The New Deal by Michael Hiltzik
A Modern History

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Synopsis

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal began as a program of short-term emergency relief measures and evolved into a truly transformative concept of the federal government’s role in Americans’ lives. More than an economic recovery plan, it was a reordering of the political system that continues to define America to this day.

With The New Deal: A Modern History, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Michael Hiltzik offers fresh insights into this inflection point in the American experience. Here is an intimate look at the alchemy that allowed FDR to mold his multifaceted and contentious inner circle into a formidable political team. The New Deal: A Modern History shows how Roosevelt, through the force of his personality, commanded the loyalty of the rock-ribbed fiscal conservative Lewis Douglas and the radical agrarian Rexford Tugwell alike; of Harold Ickes and Harry Hopkins, one a curmudgeonly miser, the other a spendthrift idealist; of Henry Morgenthau, gentleman farmer of upstate New York; and of Frances Perkins, a prim social activist with her roots in Brahmin New England. Yet the same character traits that made him so supple and self-confident a leader would sow the seeds of the New Deal’s end, with a shocking surge of Rooseveltian misjudgments.

Understanding the New Deal may be more important today than at any time in the last eight decades. Conceived in response to a devastating financial crisis very similar to America’s most recent downturn—born of excessive speculation, indifferent regulation of banks and investment houses, and disproportionate corporate influence over the White House and Congress—the New Deal remade the country’s economic and political environment in six years of intensive experimentation. FDR had no effective model for fighting the worst economic downturn in his generation’s experience; but the New Deal has provided a model for subsequent presidents who faced challenging economic conditions, right up to the present. Hiltzik tells the story of how the New Deal was made, demonstrating that its precepts did not spring fully conceived from the mind of FDR—before or after he took office. From first to last the New Deal was a work in progress, a patchwork of often contradictory ideas. Far from reflecting solely progressive principles, the New Deal also accommodated such conservative goals as a balanced budget and the suspension of antitrust enforcement. Some programs that became part of the New Deal were borrowed from the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover; indeed, some of its most successful elements were enacted over FDR’s opposition.

In this bold reevaluation of a decisive moment in American history, Michael Hiltzik dispels decades of accumulated myths and misconceptions about the New Deal to capture with clarity and immediacy its origins, its legacy, and its genius.
 

About Michael Hiltzik

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Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for twenty years. In that time he has served as a financial and political writer, an investigative reporter, and as a foreign correspondent in Africa and Russia. He currently serves as the Times business columnist. His other books include The Plot Against Social Security (2005), Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age (1999), and A Death in Kenya (1995). Mr. Hiltzik received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry. Among his other awards for excellence in reporting are the 2004 Gerald Loeb Award for outstanding business commentary and the Silver Gavel from the American Bar Association for outstanding legal reporting. A graduate of Colgate University, Mr. Hiltzik received a master of science degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in 1974. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children.
 
Published September 13, 2011 by Free Press. 514 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The New Deal

Kirkus Reviews

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Though he disagrees with the revisionist school of historians who argue that the New Deal prolonged the Depression, Hiltzik writes with no obvious agenda in mind.

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The Wall Street Journal

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Mr. Hiltzik's chronicle would have been more effective if cast in a less triumphal mode, acknowledging the many ways in which the New Deal failed the economy it was trying to save.

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The Wall Street Journal

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Notwithstanding the billions of dollars spent, the economy did not get back to its 1929 level in FDR's first two terms.

Sep 13 2011 | Read Full Review of The New Deal: A Modern History

Los Angeles Times

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Michael Hiltzik's "Colossus," published last year, told the story of the building of what is now known as the Hoover Dam, an epic public works project that was seized upon by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as an icon of his New Deal.

Sep 18 2011 | Read Full Review of The New Deal: A Modern History

City Book Review

To date Americans still rely on its works for transportation, electricity, flood control, housing, and community amenities.” In conclusion, may of FDR’s programs for the New Deal were borrowed from the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover, whose goal was a balanced budget and the end of ...

Dec 15 2011 | Read Full Review of The New Deal: A Modern History

Bookmarks Magazine

In this bold reevaluation of a decisive moment in American history, Michael Hiltzik dispels decades of accumulated myths and misconceptions about the New Deal to capture with clarity and immediacy its origins, its legacy, and its genius.

Sep 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The New Deal: A Modern History

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