The New Deal: A Modern History

3.8 avg rating
( 154 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781439154489: The New Deal: A Modern History

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal began as a program of short-term emergency relief measures and evolved into a truly transformative concept of the federal government’s role in Americans’ lives. More than an economic recovery plan, it was a reordering of the political system that continues to define America to this day.

With The New Deal: A Modern History, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Michael Hiltzik offers fresh insights into this inflection point in the American experience. Here is an intimate look at the alchemy that allowed FDR to mold his multifaceted and contentious inner circle into a formidable political team. The New Deal: A Modern History shows how Roosevelt, through the force of his personality, commanded the loyalty of the rock-ribbed fiscal conservative Lewis Douglas and the radical agrarian Rexford Tugwell alike; of Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins, one a curmudgeonly miser, the other a spendthrift idealist; of Henry Morgenthau, gentleman farmer of upstate New York; and of Frances Perkins, a prim social activist with her roots in Brahmin New England. Yet the same character traits that made him so supple and self-confident a leader would sow the seeds of the New Deal’s end, with a shocking surge of Rooseveltian misjudgments.

Understanding the New Deal may be more important today than at any time in the last eight decades. Conceived in response to a devastating financial crisis very similar to America’s most recent downturn—born of excessive speculation, indifferent regulation of banks and investment houses, and disproportionate corporate influence over the White House and Congress—the New Deal remade the country’s economic and political environment in six years of intensive experimentation. FDR had no effective model for fighting the worst economic downturn in his generation’s experience; but the New Deal has provided a model for subsequent presidents who faced challenging economic conditions, right up to the present. Hiltzik tells the story of how the New Deal was made, demonstrating that its precepts did not spring fully conceived from the mind of FDR—before or after he took office. From first to last the New Deal was a work in progress, a patchwork of often contradictory ideas. Far from reflecting solely progressive principles, the New Deal also accommodated such conservative goals as a balanced budget and the suspension of antitrust enforcement. Some programs that became part of the New Deal were borrowed from the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover; indeed, some of its most successful elements were enacted over FDR’s opposition.

In this bold reevaluation of a decisive moment in American history, Michael Hiltzik dispels decades of accumulated myths and misconceptions about the New Deal to capture with clarity and immediacy its origins, its legacy, and its genius.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for three decades. He currently serves as the Times’s business columnist and hosts its business blog, The Economy Hub. His books include Big Science, The New Deal, Colossus, Dealers of Lightning, and The Plot Against Social Security. Mr. Hiltzik received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter @HiltzikM.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

“ACTION NOW”


FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT BEGAN Inauguration Day at a 10 A.M. religious service with his family, his cabinet appointees, secretaries, aides, and a few close friends. The location was St. John’s Episcopal Church, across Lafayette Park from the White House, chosen because it had no steps to complicate the wheelchair-bound President-elect’s entry from the street. Inside, the Reverend Endicott Peabody, rector of Groton, FDR’s old school, read from the Protestant Book of Common Prayer and beseeched the Almighty to favor and bless “Thy servant, Franklin, chosen to be President of the United States.”

The official party dispersed as soon as the service ended, Roosevelt to the White House for the start of the ritual procession toward the 1 P.M. oath-taking in front of the U.S. Capitol. The wisest among the other attendees had hired cars for the day and promptly drove off. Frances Perkins, the new secretary of labor, found herself standing forlorn on the sidewalk with her daughter, Susanna, and a couple she recognized as Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Wallace. They introduced themselves to each other, joined forces to hail a passing cab, and tried to figure out how to reach the Capitol entrance reserved for dignitaries.

The members of the new administration drew what encouragement or counsel they could from the faces of the crowds lining the ceremonial routes and assembling before the Capitol. Tugwell remarked on the public’s apparent determination to squeeze just a little enjoyment from the festive inaugural parade, “squads and squadrons of marching clubs, fraternal drill teams, silk-hatted and frock-coated Tammany braves, military detachments and uniformed bands,” all in such contrast to “the morning’s solemnity.” Perhaps FDR’s decision to proceed with the celebration despite the hard times was the right move after all.

Perkins, who had finally reached her spot on the platform by elbowing her way through the crowds behind Wallace in shoes soaking wet from tramping across the sodden Capitol lawn, could not help being moved by “the terror-stricken look on the faces of the people,” many of whom were hearing for the first time the bleak rumors that the last of the banks had closed that morning. “An enormous crowd had come for the inauguration, but they looked frightened, worried, depressed. It was not the kind of gay Democrats that you saw later on. They were just worried to death.”

Roosevelt made his way from the White House to the Capitol seated next to Herbert Hoover in an open car. Along the teeming processional route he tried to make conversation with the grim visage to his right, but could elicit no more than the occasional grunt. As he related the tale later to his secretary Grace Tully, he finally decided that the cheering of the throng warranted a more suitable acknowledgment than Hoover’s dour scowl. “So I began to wave my own response with my top hat and I kept waving it until I got to the inauguration stand and was sworn in.”

After taking the oath of office from Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, Roosevelt prepared to deliver his inaugural speech. Hoover did not wait to hear it; at the completion of the oath-taking, the ex-president ceremoniously shook his successor’s hand, left the platform, and, trailed by two or three of his cabinet members, continued walking until he reached his car and settled in, at which point it promptly drove off.

“President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends,” the new president began, then uttered a phrase he had scribbled at the top of his draft just before coming out from the Capitol building to the inaugural stand: “This is a day of national consecration.” The addition was so belated that the phrase did not make it into the official text of the speech.

He continued: “First of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Roosevelt’s flawless delivery, his pausing for dramatic effect before the words “fear itself,” invested the phrase with his own confidence and assurance. His critics would later assert that in doing so, Roosevelt was himself taking Hoover’s approach to the Depression, reassuring the people that the worst would be over in due course. Yet that is to ignore the context. Hoover’s repeated reassurances served a policy of complacency and limited federal action, even inaction; Roosevelt’s words heralded “action, and action now,” a pledge of direct government employment of the jobless and the construction of projects to exploit national resources, of “definite efforts” to raise the value of farm products, of the prevention of home and farm foreclosures, of the broadening and coordination of relief.

The rest of the speech was a model of concise presidential oratory, not quite 1,900 words requiring not quite twenty minutes to deliver. The text outlined the principles of the coming administration and some of its legislative goals, albeit shrouding them in inspirational flourishes and, here and there, veiled censuring of the departing leadership.

In the most assertive (and to many listeners unnerving) moment of the speech, the new president vowed, if “the national emergency is still critical,” to not shrink from asking Congress “for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis . . . broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” Roosevelt’s admirers and detractors alike would long debate whether those words were a promise or a threat, and in either case whether or when he might deliver on them.

Those rhetorical bookends, the release from fear at the speech’s opening and the promise of unstinting effort in its peroration, often obscure other elements of the inaugural address that proclaimed a new era in American politics and policy.

One was the recognition that the economic crisis was the creation of men—“the unscrupulous money changers”—not an artifact of nature. “The rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods,” Roosevelt stated, “have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failures and abdicated. . . . The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization.”

This insight underpinned Roosevelt’s conception of government power as a force to be utilized aggressively. The new administration would not wait passively for recovery, as had the tribunes of “false leadership, [who] have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions.” The New Deal would act, not plead.

Among the other concepts introduced in the inaugural address were two that would animate the social elements of the New Deal: shared responsibility and the nobility of work. More than any other details of the speech, these reflected the influence of Adolf Berle, who was the most penetrating critic within the Brain Trust of Hoover’s infatuation with “individualism” and resistance to regulation, which Hoover had said would lead to industrial “regimentation.”

To Berle, Hoover’s outlook merely rationalized exploitation of the many by the few, with the tacit acquiescence of government. “Whatever the economic system does permit,” he had written Roosevelt during the campaign, “it is not individualism.” Warming to the theme he and Means had developed in The Modern Corporation and Private Property, he added:

When nearly seventy per cent of American industry is concentrated in the hands of six hundred corporations; when more than half of the population of the industrial east live or starve, depending on what this group does . . . the individual man or woman has, in cold statistics, less than no chance at all. The President’s stricture on “regimentation” . . . is merely ironic; there is regimentation in work, in savings, and even in unemployment and starvation. . . . What Mr. Hoover means by individualism is letting economic units do about what they please.

Berle proposed substituting a “far truer individualism” in which the government acts as a “regulating and unifying agency,” so that “individual men and women could survive, have homes, educate their children, and so forth.” These points were transformed in the inaugural address into an affirmation of “social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”

“The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits,” Roosevelt continued. “These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and our fellow men.”

There could be no more direct break with the “individualism” of Herbert Hoover than through these words.

Roosevelt did nod toward traditional conservative values—for example, in his admonition to state and local officials that they must “act forthwith” on the public’s demand for drastic reductions in government costs. He repeated his campaign promise to maintain “an adequate but sound currency,” words that might have comforted anti-inflationary conservatives, had not Roosevelt always steadfastly “refused to be drawn into any precise definition of what this meant.”

A persistent myth is that Roosevelt wrote the inaugural address in a burst of inspiration over a single evening. Blame for this fabrication belongs to the President himself. A note he signed and attached to a longhand draft now residing at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York, designates that draft as the “original manuscript . . . as written at Hyde Park on Monday, February 27th, 1933. I started in about 9.00 P.M. and ended at 1.30 A.M.”

In truth, by the reckoning of its principal author, Raymond Moley, the speech’s gestation dated as far back as September 22, 1932. That was the tail end of a western campaign trip so triumphant that the candidate allowed himself for the first time the luxury of looking ahead to his administration. For three hours late that night, Roosevelt and Moley laid out the blueprint of an inaugural speech to be delivered the following March: a “mixture of warning and assurance,” an “impression of firmness and . . . a strong show of executive leadership” to overrule Congress’s inclination to bicker and delay.

Moley worked on his draft on and off for the next five months, searching for the right balance of confidence and humility, of explanation and exhortation, of realism and spirituality. He sampled metaphors for the crisis out of which Roosevelt would be anointed to lead the nation—sickness? failure?—and for the scale of the effort required to prevail. Would mere action do, or even dictatorship? The latter term was by no means as unnerving to American ears in this time of ineffectual leadership as it would become a few years hence. How much should the new president enlist the people in his program of renewal and recovery? How much should he ask for their faith?

Over time Moley moved away from the tropes of sickness and failure, so Hooveresque in their pessimism and self-pity, and toward resolution, rebirth, and restoration. Although he had worked with Roosevelt as closely as any aide for more than a year, what continued to elude him well into February was a way to project the new president’s vibrant personality from the podium on the Capitol lawn. Then came February 15. Moley had been ordered south to Miami by Louis Howe, Roosevelt’s political majordomo, to bring the President-elect the latest updates on cabinet recruitments. So he was crammed into an overstuffed touring car directly behind Roosevelt’s open convertible when one Giuseppe Zangara took aim at the President-elect and, thwarted by the rickety chair he was perched on and the swipe of a bystander’s arm, instead wounded Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago and four other persons.

As his car started to speed off, Roosevelt coolly commanded his driver to stop. He ordered the slumping Cermak bundled into the car and then directed the driver to make for the nearest hospital. (Cermak would die of his wounds nineteen days later.) Moley, like the rest of the official party, was astonished at his boss’s unshakable self-possession. “There was nothing—not so much as the twitching of a muscle, the mopping of a brow, or even the hint of a false gaiety—to indicate that it wasn’t any other evening in any other place,” he observed later. “Roosevelt was simply himself—easy, confident, poised, to all appearances unmoved.”

The experience instilled new energy into Moley’s draftsmanship. There would be no more toying with images of sickness and despair. “Failure,” to the extent it would be evoked at all, would be laid on the shoulders of the stubborn and incompetent leaders of the past, now abdicated and gone. The prevailing images in Moley’s newly muscular prose were of action, truth, frankness, and courage.

Roosevelt did not see the draft until February 27, when Moley brought it to Hyde Park in his briefcase. After dinner that evening, Roosevelt began the process of turning Moley’s draft into his own by copying it out by hand, working on a folding bridge table before a roaring fire. The two men recrafted the text sentence by sentence, sometimes word by word. Moley had omitted a peroration, a closing appeal to the deity; Roosevelt scribbled out the words, “In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He guide me in the days to come.” Finally Moley got to his feet, took his own copy from the table, and tossed it into the fireplace. He told the President-elect, “It’s your speech now.”

The next day Roosevelt’s handwritten draft went to Howe, the ultimate arbiter of momentous occasions. In his own hand, Howe added three or four opening lines, including perhaps the most resounding phrase of Rooseveltian oratory: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The source of this phrase is lost to history. Samuel Rosenman, FDR’s close friend and editor of his papers, believed it must have come from a volume of Henry David Thoreau he had spotted in the presidential suite during the final stages of drafting. The book contained the words, “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.” Moley dismissed that theory, recalling instead that the phrase had appeared in a newspaper advertisement earlier in February, although he was unable later to track down the elusive ad.

Whatever the origin of its most famous expression, the sentiment was scarcely novel or exceptionable. Literary bloodhounds have found precursors as recent as a 1931 speech by U.S. Chamber of Commerce chairman Julius Barnes (“In a condition of this kind, the thing to be feared most is fear itself”) and as remote as the aphorisms of the seventeenth-century English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon (“Nothing is terrible but fear itself”).

Yet the greater impression the speech made was of determination to effect change, expressed through plain, potent words such as vigor, firmness, courage, and attack. “People cried,” Perkins would recall. “Tears streamed down the faces of strong men in the audience as they listened to it. It was a revival of faith. He said, ‘Come on now, do you believe?’ They said, ‘Yes, we do.’ It made them cry to think that they hadn’t believed and that they’d been so near to the brink of the terrible sin of despair.”

Roosevelt’s speech delighted those who had become frustrated with the inertia of Herbert Hoover’s White House. Walter Lippmann, who had expressed his doubts about Roosevelt’s character so acerbically a year earlier, had since clambered aboard the bandwagon—even moving somewhat ahead of it, by openl...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Booklot COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # Z1439154481ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.46
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Qwestbooks COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # Z1439154481ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.46
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Bookhouse COM LLC
(Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # Z1439154481ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.47
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Vital Products COM LLC
(Southampton, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # Z1439154481ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.47
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
BookShop4U
(PHILADELPHIA, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # Z1439154481ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.48
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press 2011-09-13 (2011)
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Ebooksweb COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press 2011-09-13, 2011. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. FIRST PRINT. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # Z1439154481ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 8.48
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
WCC Corp.
(Moorpark, CA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1439154481. Bookseller Inventory # L7-712

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.92
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.69
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Michael Hiltzik
Published by Free Press (2011)
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press, 2011. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX1439154481

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 9.50
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press (2011)
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Mossback Books
(Hartland, MI, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press, 2011. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition :. Octovo hardcover, tight and bright, unworn covers, unread unmarked and AS NEW in AS NEW dustjacket. Solid and pristine. "Terrific, energetically written and eminently readable . Narrated with vigorous prose, a clear-sighted appreciation of just what motivated FDR and his allies, and a modern understanding of what they actually accomplished. And unlike the doorstop histories, you'll finish it quickly enough to be left wishing for more. " —Mother Jones ; 1.4 x 9.4 x 6.3 Inches; 497pp pages. Bookseller Inventory # 20183

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 10.50
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.25
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

Hiltzik, Michael
Published by Free Press, NY (2011)
ISBN 10: 1439154481 ISBN 13: 9781439154489
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Crowfly Books
(South Portland, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Free Press, NY, 2011. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. This is a New and Unread copy of the first edition (1st printing). Book. Bookseller Inventory # 037667

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 21.00
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.75
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book