The Era of ReformNew Frontiers and Great Societies History 17B Lecture 18
Progressive and New Deal Traditions • Progressivism has served as the basis for all subsequent American reform movements. • Goal: save capitalism from its own excesses. • A positive role for government • Moderate reform • New executive agencies
Obstacles to Reform • American reform comes in waves. • People are exhausted and disillusioned after wars. • Americans want a return to normalcy. • After WWII, Americans seek to enjoy post-war prosperity.
Calls for reform continue… …but few are listening.
Truman’s Fair Deal • Government should provide full employment • Subsidize housing • National health insurance • Federal aid to education. • Civil Rights legislation • Integrated the military. • “Do Nothing” 80th Congress
Dwight Eisenhower • Americans sought a more low-key President in 1950s. • A bumbling figurehead or a commander behind the scenes? • Hidden-Hand Presidency • Subordinates take the heat while he stays above the fray.
Modern Republicanism • Ike was a pragmatic, moderate Republican • Filled his Administration with business executives. • Government had a limited role. • Increases in Social Security and unemployment insurance. • Construction of Federal highways.
The Other America 25% of Americans were poor Vast majority of senior citizens lived in poverty Racism and discrimination
Getting the Country Moving Again • Expansive years of the 1950s were seedbed for major reform in 1960s. • Minorities and poor wanted to participate in U.S. economic prosperity. • Prosperous America felt generous enough to let them. • Americans wondered if the country could do more…
John F. Kennedy • JFK combined a coherent vision of social change with political pragmatism. • His youth embodied the activist role of a President. • A darker side to JFK that we now know. • But while alive, he represented the promise of the 1960s as an era of reform.
The New Frontier • No radical intentions. • Tame the excesses of capitalism, not overthrow it. • JFK reformers pragmatists willing to compromise. • New Frontier promises: end racial discrimination, federal aid to education, medical care for the elderly, increase in minimum wage, government action to halt 1960-61 recession.
Nation Building • Promote reform both at home and abroad through American values and capitalism • Also fight the Cold War • Strengthen Third World through liberal-economic efforts. • Peace Corps • teachers, technicians, agricultural advisors • Alliance for Progress • $20 billion and technical assistance
Counter-Insurgency • Training of native police and armed forces. • Green Berets ferret out communist rebels.
Accomplishments and Setbacks • Executive Orders • Food distribution to needy families • Peace Corps • Committees on equal employment and the status of women • Collective bargaining in the federal service • Public works acceleration • Equal opportunity in housing • Most New Frontier legislation bottled-up in Congress • His death assures passage.
Lyndon Baines Johnson A crude but passionate man.
A Master in Persuasion • Not willing to compromise for half a loaf. • Legislative accomplishments: • Health care • Poverty legislation • Federal aid to schools and arts • Domestic spending on freeways and roads • Civil Rights (greatest achievement)
War on Poverty • Economic Opportunity Act (1964) • Job training in Job Corps • Loans to rural families and urban small businesses • VISTA (Volunteers for Service to America) helped the poorest in America • Over $1 billion for EOA
The Great Society • LBJ sought to extend the New Deal • Job Corps and training programs • Medicare for the aged • Medicaid to the poor • Aid to education and Head Start • Federal dollars for cities, mass transit, and housing. • Environmental safety legislation • Mental health facilities.
Critics of Reform • Critics on the Right • Government intrusion and centralization • Critics on the Left • Not really attacking roots of the problems (racism, class discrimination, maldistribution of wealth) • Also very expensive!
Impact and Legacy • In 1960, 1 in 3 Americans were poor. • In 1973, 1 in 10 Americans were poor. • Great Society was the high water mark of activist government. • We now expect government to regulate environmental safety or industrial pollution. • All Americans benefited (not just the poor).
Limits of “Liberal” Reform • Capitalism accepted as a positive system. • Provide fair opportunities so people can succeed on their own. • Great Society not a “cure-all” – but sold as one. • Vietnam War shatters Liberal consensus.