Study questions for 9 May: Group 4

Anne Pylvänäinen, Tiina Kukkonen, Vesa Höijer, Kaisu Saarela , Tuulikki Rentola-Seppälä


What is the New Deal, and why did it come about?
 
The 1920s was a hegemonic time in the world political history of the United States of America. The country had reached its world-wide military and economic dominance as the result of the First World War. In contrast, the climate of the American domestic policy was simultaneously deteriorating.
 
In October 29, 1929 the stock market crashed and paper fortune vanished. This led not only to trade collapse and acute bank crisis, but most importantly, to mass unemployment in 1931, and economic recession with poverty, protests and the end of open immigration. By the year 1933 of the American workforce 25 percent had lost their jobs.
 
“New Deal” was an expression coined by the American politician Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was a domestic program of the administration of president  Roosevelt between 1933 and 1939, which took action to bring about immediate economic relief as well as reforms in industry, agriculture, finance, waterpower, labour, and housing, vastly increasing the scope of the federal government’s activities. The term was taken from Roosevelt’s speech accepting the Democratic nomination for the presidency on July 2, 1932. Reacting to the ineffectiveness of the administration of president Herbert Hoover in meeting the ravages of the Great Depression, American voters the following November overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Democratic Party´s promise of a “new deal” for the “forgotten man.” Opposed to the traditional American political philosophy of laissez faire (policy of minimum governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society), the New Deal generally embraced the concept of a government-regulated economy aimed at achieving a balance between conflicting economic interests. Thus, this “New Deal”  was a political programme or a reform package, or “a social or administrative revolution,” as Jenkins (2017: 168) preferred to call it.
 
Much of the New Deal legislation was enacted within the first three months of Roosevelt’s presidency,  in “the hundred days”. The new administration’s first objective was to ease the suffering of the nation’s huge number of unemployed workers. Government agencies were established to give emergency and short-term governmental aid and to provide temporary jobs, employment on construction projects, and youth work in the national forests. Before 1935 the New Deal focused on revitalizing the country’s stricken business and agriculture. The farm program was attempted to raise prices by controlling the production of staple crops through cash subsidies to farmers. The New Deal also tried to regulate the nation’s finances in order to avoid a repetition of the stock market crash and the massive bank failures that followed.
 
Considering this recovery program, the “New Deal” of President Roosevelt more closely, it covered establishment of several regulatory and supervisory agencies. As the result of these founded offices the national government expanded hugely between the years 1933-1939 and the new meritocratic social class was created in the country. According to Jenkins (2017: 167) such agencies as the National Recovery Administration ((NRA) to boost industry and control deflation); the Civilian Conservation Corps ((CCC) to employ unemployed youth to work with reforestation, trail maintenance, national parks and wilderness areas); the Tennessee Valley Authority ((TVA) to build dams and hydroelectric power plants for generating electricity); the Agriculture Adjustment Administration ((AAA) to pay farmers to cut production of basic commodities targeting at raising farm prices); the Public Works Administration ((PWA) to hire workers on infrastructure projects); the Commodity Credit Corporation, the Farm Credit Administration; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation((FDIC) to guarantee small deposits); the Federal Emergency Relief Administration ((FERA) distributed half a billion dollars to state and local agencies); and the Home Owners Loan Corporation, were established in 1933.
 
These offices and agents known by their various alphabetical acronyms were taken primarily to insure deposits and tighten bank regulations as well as to combat and reduce very high unemployment rates of that time in the USA. In 1934 the Securities and Exchange Commission ((SEC) was set to regulate the stock market); the Federal Communications Commission, while the Works Progress Administration ((WPA) assisted in creation of public jobs); the National Youth Administration ((NYA) was aimed at part-time job-creation for millions students, and youngsters); the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) allowed for workers their organising and collective bargaining); the Social Security Board ((SEB) granted benefits of old-aged, widows and unemployed, as well as disability insurances) were founded and in 1935 the Rural Electrification Administration ((REA) to electrify most of the farms). In 1937 as a part of the New Deal, the Farm Security Administration and the United States Housing Authority were created. The Federal Housing Administration insured private home-improvement loans to middle-income families and was a home-building agency as well. In 1938 the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation was inaugurated.
 
Perhaps the most far-reaching programs of the entire New Deal were the social security measures enacted in 1935 and 1939, providing old-age and widows’ benefits, unemplomet composition, and disability insurance.  Due to the National Labour Act of 1935 workers received the European type of rights to organise themselves to labour unions and negotiate better wages and working conditions. Maximum work hours and minimum wages were also set in certain industries in 1938.
 
The New Deal programmes did not erase the unemployment totally, but they managed to improve people´s life conditions and the situation in the society in general.
 
To summarise, the “New Deal” was a milestone in the USA’s history. Then, the role of government strengthened, federal administration reinforced through establishment of large-scale operations and government participation in economic activities and welfare of the American citizens. The financial regulations and public works had a strong influence on the country’s infrastructure.
 
Despite resistance from business and other segments of the commity to “socialistic” tendencies of the New Deal, many of its reforms gradually achieved national acceptance, and both major U.S. parties came to accept most New Deal reforms as a permanent part of the American life.
 
 
Sources:
New Deal / Encyclopedia Britannica
https://www.britannica.com/place/United-States/The-Great-Depression#ref77869
 
Boyer, P. S. (2012) American History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 
Jenkins, P. (2017). A History of the United States. 5th ed. London: Macmillan International Higher Education and Red Globe Press. New Deal.

How did the United States contribute to the Second World War? Why did 
the country join the war relatively late?
 
In the late 1930´s the public opinion and overall attitude among the Americans continued to be negative in regard to interfering to any other countries´ conflicts. Namely, the Americans thought that joining the WWI had been a serious mistake. The USA also practised policy of isolation and disarmament and it was not prepared for war. Moreover, the Neutrality Act restricted the US to sell arms to opposing parties. This Act was later amended so that the conflicting parties could buy weapons on a “cash and carry” basis, which was helpful to France and Britain allied against Germany during the WWII. 
Gradually, the Americans ‘attitude started to change, when Britain was left alone to fight against the Nazi Germany in 1940. Americans felt sympathy towards the Battle of Britain, but was still slow to give aid. Later the United States gave Britain old destroyers in exchange for long leases on naval and air bases in the Western Hemisphere. The trade enabled the United States to gain supremacy in the Caribbean areas. Also, the US naval vessels began to protect the British passenger- and good transportation ships from the Germany´s U-boats by conveying them on their voyages on the seas. Iceland was later occupied by the USA in protection from the Germany. 
The US domestic debate about the ethnics of politics, foreign policy, the usage of power and propaganda in achieving political goals that had hindered the USA to give help to the allies in Europe, turned to opposite in 1941. Namely, in Asia, the Japanese started to invade China and South-East Asia, which the Americans did not approve. The Japanese sank an American ship in the Pacific in 1937 and consequently the Americans prohibited the trade with the Japanese including the oil trade. The Japanese did not have enough oil and other essential products, and they attacked the American naval base in Pearl Harbour in December 1941, which ended with the Americans’ declaration of the war to the Japanese. The Japanese troops were victorious in the beginning, but were hit back by the Americans in some hard battles in the Asian islands. In 1944 the Philippines was freed by the Americans and in 1945 the USA won two crucial battles on the Japanese islands: Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The war between the USA and Japan ended in August 1945, when the USA dropped two atomic bombs in Japanese towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with devastating consequences. 
The US forces accompanied the British troops (Grand Alliance) against the Germans in the Northern Africa, where the crucial battle of El Alamein was taken place in 1942. After the victorious battle the Allied continued the battles against Germany in Sicily and Italy and eventually defeated the German troops. 
Russia was fighting with Germany in the Eastern Europe. At first Germany was winning and heading into the Russian soil, but was beaten back by the Russians eventually; the Leningrad and Stalingrad battles were the key points to turn the war successful for the Russians, and the German troops started to withdraw themselves from the Russian territory the Russian troops on their heels. 
On the 6th of June in 1944, the D-Day, the American, Canadian and British troops landed on Normandy and gradually moved ahead in France, Belgium, Germany and other European countries occupied by Germany. 
In Germany, the Allied continued their actions by bombarding German cities, among others Berlin and the historical town of Dresden. Berlin was liberated, when the Russians attacked the city from the East and the Allied approached it from the West. Consequently, Germany surrendered on the 7th of May 1945. Before that day, President Roosevelt had passed away and his vice President Harry Truman had taken his presidency. 
All in all, the Second World War killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of Americans. The WWII had many social, cultural and economic impacts in the American life, for example, the mobilization of work force and post-war economic boom ended the depression and led to full employment. What is more, internationally the USA becoming the world’s economic and military superpower contributed strongly to the launch of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 together with 49 other delegate countries, which signed the charter for founding of this world-wide organisation. Also notable is that although relations between the Soviet Union and the United States had been strained in the years before World War II, the U.S.-Soviet alliance of 1941–1945 was marked by a great degree of cooperation and was essential to securing the defeat of Nazi Germany.
 
References: 
Encyclopaedia Britannica online: https://www.britannica.com/place/United-States/World-War-II. Retrieved on 24.4.2020. 
Boyer, P. S. (2012) American History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jenkins, Philip. (2017). A history of the United States. London: Red Globe Press.
Office of the Historian: U.S.-Soviet Alliance, 1941–1945:https://history.state.gov/milestones/1937-1945/us-soviet 
World War II in Colour. 2009. Netflix historical documentary series. 

Our answer to the 3rd question:   
    

The United States under the Reagan administration:
 
1.  Reagan’s life before his presidency 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born  in February 11, 1911 and died in June 5, 2004. He studied economics and sociology. He acted in school plays, won in a screen test in 1937, and became a movie actor. Since then he played in 53 films and was well-known by his oral skills. No wonder that as the President he was titled as “the Great Communicator”. In 1966 Reagan became nominated California Governor and again in 1970. 
 
2.  Reagan as a president: general information

Ronald Wilson Reagan’s era as the US President took two periods, precisely from 1980 till 1989. This 40th US president was elected as the oldest man ever at the age of 73 years with the biggest number of electoral votes than any presidential candidate. Reagan’s presidential career was blowy and challenging, for instance, in 1981 there was an assassination attempt on him. Then, to be precise, on March 30, 1981, John W. Hinckley, Jr. shot at Reagan in Washington, D.C.
 
3.  Reagan’s domestic politics 
 
Reagan was a conservative right-hand Republican and under his political program called the Reagan Revolution or the reaganism, he wanted to revitalize the American people and diminish government´s influence on them through […] “the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism” [...]. 

 In his domestic policies, Reagan with his administration became famous for tax cuts and free-market ideology. He with his officials wanted to stimulate
economy, reduce business regulation, decline organised labour, and cut funding for social security programs in order to increase revenues and domestic
spending. Reagan engineered a massive 25 percent tax cut over three years for individual and corporate income taxes. 
 
Although the low-income people’s economic situation ameliorated a bit during the Reagan era because of the tax cuts, on the other hand Reagan’s cuts in education, low-income housing and the program of health insurance did not improve the poor Americans’ life.  In addition, the amount of unemployment augmented as a result of the recession of 1982 and the bad economic situation became even worse because Reagan’s cuts were not enough to improve the American economy. For instance, companies went under, and the national debt increased. Besides, people striked and Reagan fired the strikers which did not improve the situation. 
 
Nevertheless, by 1983, the American economy begin to ameliorate and the country “entered a period of prosperity that would extend through the rest of Reagan’s presidency” apart from the two last years of it. Reagan had for example increased the taxation in order to improve the American economic situation.  As a result of the successful economic measures taken by Reagan’s administration,  the  inflation decreased,  the stock market boomed and the employment rates increased, and consequently Reagan was re-elected the US President in 1984. 
 
On the other hand, it seems that Reagan’s administration did not always take successful measures in order to ameliorate the American economy, since “critics maintain that his policies led to budget deficits and a more significant national debt” because of the increasing American military expenses; “some also held that his economic programs favoured the rich”.  In 1987-1988 the economic crisis started, when the stock market collapsed in
October 1987. It followed that most savings and loans were vanished between the years 1988-1991. Then, in the summer of 1990 employment figures deteriorated.
 
When it comes to Reagan’s role in modernising the American army, Reagan managed to gain increased military funding and consequently, Reagan’s massive military programme was the largest and most expensive in peacetime history of the USA.  Reagan wanted to modernise the American forces and that is why  he made many investments on weaponry probably because of the fear of the communism and the Soviet Union. Reagan even got
involved in illegal arm trade with Iran in order to free the American hostages in  Lebanon and to support the anti-Communists, the Contras, in Nicaragua (see the chapters 5.1, 5.2 & 5.3.). 
 
4.  Reagan as a reformator
 
Reagan during his tenure in office was reformist. Firstly,, he appointed the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to one of three new justices of the Supreme Court. Secondly, during his administration innovations in computing blossomed because he supported primarily "private sector initiatives". The information age in the American soil began with world-wide known computing firms such as IBM, Apple and Microsoft. Thirdly, the fight against illegal drugs was essential to president Reagan, but particularly to First Lady Nancy Reagan. She led the campaign against drug abuse among the American youth. 
 
5.  Reagan’s international politics
 
5.1.  Fight against the terrorism

Reagan was against terrorism and consequently, he got involved in several conflicts with the Arabic countries in order to fight against the terrorist acts and
movements, among others he tried to find a solution in order to solve the problem concerning the Iranian hostage crisis.  

In fact, the Iranian hostage crisis began on November 4, 1979, when Iranian students penetrated the American embassy in Tehran, where its staff was held as hostage. In April 1980 President Carter decided to carry out a military rescue operation, which failed essentially. Instead, Reagan’s campaign tied a secret deal with the Iranians to release the 52 American hostages, who were held in Iran for 444 days captivity to prevent the Carter administration from unveiling this so-called “October surprise”, taking place before the election day in October 1980. 

In addition, Reagan fought against the terrorism in Lebanon and Libya. The military actions against Lebanon started when the US marine battalion was sent to Lebanon in 1983 because of a truck bomb in Beirut. It was a terrorist act against Americans committed by suicide bombers who killed 241 American soldiers. The air attack of Libya took place in 1981 and the  American bombings restarted in 1986 after Libya was involved in an attack on American soldiers in a West Berlin nightclub. 
 

5.2.         Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States 

Reagan  saw the Soviet Union as the “evil empire” together with other pro-Soviet governments. According to him, the Soviet Union and the communism was the reason for all the problems in the world and consequently,  the Americans had to battle against them. The so called Cold War continued and it was at its worst during the Reagan era.  

Consequently, in 1983 Reagan launched the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), labelled as “Star Wars" program according to the popular science-fiction movie. The US Congress funded this research project and the SDI was a plan to develop space-based weapons to protect the United States from attacks by Soviet nuclear missiles. In fact, Reagan’s governance increased military costs highly and facilitated utmost the military competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. The relations between the USA and the Soviet Union became even  more strained in September 1983 after the shot down of a Korean airliner by the Soviets over strategically sensitive territory on Sakhalin Island. All 269 people on board, of them 61 Americans were slaughtered. 
 
On the other hand, Reagan forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev during his second presidency and in 1987 the leaders of the USA and the Soviet Union signed an intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty in order to eliminate their missiles from Europe. That same year, Reagan spoke at Germany’s Berlin Wall, a symbol of communism, and challenged Gorbachev to tear it down. Twenty-nine months later, the people of Berlin dismantled the wall.
 
Reagan’s  second term  was thus more successful in terms of  "the American foreign affairs which is  exemplified by state visits made by Reagan and
Gorbachev in 1988 which culminated the countries’ warming relationships". In addition, Reagan’s administration began the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks
(START) to reduce the strategic nuclear arsenals by 50%, large multiple warhead missiles as well. 

In brief, president Reagan was regarded as the vital person who contributed to the end of the Cold War, although on the other hand, he increased the US defence spending a considerable amount of money on its development during his two presidential terms. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 and the high military costs of the military competition with the US has been one reason for the collapse. 
 
 
5.3. Battle against other communist countries than the Soviet Union

Reagan’s international politics was anti-communist as already mentioned in the chapter 5.2.,  and that is why he fought against some Asian, Central American and African countries with communist regime, among others against Angola, Mozambique, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Afghanistan. The communist expansions needed to be prevented and that is why  Reagan’s administration battled against Nicaraguan leftist, Sandinista government, too and got involved in the warfare with Grenada. In fact, on October 21, 1983, the Caribbean nation of Grenada was invaded by the USA, to prohibit Cuba’s growing influence in the area. Relations with the communist China were challenged during Reagan’s administration but they were gradually improved with an exchange of state visits of 1984. 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
 
Boyer, P. S. (2012) American History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 
General knowledge of economic studies
 
History TV. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/ronald-reagan#section_5
 
Jenkins, P. (2017). A History of the United States. 5th ed. London: Macmillan International Higher Education and Red Globe Press.
 
Ronald Reagan. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/ronald-reagan/. April 15, 2020.
 
Ronald Reagan. President of United States. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ronald-Reagan. April 15, 2020.
 
The Iran-Contra Affair. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ronald-Reagan/The-Iran-Contra-Affair. April 15, 2020.
 
The late 20th century. The Ronald Reagan administration. https://www.britannica.com/place/United-States/The-late-20th-century. April 15, 2020. 

 


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