Study questions for 9 May: Group 3

Group: Leena Teinilä, Minna Suikkari, Noora Lahtinen ja Camilla Anttila 

- What is the New Deal, and why did it come about?

After the stock market crash in 1929, the United States sank into depression. Bank crisis became acute in 1931 and trade collapsed. This caused deflation. Unemployment rate rose and in 1933 nearly 13 million people were unemployed. Wages and salaries declined significantly. Production in agriculture and industries declined. The constant population growth rate decreased.
The President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration in cooperation with congress created a program between 1933 and 1939 to provide relief to the economic situation. That meant reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, waterpower, labour and housing. This New Deal consists of the First Hundred Days and Second New Deal. First, president Roosevelt declares a bank holiday and thus tries to prevent bank failures. Then he continues by signing the Beer-wine Revenue Act in order to legalize the sale of beer and wine.

Among the most important acts are Civilian Conservation Corps and Civil Works Administration which were against unemployment and provided public works for many Americans. Federal Housing Administration was created to regulate mortgages and housing conditions. The Federal Security Agency dealt with health, education and social security. Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in 1933 was meant to assist with the refinancing the homes. National Industry Recovery Act was an attempt to regulate industry and to raise prices. The Public Work Administration provided public work projects. Social Security Act was targeted for senior citizens and the disabled. The Tennessee Valley Authority Act enabled the federal government to build dams and produce cheap electricity. Works Progress Administration provided job opportunities in state or local projects.
The New Deal brought back faith in democracy. It also redefined the role of the government in the welfare of the United States and its citizens.

To some extent, the New Deal helped the gross national product of the United States to rise. People became better off in material terms, too. Unemployment rate was still high despite the New Deal. Finally, the beginning of the Second World War and the need of weapon production lowered unemployment and increased the gross national product.
As a result of the New Deal, the modern labour movement was born. Some of the Acts are still in operation for example the national old-age pension system of the Social Security Act, unemployment insurance, minimum wages and federal agricultural subsidies.
Jenkins, Philip, The history of the United States. Facts on File 2010 Kelly, Martin, Thoughtco.,2020

- How did the United States contribute to the Second World War? Why did the country join the war relatively late?

The United States was not very active in the beginning of the war. Since the the First World War cost them a lot and antiwar sentiment in the United States was strong. But, the expansionism of Germany and Japan raced the fears of possible war in the Europe anyway.  E.g. The war was opposed among American communists, because the consequence of the Nazi-Soviet pact and also among the ethnic groups, that may have general sympathy for home countries or historical reasons for opposing the western allies.

The President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882- 1945) himself was the opponent of fascism and he probably had one of the clearest vision and strategy how to confront and defeat the dictatorship. He was aware that the public wanted The U.S. to stay out of the war, but at the same time he wanted to do everything he could to prevent a German victory.
The events in Europe had a direct impact in American attitudes. Relying on the public’s sympathy for Britain and France, Roosevelt persuaded Congress to revise the Neutrality Acts
(1935) which prohibited loans and arms sales to belligerent nations, in order to allow Britain and France to purchase arms on a “cash and carry” basis—that is, on the condition that they pay immediately in cash and transport the arms themselves.

By mid 1940 all the allied powers had been defeated except the embattled and impoverished Britain. The U.S. gave the British 50 destroyers in exchange for long leases on naval bases in the western hemisphere. This way The U.S. achieved the naval supremacy in the Caribbean. The US commitment increased over the following months in the naval cooperation with Britain.
In addition to that the U.S. had frozen Japanese assets in the U.S. by July 1941. Historians have said that Roosevelt hesitated to ask for a formal declaration, because most of the American public still supported neutrality. He believed that he could obtain a public consensus in favor of war only if the country were attacked by a foreign power.
On December 7 ,1941 Japanese forces attacked the main US naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaiji, causing immense damage specially to the battleships. The United States declared war immediately. Right after that German declared war on the U.S.

After all the important Pacific battles American forces had secured the general supremacy at sea and in the air, which allowed e.g. the reconquest of the Philippines.
In spite of all that focus in the Pacific, US commanders had made the early decision that Germany remained the chief military enemy, and the major military thrust would be in Europe.
It is said that Roosevelt manipulated events in the Pacific in order to provoke a Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor and that way force the United States to enter the war on the side of Britain.

Before the end of the war, the allied commanders were worried about Japanese revenge against the large numbers of Americans and Allied prisoners in the event of invasion. In addition to that, Japanese had proposed unrealistic terms in order to prepare negotiated peace. After all this U.S. administration was encouraged to use new atomic bomb. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 forced Japan to surrender. Earlier in the Europe, June 6th 1944 the allied land at Normandy and opened second front in Europe. The Red Army came from the east and claimed all the territory under its control for the soviet sphere. The allied armies converged on Berlin. Hitler committed suicide on April 30th 1945. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 75 years ago. 

Jenkins, Philip, The history of the United States. Facts on File 2010 Kelly, Martin, Thoughtco.,2020

- What was the country like under the Reagan administration?

Reagan administration started in 1981 after Reagan campaigned against president Jimmy Carter. Reagan gained major popularity within the conservative and evangelical Americans and managed to win 44 states in the electoral vote. His campaign included strong pro-states rights beliefs and traditional family values that tapped into the previously inactive evangelical Christian voter base. Reagan also snared the American working class to his side by promises of the American dream coming true to anyone.

Once in office, Reagan made tax marginal tax cuts, deregulated industries such as air travel and banking, cut funding from Medicaid and tried to cut funding from social security program. He also tried to defund environmental protection and the study of human caused climate change. He also made it harder to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Meanwhile he increased spending on military, which then escalated the ongoing cold war

On his second term Reagan did manage to negotiate with the Soviet leaders and signed the INF treaty in 1987 that saw the abolishment of all short- and midrange missiles of both countries and put a halt to the nuclear arms race.

Reagan was unsuccessful enact his agenda on social policies such as banning abortion and integrated busing (that saw to white and black kids going to school in a same bus), and mandating a school prayer. However, he did nominate conservative justices to the supreme court, one of them being USA’s first ever woman justice Sandra Day O’Connor, which saw to conservative influence in future policy making.

Other notable things from Reagan’s administration is the war on drug that’s effects are still seen today. It was a militant effort to reduce drug use within the US. It led to increased conviction rates within minorities, especially blacks.

Reagan was also vocal about not supporting the LGBT community and his response, or the lack of, to the AIDS crisis infuriated the gay community. The AIDS crisis led to the deaths of over 40 thousand Americans and heavily stigmatized the gay community. It is still to this day one of the darkest moments in LGBT history.


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