The demanded government ownership of railroads, graduated

 

The
growing role of the federal government in modern United States history has
expanded significantly over the last century. The growth of the federal
government can be viewed as the power it possesses and the influence it has on
society. This growing role can be related to the federal government’s actions
towards the demands of the people, in which was and still is represented by the
initiatives of several social reform movements such as the Peoples Party or the
Populists Movement and the Progressives. Another great aid to the growing role
of the federal government was the initiatives of the New Deal under the Presidency
of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Compared to roles of federal government’s before the
20th century, it has taken on new and immense roles, which includes
health care, pensions and a wide range of other programs that are associated
with a modern welfare state which came as a result of reform movements’ demands
and government reform programs initiatives. 

The
Populists Movement came about as a result of the Grange and the Farmers
Alliance. One of the greatest demand the Populist advocated for through the
Omaha Platform was bimetallism which was currency backed by both gold and
silver. Bimetallism would cause inflation which would make it easier for
farmers to pay their mortgages. They also demanded government ownership of
railroads, graduated income tax, reduction in tariff and measures such as the
8-hour work day and limits on immigration. The Omaha Platform assisted the
farmers significantly by its demands. As a result of the Omaha platform, a
sub-treasury was implemented which acted as a provision of the department of
treasury who would create warehouses where farmers could store their crops and
be provided with cotton gins. The government would also make loans to the
farmers to help them with debt. The platform also demanded free silver which
was a soft money policy and had a 1:16 ratio on the gold standard. With free
silver, the increase of money supply created more credit for farmers. Another
important demand of the Omaha Platform which help farmers were the government
ownership of railroads, this resulted in the lowering of prices which was
charged by monopolies that weren’t fair to the farmers.

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Another
reform movement that influenced the increasing role of the federal government
in the modern United States were the Progressives. Progressivism is the term
related to the different responses to the economic and social problems that
were introduced in America as a result of industrialization. Initially, Progressivism
was a social movement, however, it grew into a political movement. The first
progressives did not accept Social Darwinism, they believed that the problems
society faced such as poverty, racism, and violence could best be addressed by
providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace (www2.gwu.edu).

During the Progressive Era, there was a rise of the middle class and a rise of
professions. Education was made compulsory and four new amendments were added
to the constitution. One influential progressive was Theodore Roosevelt, who
was an elite that wanted to be a cowboy. As a progressive, he was willing to
use the power of his offices to regulate large businesses. The Square Deal was
Theodore Roosevelt domestic plan in which he explained in the early 1900’s. He
stated that workers must make a good living but companies must make money.

The
New Deal was a series of programs and policies known as the ‘Three R’s’. It is
viewed as an extension of the Progressive Era and known as the “Second New Deal”
relating to Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal. These programs were introduced by
President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression to address the
problems of unemployment and the economic crisis. Roosevelt Three R’s being recovery,
relief, and reform required either immediate, temporary or permanent action and
reforms. The many recovery, relief and reform programs were initiated by a
series of laws that were passed between 1933 and 1938 (www.american-historama.org).

Roosevelt programs focused on emergency relief programs, regulating the banks
and the stock market, providing debt relief, managing farms, initiating
industrial recovery and introducing public works construction projects. Roosevelt
goal was to restore confidence in the economy through the Three R’s.

The
Great Society which was an extension of the New Deal ideology and social
progressivism was a set of domestic programs in the United States launched by
President Lyndon B. Johnson. The main goal of this reform program was the
elimination of poverty and racial injustice in society. Through Johnson’s
leadership, the new major government spending programs that addressed
education, medical care, urban problems, rural poverty, and transportation were
provided by The Office of Economic Opportunity. Johnson started his reform
program on the economic front in which he successfully pushed for a tax cut. He
then pressed for a poverty program which was initiated by John F Kennedy. The
program and its initiatives were subsequently promoted by him and fellow
Democrats in Congress in the 1960s and years following. Following the poverty
program, medical care came next. Two decades earlier, Harry Truman proposed a
centralized scheme but failed to gain congressional passage. Under Johnson’s
Presidency, Congress enacted Medicare which is a health insurance program for
the elderly and Medicaid, is a program providing health-care assistance for the
poor (www.ourdocuments.gov). Johnson also succeeded in his effort to provide
aid for primary and secondary education where John F Kennedy failed. The Great
Society achieved, even more, a new housing act provided rent supplements for
the poor and established a Department of Housing and Urban Development. Johnson
administration also addressed transportation safety issues in which Johnson
signed into law two transportation bills. The first provided funds to state and
local governments for developing safety programs, while the other set up federal
safety standards for cars and tires (Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society). The
Great Society resembled the New Deal domestic agenda of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

However, unlike the old New Deal, which was a response to a severe financial
and economic calamity, the Great Society initiatives came just as the postwar
prosperity was starting to fade but before the coming decline was being felt by
the middle and upper classes.

Following
the Great Depression of the 1930s, the American economy experienced strong
growth, with periodic lesser recessions, for the rest of the 20th century.

However, the great economic and financial crisis that began in 2007 known as
the Great Recession occurred. The term Great Recession is often described as a
play on the term Great Depression. The Great Recession was caused by the making
of the housing bubble and the explosion of complex mortgage-backed security.

Although many believe that the housing bubble or boom began with the rise in home
prices, it began with the suppression of double-digit inflation in the early
1980s, an event that unleashed a quarter-century of what seemed to be steady
and dependable prosperity. As inflation fell, interest rates followed. The
stock market soared. From 1979 to 1999, stock values rose 14-fold. Housing
prices climbed, though less spectacularly. Enriched, Americans borrowed and
spent more. But what started as a justifiable response to the good economic
news, lower inflation, slowly evolved into corrupting overconfidence, the
driving force for the reckless borrowing, overspending, financial speculation,
and regulatory lapses that caused the bust (Rethinking Great Recession). The
decisions and actions made in response to the demands of the populist movement
are tied to the Great Recession. In which, the demand for free silver that
caused inflation and the increased availability of credit. Although inflation
helped the farmers during the populist era, it came with consequences later in
which, the declining inflation also stoked stock market and housing booms. 

Throughout
the last century, the role of the federal government has grown significantly.

This growth was influenced by the reform movements and reform incentives
highlighted in this essay. It is evident that national defense, administration
of justice, and public goods which includes transportation, infrastructure and
basic and applied education are essential to a free and prosperous society,
which have increased or more resources have been pumped into these three
important government functions over the last century. 

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