Sample Assignment #4 (midterm)

Here’s an anonymous midterm from an earlier semester. Generally, I would have liked to have seen a broader argument in the first paragraph (rather than a list), but the detail here is very much appreciated. And, remember, no quotes or footnotes are required for a midterm:

Modern aspects of American life that originated between 1877 and 1945 include political and social issues reporters, political party economics, and parts of the New Deal reform. Modern is defined as current or recent instead of relating to distant past. These three aspects, political reformers, political party economics, and the lasting programs from the New Deal originated between 1877 and 1945 but still exist in some form today.

Modern political and social issues reporters originated from the muckrakers of the early 1900s. President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term muckraker as a derogatory term as he thought they sometimes went too far. Ida Tarbell was the most influential muckraker and helped President Roosevelt take Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company to trial and win. Her two-year stint of articles discussed how corrupt not only Rockefeller was but also his business practices. Jacob Riis targeted housing reforms for immigrant hubs, a social living issue. Lincoln Steffens targeted city government corruption. Upton Sinclair targeted the conditions in the meat packing industry and ultimately helped with the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act. These four examples show how the term originated and led to investigative journalism. Modernly, this is what current journalists strive for. They know that investigative journalism leads to promising stories. Some of the current journalists still go too far and dig up dirt on anyone and anything they can. Although muckrakers was a derogatory term, the journalists took the term with pride and continued to push the envelope with their investigative journalism.

Political parties have always had their ideas and differences but their platforms gained a baseline for economics during the Great Depression. This baseline still carries to this day in regards to the Democratic and Republican parties. Supply-side theory of economics states that markets adjust and government intervention is not necessary. This theory states that economic growth comes from expanding productive capacity thus recommending supply side tax cuts such as capital gains tax reduction, flat tax reduction, personal income tax reduction, and corporate income tax reduction. These reductions allow for consumers to invest in the stocks and bonds of a company because they have more money from the income tax reduction and capital gains tax reduction gives them higher profits, thus allowing the companies to invest in themselves by expanding, growing, and producing more at a less expensive rate. This theory is supported by the Republican party. Demand-side theory of economics states that markets do not adjust and government intervention is necessary. This theory states that economic growth is based on spending. Government intervention start the growth spurt with borrowing money in order to put that money back in the market. A response to the Great Depression was to make new money and to redistribute money. The new money idea is seen with the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Social Security Act, and the WPA. The redistribution of money came from the Fair Labor Standards Act. The demand-side theory is supported by the Democratic party. Both parties still hold firmly to these theories. This is seen when the political parties have control of the Senate, House of Representatives or other political seats to include the President. The theories of supply and demand play a huge role in the economic growth or decline and how the government does or does not interact.
As stated before, the programs and acts the originated during this time frame was a result of the Great Depression. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 he initiated his plan known as the New Deal. Certain parts of the New Deal were stuck down by the Supreme Court, but the parts that withstood the scrutiny of a larger involvement of the government are still prominent today. A couple of these programs and acts that still have an impact today are the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Social Security Act, and the Fair Labors Standards Act.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation came into existence as a response to the banking and financial crisis at the start of the Great Depression. The whole bank run was a downward spiral. With the stock market crash, and the depression starting to kick off, banks were going bankrupt and consumers were pulling their money out, which meant more banks went bankrupt. When Roosevelt took office, he closed the banks for three days to save the banks and restore hope in the people. The special Congress session started the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to put money from the government back into the banks and to insure those consumers that were depositing funds into the bank. With an insurance set on a certain amount that was deposited, consumers were more willing to deposit money thus allowing the banks to lend that money. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation gave the people trust in the government for intervening and securing the banks. Today, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation still exists, and it still insures the money that consumers invest in the banks, with insurance covering deposits to a certain limit.
Tennessee Valley Authority created jobs in the southeastern part of the United States. This agency was able to modernize agrarian areas and provided jobs which lowered unemployment and put money back into the market, a demand-side theory. This agency provided irrigation, flood control, electrical power, and navigation to the region and remains the largest regional governmental agency today.

Social Security Act was passed by Congress in 1935. President Roosevelt wanted to alleviate some of the risk and the fear of unfortunate events that resulted in unemployment and retirement. Before the Social Security Act, Americans were solely responsible for their retirement and if they were laid off from work, they were responsible for that too. The Great Depression aggravated the downward spiral of unemployment and the stock market crash in- 1929 wiped out any savings that they already had. President Roosevelt wanted to add in medical coverage but decided he should wait for the time being. The economic idea behind the Social Security Act was that there would always be more workers than there were retired Americans. This basis would allow for the “fund” to continue to grow as people worked and as people drew out the benefit. Not only did the Social Security Act cover retirement and unemployment, it also aided in compensation for vocational rehabilitation for accidents on the job and for disabled dependents and child welfare. The functions of the Social Security Act was overwhelmingly supported then and now even though there was a period when the ratio of retired Americans was more than the number of Americans working. The Social Security Act is still active today, but medical coverage was added to it at a later day.
Fair Labor Standards Act was passed by Congress in 1938. The major components of the Fair Labor Standards Act include oppressive child labor, minimum wage, maximum hours, and penalties for violating any part of the Act. Since its approval, there have been several changes and amendments to the Act concerning minimum wage and maximum hour coverage of employees. For the most part though, the Fair Labor Standards Act main focal points have stayed intact for almost eighty years. The Act still limits oppressive child labor for children under the age of 16 and prevents children under the age of 18 and in school from working so many hours. The Act still provides a minimum wage for almost all employees. The Act still provides a 40-hour work week with every hour after that being paid time and one half of the employee’s wage. The Act still provides provisions for penalties of the Act. The Fair Labor Standards Act is considered modern as it has set the precedent for all four of these areas as well as others.

All six of these programs, Acts, or ideas are modern because they originated then but are still applicable today, thus the concept of modern. The muckrakers, or rather investigative journalists are present today and providing stories covering corruption, crime, scandals, and gossip. The political parties and platforms still play a major role in elections and economics. This is seen as recently as 2008 with the minor recession and how the parties fought over how it should be handled, whether they supply-side theory or the demand-side theory would work best. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has provided security and faith in the banking system and has allowed several banks to open. The Tennessee Valley Authority is still the only regional governmental agency that provides employment and services in the United States in regards to irrigation, flood control, electrical power, and navigation. The Social Security Act ensures that there is a pension for retirement based on payment by current workers, disability compensation, and welfare today. The Fair Labor Standards Act, with amendments throughout the years to increase minimum wage and employees that are covered by the one time and a half for any hour over 40, still holds firm and prevents wages from decreasing below a certain limit. All these aspects are modern, although they originated in some shape or form between 1887 and 1945.


Assignment #2 Example Essay.

[This is from an earlier semester. It’s not perfect (nothing is for a survey class like this one, lack of time guarantees that), but it is thoughtful. The only other thing I’d mention is that I wasn’t pushing quotations in earlier semesters because I didn’t want to have teach footnotes. I’ve changed my mind on that issue and would now highly recommend two or three direct quotations from primary sources in your essays for Friday, each one at least marginally footnoted.]

The industrial revolution is an incredible time period in history. So many substantial changes occurred during this time period, and so many glorious benefits for our nation transpired because of these many changes. However, when thinking about the many benefits of the industrialization; it is also necessary to reflect on the bad effects that that occurred as a result of the industrialization. When thinking of how far our nation has come as a result of the industrialization, it is easy to conclude that these bad effects do not outweigh the good and the benefits were certainly worth the bad effects. Looking back at history, we can see how greatly we advanced from then to now. On the other hand, when thinking only of humankind, it is worth arguing that maybe these bad effects that emerged were not worth the benefits.

As can be seen in the textbook, one of the key benefits that came from the industrial revolution was the ability of companies to have more efficient production. Inventions like Ford’s assembly line made this possible by showing that it was possible to mass produce goods quickly and cost effectively, which in return made these goods affordable to more people and not just the elite or wealthy. Also, other inventions such as the telegraph and railroad made transporting these goods through the nation more convenient. All these thing transpired into more demand for the product all over the nation and more revenue for companies; which then led to increase in job opportunities. All of these changes led to a different lifestyle for all.

In Andrew Carnegie’s articled entitled “Wealth”, he speaks of the days before the industrial revolution, stating that during this time there was very little difference between classes. Clothes, food, and homes were the same for all. He illustrates an example of a master and apprentice working side by side, and discusses how they were subject to the same living conditions, so even when the apprentice became a master no change really occurred in their quality of life. In the article he state “There was, substantially social equality, and even political equality”. However, once the industrial revolution hit, this equality was no more. Now the distinction between classes was much more observable and noticeable. Also, not only was there just the elite and the poor; but a working class also emerged from the industrial revolution. In “Wealth” Carnegie states “Human society loses homogeneity”.

So, now no longer existed the similarities in classes, but instead much different conditions for each social class. The article by Jacob Riis entitled “How the Other Half Lives” clearly depicts the harsh conditions that the lower classes were now subject too. In the article he describes and documents the living and working conditions of the poor. Very cheaply made, unsanitary, and extremely small tenements were made for the poor city workers to live. His work undoubtedly shows how the lower classes were easily taken advantage of. The Brands textbook also discusses how the laborers were taken advantage of by employers, by being given low pay and unsafe working conditions; and the picture of the ruins of the Ludlow Massacre shows the horrific and sad effects of these laborers trying to take action by striking. Additionally, skilled workers were being replaced by machinery, contributing more to the poverty of this class.

It is evident to see in these few examples that humanity was changing for the worst. Greed and unconcern for the poor by the wealthy and elite was becoming more evident throughout this time. The rich were getting richer, while the poor were getting poorer. No longer was there the homogeneity that Andrew Carnegie once spoke of. It seemed that society was no longer working for the improvement for all society, but instead individuals were becoming selfish and self-centered. In Thorstein Veblen’s article he speaks of an idea called “conspicuous consumption” which refers to a consumer who doesn’t buy a good based on needs, but rather buys an expensive item to display income and wealth in order to gain higher social status. This article really portrays how competition and rivalry really sprung up in society during this time.

Ultimately, I think that the effects that the industrial revolution had on society are not worth the benefits that we gained. In today’s world we can see how greediness, self-centeredness, and corruptness has very negatively affected our world. We as a society are not focused on coming together to help each other, but instead only do things to benefit ourselves instead of others. I think that the more distinct separation of classes during the industrial revolution truly may have damaged us in this way. There will never be a time in our world where we can all be equal, or experience the same benefits. The separation of classes has forever ruined this concept. I personally find it sad that there is such a difference in the way different classes of people are treated and how not everyone gets the same benefits just because of the social class they are born into. I believe we are all equal and should be treated equally, but this is a concept that our nation has lost. However, it is important to note that without these negative changes all of the wonderful advancements in society we do have may not exist. Although social classes may not be a good think for humankind or for peace and equality, it is important to remember how conditions haven’t only changed for the worse but have also changed somewhat positively for the poor.