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March 13, 1933: Roosevelt Promises Action on Depression-Stricken Economy

Roosevelt giving his inaugural address.Roosevelt giving his inaugural address. [Source: US Politics Guide]Newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his Inaugural Address in Washington immediately after being sworn into office. To a country reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, Roosevelt offers a ringing promise of economic change—the first hints of what will become his “New Deal” economic policies. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he tells the crowd, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Acknowledges Economic Calamity - He continues: “Our common difficulties concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce: the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. A host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”
'Rulers of the Exchange,' 'Money Lenders' Stand Responsible - “Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure and abdicated,” Roosevelt says. “Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted. True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. There must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance.”
Call to Action - He continues: “This nation asks for action, and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war.… It can never be helped by merely talking about it. We must act, and act quickly. There must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency. These are the lines of attack.” [Time, 3/13/1933]

Entity Tags: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises

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