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What was the opposition to the New Deal and how did Roosevelt deal with it?

While the New Deal helped millions of American's, it was not without challenge. In this lesson we will discuss those challenges and FDR's reactions.

I. Challenges to the New Deal

A. What were some of the reasons the New Deal was challenged?

1. Created a very powerful president that led Congress, this was a violation of checks and balances.

2. It was a radical departure from Laissez Faire ideals. Created "big government" - bureaucracy.

3. Some acts appeared interfering and at worst unconstitutional.

4. Heavy debt burden - the United States was engaged in defiict spending and this was unhealthy for the economy in the long run.

B. How did the Supreme Court respond to New Deal legislation?

1. Schecter Poultry Corp. Vs The United States (The Sick Chicken Case)

a) Schecter Poultry was alleged to have sold unfit chicken to a butcher. Schecter and the butcher are both based in Brooklyn New York. Schecter did no out of state business. Schecter Poultry Co. was charged by the federal government which argued that under the National Industrial Recovery Act Schecter Poultry can be regulated by the federal government which under the NRA set up codes in cooperation with various industries that:

(1) set prices ranges.

(2) set up minimum wages and maximum hours.

(3) abolished child labor

(4) recognized the rights of unions to organize

b) Schecter Poultry argued that the NIRA was unconstitutional because the federal government had no right to regulate intrastate trade.

c) The Supreme Court citing Gibbons v Ogden as the precedent reversed the lower courts decision in Schecter and struck down the NIRA as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court thus said reaffirmed the fact that the federal government may not regulate intrastate trade only interstate trade.

d) NIRA replaced with National Labor Relations Act, NLRA, which created the NLRB, set fair work standards and with the Fair Labor Standards Act, passing the first minimum wage per hour, 20 cents, maximum work week, 44 then 40 hours, and banned 16 year olds and younger from factory jobs.

2. United States v Butler

a) Suit is brought in attempt to have the Agricultural Adjustment Act declared unconstitutional. The federal government, which had done little in the 1920s to help farmers, initiated remedial programs with the passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 which provided payments to farmers in return for agreements to curtail their acreage or their production of wheat, cotton, rice, tobacco, corn, hogs, and dairy products. Payments were financed from taxes imposed on processors and these taxes were then sent directly to farmers as reimbursement NOT to grow food. Butler, a processor, refused to pay the tax and the Federal government brought suit against him. In his defense Butler claimed that tax may not be used to transfer wealth directly from one person to another.

b) The Supreme Court agreed with Butler and struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. The next year Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1934 which taxed processors and then placed the money into the governments general fund. Then farmers were paid out of the general fund not to grow food. The laws had the same effect, its just that the later version was done legally.

D. How did Roosevelt respond to the Courts attack on the New Deal?

1. Introduced Constitutional Amendment to enlarge the size of the court. This is referred to as his "Court packing" scheme.

2. Congress did not pass the amendment. It is regarded as a dark spot on FDR's record because it represented an attempt to subvert the process and alter the system of checks and balances.

II. How did Radicals Oppose the New Deal?

A. What about the Communist Party appealed to many Americans during the Depression?

1. Earl Browder and William Foster

2. Preached equal division of wealth, all would be equal.

3. Attracted union leaders, intellectuals, entertainment stars.

B. Why did Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana appeal to many during the Depression?

1. Share Our Wealth crusade.

2. Tax rich, guaranteed $2500 dollar a year income, housing, college education.

3. Long was assassinated while running for nomination to run on the Dem. Line.

C. What was the message of Father Charles Coughlin?

1. Michigan radio priest.

2. Called for a mix of socialist and populist programs. Coughlin often argued in favor of a benevolent dictator to run the government without opposition. He felt unions should be destroyed as they would be a threat to this national power.

3. Later, when ignored by Roosevelt, denounced New Deal as communistic.

4. Coughlin, despite great support from his radio listeners eventually appeared more and more radical as he opposed Roosevelt.

D. What was the message of Francis Townsend?

1. Concocted a pension plan that would appeal to older Americans. Under this plan older Americans would receive a set monthly pension, approximately $200 a month.

2. Those receiving the pension would be forced to spend all or some of the money.

3. Townsend believed that this would help all Americans by helping older Americans to survive and by creating spending to speed up the economy.

4. Townsend eventually joined forces with Father Coughlin and formed the Union Party. The put up a candidate named Earl Lemke. Lemke never gained much support despite Coughlin's promise of 9 million votes. Lemke, Coughlin and Townsend at that point were considered fringe element right wingers.

E. Why did Norman Thomas oppose Roosevelt.

1. Thomas was the socialist candidate and had run for office several times.

2. He was more committed to world socialism then to eliminating Roosevelt. He was considered a left wing radical.

F. Why didn't these radical ever gain power?

1. While reactionary leaders took power in Germany, Italy and Japan, America has a stronger history of democracy. These radicals all appeared to be part of the lunatic fringe and were eventually dismissed by the American people.

2. Roosevelt was a strong democratic leader whop inspired confidence and trust.


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