History 202 (Online)

History 202 (Online)

Professor Rees’ Online US History Survey Course

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.