Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Deal

Was the New Deal successful? In many ways FDR’s plans helped pull the country out of the Depression but in other aspects it was not nearly so successful.
From a purely economic standpoint it appears that the New Deal worked brilliantly. The Gross National Product rose from $55 billion in 1933, the year FDR was elected, to $85 billion in 1939. In 1933 $45 billion worth of consumer goods were purchased and 1939 saw an increase to $65 billion. Lastly the private investment in industry rose from $2 billion to $10 billion in this time frame. While these numbers did not reach the levels they were in 1928, when the  Gross National Product was $100 billion, $80 billion were spent on consumer goods and $15 billion dollars were privately invested in industry, it would have been nearly impossible to so quickly raise the economy back to its peak after such a large crash. The New Deal also preserved a free market economy and created policies to prevent another economic crash in the future.
The New Deal also attempted to create jobs for the millions of unemployed people in America. Although many government jobs were created, most of these consisted of unskilled labor and were not long term. Despite the dissatisfaction with the type of jobs, for those who were hired by government organizations, any work was better than nothing. These organizations couldn’t find work for everyone though and the unemployment rate was at 19% even in 1939. These rates only dropped due to America’s involvement in WWII.
Civil Rights and racism was another multifaceted issue during the New Deal. Many of FDR’s New Deal projects employed African Americans and put in place quotas to ensure a diversity in hiring. Black artists and musicians also benefited from New Deal programs. Additionally FDR’s administration hired three times the amount of African American federal employees as in the past. However most of the hiring for the New Deal programs was done locally and white workers were often chosen over all others. Furthermore many of the organizations were fraught with systemic racism, the effects of which can still be seen today. The Federal Housing Agency (FHA) and other groups that dealt with creating and sustaining affordable housing sectioned off areas with black residents as risky, marking them in read and thus coining the term “redlining”. White neighborhoods were given better benefits and soon these areas prospered while the black neighborhoods only became poorer due to the lack of housing benefits. Education became more difficult for these poor neighborhoods because the school systems tended to be worse than in richer areas and parents could not afford to send their children to college. Today the difference between the red-lined districts and those areas which were given the most attention during the New Deal is stark. Even without a map showing the old breakdown of districts by the New Deal housing programs, it would not be difficult to guess which areas were red-lined even now, 80 years later.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Foreign Policy

The foreign policy unit made clear just how delicate the balance of foreign policy is in the world, and how important the decisions of the US can be. In the movie The World Without Us, the narrator explained how many horrifying atrocities could have been lessened if only the US had intervened sooner, and how on many occasions the other world powers did little to help and it was only the eventual involvement of the US that had an effect. The movie also explained that in many cases, like in the Middle East, and South Korea, US involvement is the only thing that prevents conflicts between countries from escalating to the extent of possible nuclear war. Yet at the same time this reliance on the US to keep the peace only increases the need for America to police the world. At this time it is impossible for the US to fully stop policing the world, but perhaps if we move slowly and strategically, we may be able to lessen our world presence at some point in the future and let other countries police themselves.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Immigration Post 2: Assimilation

One of the largest questions concerning immigration is whether assimilation is largely positive or largely negative. Some people feel that immigration causes American culture to disappear. But what exactly is “American culture”? As a country founded by immigrants do we really have one universal culture? The british immigrants may have come first, but it has been so long since these first immigrants that America is no longer similar to England or any European country. America doesn’t have one shared religion, even if christianity is the most common one, and we’ve always been such a mash of cultures that we can’t really say that immigrants are ruining our culture. Many people think that immigrants should just adapt fully to the American lifestyle to avoid a loss of American culture, but not only would this make our culture stagnant, it would be asking far too much of immigrants who had already moved away from their own countries and cultures.
To a certain extent it makes sense to expect immigrants to learn and adapt to american society, after all we do have societal norms which we expect people to follow (evenly mowed lawns and tips at restaurants being two examples). However full assimilation implies completely adopting “american culture” often in place of your original culture. This would be hard, if not impossible, for people who had already left their country and family behind. Some people believe that acculturation is a more palatable alternative for immigrants. Acculturation is when two cultures meet and adapt to each other. To me this implies that this adaptation would happen within the immigrants and, to some extent, the people and society around them. This means that immigrants would not have to give up their own culture in order to fit in in America, but rather adopt some american beliefs in addition to their own. For example in my family we speak a mix of english and kannada, one of the three main languages in the part of India where most of my family lives. Furthermore, in addition to celebrating the Indian holidays, we also exchange presents and celebrate with friends and family at christmas time. Getting drawn into some american traditions is unavoidable because they are so commercialized that going with the flow is easier. Besides, who would turn down presents?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Immigration

Before this unit, the majority of my knowledge of immigration was limited to my parents own stories, and the policies that Donald Trump has suggested, including building the wall, his plans for deportation and preventing children born to illegal immigrants in the States from gaining automatic citizenship. I had also learned about the poor working conditions many immigrants had faced because of their undocumented status. However I did not know many specifics about these conditions, and while the name Caesar Chavez was familiar I did not know anything about his  efforts to create the United Farm Workers. I also knew little about immigration laws like the Immigration and Nationality Act, which abolished restrictions on how many immigrants could come from a particular nation and shifted focus onto reuniting families.
The part of this unit that has been most interesting to me is the personal stories that we saw in the movie I Learn America and in the articles we read for class. Two stories that stuck with me were those of Brandon and Exel. Brandon wanted to learn but his passion for soccer distracted him and his parents decided to pull him out of school to work. While he did eventually get a second chance, the fact that he was almost denied the chance to finish his high school education resonated with me. Exel had a similar story. While he, unlike Brandon, was on top of his school work, he had to earn money to help support himself and his family. The only immigrant stories I had really heard before now were the ones my parents and their friends have told me, however the children we learned about in this unit had far more trouble than my parents. While my parents did not grow up with a lot of money, my grandparents put a focus on making sure that my parents, as well as my aunts and uncles received the best possible education. This meant that, unlike many immigrants, they had careers when they came here, my dad got a good job working with computers while my mom started her fellowship when she came to the States a few years later. Unfortunately for many the kids in the movie and in the articles, the education they received prior to coming to America was subpar and their families were more focused on surviving in dangerous areas. Unlike my parents, who came here for the job opportunities America offered, the kids came because they had no choice. Whether it was due to violence, or because their parents chose to come for another reason, these children were uprooted from their homes for reasons beyond their control.