|Franklin Delano Roosevelt|
|Political Party:||Democratic Party|
Columbia Law School
|Born||January 30, 1882|
|Died||April 12, 1945 (aged 63)|
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was the thirty-second President of the United States, and sometimes considered the greatest President of the 20th Century. Elected to four terms in office, he served from 1933 to 1945 before dying in office, and is the only U.S. president to have served more than two terms.
At the age of 39, he was struck with a crippling illness, which at the time was thought to be polio. With later research, his disease was actually in turn, Guillain-Barré syndrome.
He won the 1936 election, in one of the greatest landslides ever, earning all but two states (Vermont and Maine, which, strangely, are usually 2 of the most intelligent states. They would both like to apologize), and won 523 electoral votes to 8 electoral votes.
FDR was President during World War II and mobilized the nation for war and is credited for this. However, his decision to imprison the entire German, Italian and Japanese population in the USA was wrong.
FDR is featured on the US Dime ($0.10).
Misconceptions about FDR
FDR did hold many opinions that we might term as Classical Liberal or Neoliberal today. However, the FDR administration is generally felt to have been the beginning of modern Liberal evolution (at least in the US, but we can be pretty ethnocentric). FDR started out with more Classic Liberal ideals, but evolved. So, no FDR wasn't a Neoliberal, the term didn't exist then, and as FDR's policies evolved, he left Classical Liberalism behind. FDR was a Liberal.
To some degree, in the United States, he's THE LIBERAL. Modern usage of the terms liberal and conservative may date from FDR's Administration. Both Parties claimed Liberalism before FDR, but as modern liberalism evolved to counter the social and economic problems of the Great Depression, those who held stubbornly to the failed policies of the past began to be called conservatives. During first 100 days of FDR's administration he instituted the business and financial regulations (like requiring businesses to do honest accounting and make their financial records available to stockholders, and offering insurance to banks if they promised not gamble with their depositor's money) which carried us through the next 40 years without major problems. In some ways, the S&L Crisis, and Great Recession can be explained as caused by the relaxation of those regulations by neoliberals (Deregulation) in the 1980s and 1990s.
- FDR was a racist
One shouldn't attempt to apologize for the WWII internments, they were wrong. They were felt, at the time, to have been necessary, at least in the short-term. The US entry into WWII happened the day after a surprise attack on naval forces in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by Imperial Japanese forces, and anti-Japanese sentiments were very strong. Even many otherwise fair minded people felt it was necessary to protect Japanese-Americans.
Some of FDR's racial policies were actually progressive for their time. He took steps to eliminate racial discrimination in government and government contracting.
- FDR was a Keynesian
No, FDR was not really a Keynesian. Acceptance of Keynesian Economics in the US came later. If anything, FDR's preferred balanced budgets. His Administration did run deficits early on, but he instituted programs to cut costs to try to balance the budget which may have lengthened economic recovery.
FDR was accused of being all those things, and groups from both the left and the right made arguments that had some appearance of truth. FDR was a Liberal. Maybe he was the first modern Liberal, but he was a Liberal. He never tried to overthrow Capitalism, he saved it from itself. He did reform some of it's worst practices, and address some of it's worst iniquities. FDR saw himself as a defender of Capitalism from competing systems of both the left and right. FDR was liberal for his time. During a speech to students at the University of North Carolina on 5 December 1938 he joked that:
"You may have heard for six years that I was about to plunge the nation into war, that you and your little brothers would be sent to the bloody fields of battle in Europe, that I was driving the nation into bankruptcy, and that I breakfasted every morning on a dish of grilled millionaire. Actually, I am an exceedingly mild-mannered person, a practitioner of peace, both domestic and foreign, a believer in the capitalistic system, and for my breakfast, a devotee of scrambled eggs."
Second Bill of Rights
"In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. A second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed."- President Roosevelt during his State of the Union address
In 1944, during his televised State of the Union address, President Roosevelt proclaimed that after World War II was won, there was more work to be done to uplift the common worker. He proposed a Program called a "Second Bill of Rights" to be passed after the war. His program included but wasn't limited to:
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
If only he had been around to pass it.
On April 12, 1945, 82 days into his fourth term, Roosevelt was relaxing in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was having his portrait done by Russian-American painter Elizabeth Shoumatof. Shortly after he took a lunchbreak; he grabbed his head and said "I have a terrible headache." He subsequently died of cerebral hemorrhaging.  He was succeeded by his Vice President Harry S Truman.
To millions of Americans, his passing was like losing a father. George Elsey, who had personally served FDR, commented in 2015, "Those of us close to him in the White House could not conceive a country without him."
His flag-draped coffin, carried on a black caisson and being drawn by a white horse, was driven through the streets of Washington DC. Along the route, thousands flocked to the tracks to pay their respects. People of all ages, race and creed turned up, many of them openly weeping. Among the mourners was his Vice President, now President Harry Truman.
Roosevelt was buried in Hyde Park, New York where he was born.
Pros and Cons
- New Deal
- End to child labor in the United States (keep in mind that children as young as 6 were serving in coal factories, for instance
- Social Security
- Beat the Axis Powers in WWII
- Environmental Conservation efforts
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- Sponsored planting trees to act as windbreaks not just for the environment but also to stop the topsoil erosion that caused the dust bowl
- Repealed prohibition
- Cullen-Harrison Act
- Brought this country out of the Great Depression
- Cracked down on monopolies
- Promoted a Second Bill of Rights (didn't live to pass it)
- Progressive Taxation
- Agricultural Administration Act
- Heavily-Graduated Income Tax
- Corporate Income Tax (taxed corporate income reached 90% by 1942)
- 70% Estate Tax
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act
- Wagner Act
- Adjusted Compensation Payment Act
- National Industrial Recovery Act
- Federal Emergency Relief Administration
- Civilian Conservation Corps
- Glass-Steagall Act
- End of the Gold Standard
- Securities & Exchange Commission
- Wanted to avoid war
- Didn't militarise during the 1930s
- Good Neighbor Policy
- Requested that maybe Hitler didn't invade a few dozen countries and start a conflict that would result in the deaths of 60 million people
- The Neutrality Acts
- Didn't intervene until the bombing of Pearl Harbor aside from the lend-lease mentioned earlier
- His response to the Japanese in 1941 was non-violent; he merely cut trading ties, concluding that they would be forced to either end their conflict in Manchuria or face materiel starvation
- When Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan, it did not declare war on its allies, Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy, hoping to maintain peace. Unfortunately for Roosevelt, Nazi Germany declared war on the U.S. 4 days later
- Lowered poverty & unemployment
- Improved Soviet-American relations
- Recognized the Soviet Union as a sovereign nation in 1934
- Signed an agreement that allowed American businessmen to buy and sell within the Soviet market
- Lend-lease extended to the USSR as well, with the Soviet Union receiving around 11 billion USD to aid their war effort, although most of that lend-lease came after the tides in the Eastern Front had already turned in 1944
- Had several conferences with Stalin such as the Yalta Conference in 1945 (where he, Churchill and Stalin discussed what a post-war world might look like)
- Made Frances Perkins the United States Secretary of Labour and the first female member of the United States Cabinet
- The first African-American brigadier general, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was promoted to said rank when FDR was in power
- Supported minimum wage, noting that “no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country" in his address to the National Industry Recovery Act
- Removed the United States from the World Economic Conference in 1933 due to him believing that the rest of the World's economic policies might harm commodity prices in the nation
- Lowered tariffs
- Fireside chats and keeping in touch with general civilians via radio
- Popular, bipartisan support
- Established U.S. Military Police Corps
- Ended the occupation of Nicaragua, Ayiti, and the Honduras
- Nationalized businesses
- Centralized political power
- Issued a peacetime war draft in 1940 prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor & increased military spending
- Development of the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project
- Private Eddie Slovik was executed for desertion in France under his watch; the only American soldier to be court-martialed and executed for desertion since the American Civil War
- Continued construction of the Hoover Dam, contradictory to his environmental efforts (although, granted, they probably didn't know about that when they were building it, so that can be forgiven)
- Shoot-to-Kill Speech (yeah, how dare FDR give permission to merchant and trade ships to defend themselves!)
- The racism that he did have
- Internment for Japanese, German and Italian civilians
Sponsored deportation of Mexican-American laborersWas slow to end the policy of Mexican Repatriation begun by his conservative Republican Predecessor.
- Appointed Hugo Black (an ex-Klansman) as a Justice in the Supreme Court
- That whole Jesse Owens drama
- Didn't mention the violence against Jews at all during his statement in response to Kristallnacht
- Puerto-Rican and Black units were segregated from white units in the U.S. Military
- Didn't really take a stance on segregation in general
- Edward Carter, a Black U.S. Army soldier in the Battle of the Bulge wasn't provided with the Medal of Honor which arguably he deserved; instead being provided with the Distinguished Service Cross
- Japanese-Americans in the Hawaii National Guard who cleared rubble and aided the wounded were disarmed due to their ancestry (note: they were rearmed the following day)
- Opposed anti-lynching legislation
- Opposed making Dwight D. Eisenhower the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during D-Day when he was more-than-overqualified for the position
- Didn't seem to have any problem with all the horrible things Patton did until he struck a soldier suffering from shellshock (now called PTSD) in 1944
- Economy Act
- Tried to veto the Adjusted Compensation Payment Act he helped pass
- Supported Woodrow Wilson's Presidential Campaign during the 1912 election
- Turned away Jewish refugees and refused asylum to hundreds of Jews that were later killed during the Holocaust
- Following unionization, many private entities responded by increasing the prices for foods such as milk, especially in 1939; Roosevelt didn't institute price controls to make things more affordable
- The Death of President Franklin Roosevelt, 1945
- Bartoletti, Susan Campbell.: Growing Up in Coal Country. 1996.
- https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/WorldWar2/fdr3.htm U.S., Department of State.: Publication 1983: Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 455-58
- "In May 1939, the SS St. Louis carried 930 Jewish refugees as it sailed from Hamburg, Germany, bound for Cuba [and the United States]. Cuba accepted twenty-eight refugees and denied entry to the rest. The United States also denied entry to the refugees. Thus, the ship was forced to return to Europe, where several European countries were cajoled into accepting the passengers. Many, however, found themselves once again subject to Nazi persecution when Germany invaded Western Europe in 1940." Sources: Bartoletti, Susan Campbell.: Hitler Youth. Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. Scholastic. 555 Broadway, New York, US, 2005, p. 58.; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum