job. Though much of this is criticism of FDR, his attention to feeding the people and the relief part of his “3 R’s” is something to be lauded, and without his help I doubt that many of America’s poor would not have made it past the winter of ’33. To FDR’s credit, through his public works products he greatly improved the conditions of the West and the country’s infrastructure, and without his help it is very probable that the Eisenhower Administration would have had a much harder time building the interstate highway system. The New Deal and FDR had their flaws, but for the most part, they did America a world of good in a very dark, desperate time.

  3. Marcella Apollonia

    I think the New Deal was in some aspects too radical to change the economy. The economy did in fact need to be repaired but such a drastic change made many people feel uncomfortable. The New Deal called for the government to have more involvement with the public, moving the country away from a laissez-faire policy which angered many Americans. Although FDR made many organizations to help the less fortunate it was not enough to make a large enough impact. People were still outraged because even with the new policies and organizations, many citizens were still unemployed. FDR had good intentions and his New Deal did make a difference to the country, with his relief programs which were part of his “3 r’s”. But because of his failure to correctly balance the budget and his failure to successfully help all minorities and less fortunate such as, latinos and black Americans, the economy still fell into a deeper hole.

  4. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    I think that the new deal could be interpreted in either way. When FDR became president in 1932 he was put into a very hard situation with the great depression. By the time of Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933, the unemployment rate hovered close to twenty-five percent. Fluctuating during the 1930s, it never fell below 14.3% until 1941. Approximately 60% of the US was affected greatly by the Great Depression, so FDR had to come up with something fast. It is defiantly too much to say that it was too radical because it did actually help out a lot of people that were struggling. The new deal had 3 goals or otherwise known as the 3 Rs: relief, recovery, and reform. FDR did a great job of making these goals and sticking to them. His plan could also be seen as not radical enough to solve all of the problems that America needed it to solve. The effects of the programs were not as beneficial as FDR would have hoped that they were. He would have had to go above and beyond the New Deal to ensure that America would get out of depression. Another point is that the New Deal may have played a part in ending the depression, but in the long run it was WWII that actually ended it. In the end I believe that if he stuck to what he really believed and stuck to what really worked for the country than the new deal would have ended up working.


  5. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    Yes I believe the New Deal was somewhat radical because, the way how FDR tried to recover the economy from the Great Depression, was somewhat oblivious, because he just threw a bunch of organizations or “The Alphabet Soup”, out there and prayed that at least one will work, me personally I don’t agree with that tactic, but I wasn’t the President. Also I believe Roosevelt’s New Deal was a little radical because it radically changed System of Americas Federal Government. These are some of the reasons why I feel that FDR’s New Deal was tad bit on the radical side.

    Kenny J.

  6. Marie Protes

    I feel like the New Deal just kind of threw together a bunch of different programs. I don’t think it was too radical but I think with the mess America was in at that time, it would have been very hard to restart the economy, get us back on our feet, stop unemployment, return people’s trust in the banking system, the government as well as raise the stocks without world war two. The broken economy, I think, with the New deal in effect, would have eventually been fixed but it would have been very gradual and probably would have taken many many more years. The programs were a little too hectic and all over the place in my opinion but in such a time-pressing situation throwing out many different programs to jumpstart jobs and relief efforts was probably the most effective thing to do. I was radical enough, because people were already worried about socialism and communism taking over communism so if more changes had been made, it’s hard to imagine that Americans would have felt like their trust was well placed. I think Franklin Roosevelt did a lot with the New Deal and it was a good, just radical enough response to the fallen economy but the war was really what brought America back from the depression. I think it was basically the perfect solution, in a little bit of a twisted way, because it not only brought in huge amounts of money and work/jobs but it also brought together Americans with patriotism and the common war effort. The ending of prohibition of alcohol also played a part in bringing the economy back up and working smoothly.

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