FDR: The First Hundred Days

By ANTHONY J. BADGER

The furiously busy first hundred days of Franklin D. Roosevelt?s presidency have become a benchmark against which all later presidents have been measured. FDR?s New Deal, Professor Badger tells us, “was an emergency response to the crisis of the Depression.” Contrary to six decades of Republican rhetoric that?s depicted FDR as a radical proponent of Big Government, Badger explains that FDR was neither anti-business nor in favor of massive government budget deficits. Indeed, in confronting his first crisis, the propping up of the nation?s failing banking system, FDR borrowed his program directly from his predecessor, Herbert Hoover. Moreover, Badger explains that several of FDR?s New Deal programs relied heavily on local authorities for their implementation. In setting up much-needed controls on prices, wages, and production, whether for farmers (through the Agricultural Adjustment Act) or businesses (through the National Recovery Act), FDR pursued a bottom-up policy that relied on volun-
tary cooperation, local involvement, and minimal federal intervention. “The New Deal put its faith in grass-roots democracy,” writes Badger. FDR viewed business as vital, but he loathed the sort of corporate and financial irresponsibility that he believed fostered the 1929 stock market crash. FDR?s goal, notes Badger, was “to get the market to operate in a more open and transparent way” so as to protect the public interest. Badger?s fresh and admirably fair-minded look at the New Deal?s beginnings takes readers inside the White House as a new president deals day-to-day with the greatest economic crisis in this nation?s history.