Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency

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Did FDR's New Deal make America socialist or protect capitalism?

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Whether one sees the New Deal as socialism or the protection of capitalism depends on one's perspective. It is true that America shifted somewhat to the left during the years of the Great Depression and FDR's New Deal, but the president was working to save capitalism, not to establish a socialist state. To do so, he co-opted many of the ideas of Huey Long, Democratic governor of Louisiana and proponent of a Share-the-Wealth society and prevented a third party of far-left radicals from entering American politics to any significant degree. Roosevelt seemed to believe that to save capitalism, it was necessary to, in a sense, save the capitalists from themselves. Roosevelt achieved this through business regulation and tax policies.

The emergency banking bill that Roosevelt succeeded in pushing through Congress restored Americans' faith in the banking industry. Wall Street responded immediately, recording record gains when the four-day bank holiday ended. The creation of the FDIC prevented commercial banks from investment banking and protected average citizens' savings. The formation of the SEC regulated financial markets and increased the public's confidence and trust in investing.

Job creation, one of FDR's most significant achievements in the first and second New Deal, put more money into the pockets of Americans and helped to stimulate the economy because people could once gain spend.

FDR understood that business could, with minimal input from the federal government, regulate itself. The formation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) made trade practices more fair, increased employment and preserved collective bargaining. It was a way for business and labor to reach compromises that allowed capitalism to continue and American workers to thrive.

The Revenue Act of 1935 established progressive taxes that upset the rich and many conservatives, imposing a rate of 75% on the wealthiest. Those tax revenues were used to fund many New Deal programs, which to some felt more like socialism than a way to protect capitalism.

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