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This Week in History:
May 1 - 7, 1933
FDR's Second Fireside Chat

May 2011

By Nancy Spannaus

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

With this edition of Electronic Intelligence Weekly, we return to the period of the 1930s Great Depression, during that crucial turning point of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first months in office. Roosevelt's leadership in putting forward policies consistent with the American System of Economics, reasserted the Constitutional principle of the General Welfare, and saved our republic from a move into disintegration and fascism. A revival of this institutional reflex is long overdue today.

On May 7, 1933, eight weeks after his inauguration, President Roosevelt gave his second Fireside Chat, a conversation with the American people about the measures which he, and the Congress, had taken so far. In addition to outlining the specific measures which were enacted, or in the process of going through the Congress, the President underscored the fact that they had been taken in the best tradition of American history, and in the interest of literally saving the accomplishments of modern civilization.

He put it this way:

"We are working toward a definite goal, which is to prevent the return of conditions which came very close to destroying what we call modern civilization. The actual accomplishment of our purpose cannot be attained in a day. Our policies are wholly within purposes for which our American constitutional government was established 150 years ago."

The summary of what legislation had been put into effect is impressive, although preliminary to the full agenda which President Roosevelt ultimately accomplished, including the legislative commitments to the General Welfare which came in the 1935-36 period. We quote the President's summary here:

"The legislation which has been passed or is in the process of enactment can properly be considered as part of a well-grounded plan.

"First, we are giving opportunity of employment to one-quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men who have dependents, to go into the forestry and flood-prevention work. This is a big task because it means feeding, clothing, and caring for nearly twice as many men as we have in the regular Army itself. In creating this Civilian Conservation Corps we are killing two birds with one stone. We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources, and we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress. This great group of men has entered upon its work on a purely voluntary basis; no military training is involved and we are conserving not only our natural resources, but our human resources. One of the great values to this work is the fact that it is direct and requires the intervention of very little machinery.

"Second, I have requested the Congress and have secured action upon a proposal to put the great properties owned by our government at Muscle Shoals [Alabama] to work after long years of wasteful inaction, and with this a broad plan for the improvement of a vast area in the Tennessee Valley. It will add to the comfort and happiness of hundreds of thousands of people and the incident benefits will reach the entire nation.

"Next, the Congress is about to pass legislation that will greatly ease the mortgage distress among the farmers and the home-owners of the nation, by providing for the easing of the burden of debt now bearing so heavily upon millions of our people. ,

"Our next step in seeking immediate relief is a grant of half a billion dollars to help the states, counties, and municipalities in their duty to care for those who need direct and immediate relief.

"The Congress also passed legislation authorizing the sale of beer in such states as desired it. This has already resulted in considerable reemployment and incidentally has provided much-needed tax revenue.

"We are planning to ask the Congres for legislation to enable the government to undertake public works, thus stimulating directly and indirectly the employment of many others in well-considered projects.

"Further legislation has been taken up which goes much more fundamentally into our economic problems. The Farm Relief Bill seeks by the use of several methods, along or together, to bring about an increased return to farmers for their major farm products....

"Well-considered and conservative measures will likewise be proposed which will attempt to give to the industrial workers of the country a more fair wage return, prevent cutthroat competition and unduly long hours of labor, and at the same time encourage each industry to prevent overproduction.

"Our railroad bill falls into the same class because it seeks to provide and make certain definite planning by the railroads themselves, with the assistance of the government, to eliminate the duplication and waste that is now resulting in railroad receiverships and continuing operating deficits....

"It is wholly wrong to call the measures that we have taken government control of farming, industry, and transportaion. It is rather a partnership between government and farming and industry and transportation, not partnership in profits, for the profits still go to the citizens, but rather a partnership in planning, and a partnership to see that the plans are carried out...."


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

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