America has had many economic difficulties, but nothing comes close to the sustained, deep troubles of the Great Depression. Republican President Herbert Hoover tried to address problems one way, Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt tried to address problems another way, and various other figures called for other solutions—some of them radical and even violent. Use material from your readings to answer the following prompt: compare one official response (either the Hoover administration’s OR the Roosevelt administration’s) to one of the more extremist responses. In your comparison, summarize the two responses that you are choosing to address and critique the value of these responses. (Remember, in an academic setting, critiquing is not the same as being overtly critical.) In addition, explain your own thoughts on how government should—or should not—address economic problems in today’s society.

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One of the more extremist responses to the Great Depression came in 1933 from Dr. Francis Townsend, who proposed making immediate payments to the elderly in order to end poverty in that vulnerable sector of the population. Franklin Roosevelt was able to borrow some of the Townsend Plan to create the Social Security Act, which provided payments to the elderly and also gave them incentive to quit working, thus freeing up jobs for other people. Townsend was critical of the plan because it did not make its first payment until 1935, and the first payments were set at two hundred dollars per month.

My critique of the Townsend and the Roosevelt plans is that these plans do not plan for an aging population or a declining birth rate. Due to medical advances, people are regularly living to be eighty years old—this was not the case in 1933. As more people get money from the program, more people need to work to pay into the system. If the United States undergoes a demographic change and has less young people, then there will not be enough Social Security money for future generations. It is a lot easier to put money into the system than it is to take money out of it.

Your response to the last question depends on your political leanings, but in my opinion, government should provide a safety net for those in need and provide work programs on federal projects only if the projects are needed. While I realize that this would probably never happen due to lawmakers advocating for their own particular districts, it is my hope that in times of crisis the federal government would spend money judiciously instead of the massive yet inefficient approach it usually takes to solve the problem.

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