Pride, Prejudice, and Politics: Roosevelt Versus Recovery, 1933-1938

By Gary Dean Best | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
The First Roosevelt Depression, 1934

THE COLLAPSE

Roosevelt's speech at Green Bay was a shocking performance. In a scornful reference to the pleas that he do something to restore business confidence, Roosevelt claimed that he had answered one such request by asking the unidentified "important" man what he should do. The response, Roosevelt said, had been that "the way to restore confidence was for me to tell the people of the United States that all supervision by all forms of Government, Federal and State, over all forms of human activity called business should be forthwith abolished." Roosevelt's interpretation of this recommendation, obviously manufactured for him by one of his speechwriters for the occasion, was that it meant the repeal of all laws that regulated business, including those dating back to the turn of the century that dealt with railroad rates and pure food and drugs. "In fact, my friends, if we were to listen to him and his type, the old law of the tooth and the claw would reign in our Nation once more," Roosevelt insisted, and the American people would "not restore that ancient order." Such palpable nonsense and scornful indifference to the legitimate need for action to restore business confidence, recognized by New Deal critics as disparate as John Maynard Keynes and the Chicago Tribune, was not mitigated by Roosevelt's statement later in the speech that his administration intended "no injury to honest business." 1 Business had heard that when the Securities Act was introduced into Congress in 1933. With over 10 million unemployed and their number increasing, and with economic indices falling, the nation had a right to expect better from the president of the United States.

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