About 25 million people signed petitions in support of Townsend’s plan!
Consequently, the Roosevelt Administration established a two-tier federal system of insurance and relief programs.
Roosevelt (FDR) upon taking office that, given the present crisis, he would be either the worst or greatest president in American history.
Roosevelt is said to have responded: “If I fail, I shall be the last one.” Americans who had grown up promoting the ideology of the “deserving and undeserving poor” and the stigma of poor relief were now standing in line for relief.
One of the more radical policy proposals to address the Great Depression was put forth by Senator Huey Long from Louisiana and a second by Dr. Long (who was later assassinated) proposed a “share the wealth” program where millionaires would be taxed to fund pensions for anyone over 60 years of age.
The cost of the program, to be funded by an income tax, was projected to be .6 billion, a colossal amount of money at the time.
The federal government was in the best position to initiate and coordinate national efforts among public, private, and nonprofit sectors of society.
As the crisis deepened, progressive leaders and average Americans increasingly demanded that the federal government take greater responsibility in relieving and preventing poverty.
These were hard-working people who fully shared the values and ideals of the American dream, people who had enjoyed the strong economy of the 1920s and had bought the homes, refrigerators, and automobiles.
The sudden and severe downturn of the American economy left many of these people in shock and denial. Between 19, unemployment in the United States jumped from 3.2 percent to 24.9 percent, almost a quarter of the official labor force.