Truman's Domestic Policy

Sarah Iftekhar

Despite strong opposition from a Republican congress, Truman attempted to extend Roosevelt?s New Deal policies by strengthening social security, conservation, implementing rent controls, and providing housing to low-income families. At times, however, Truman was inconsistent with his own party?s beliefs and the ideal of the New Deal in order to suit the immediate situation and retain public support. Furthermore, Truman supported civil rights actions and for the first time, increased the political status of African American citizens. Truman?s various other reforms were much like the proposals of Roosevelt, but the mood of the nation due to its affluence and that of Congress opposed his efforts and the changing times proved that Truman?s Fair Deal was not as necessary as FDR?s New Deal.

Truman?s organized policy to elaborate on the New Deal was termed the Fair Deal and aimed to improve social conditions like Roosevelt?s plan had done previously. His immediate goals were full employment and an improved economy, as well as to provide for the common good. The Fair Labor Standards Act increased the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents and the Social Security Act increased benefits to the elderly by 77.5%. Also, to the advantage of those who lived in rented homes and apartments, Truman lengthened rent controls to March 1951, and in addition, the Housing Act vowed to eliminate slums and established 810,000 low-income houses, thus providing a good amount of citizens with affordable housing. The president also implemented the Employment Act in 1946 to help stabilize the postwar economy. The act created a three member council of economic advisors and a joint committee to study and propose stabilization measures. Moreover, Truman attempted to establish a Missouri Valley Authority while extending the power of the Tennessee Valley authority, but was unsuccessful. However, the president did obtain increases in hydroelectric, water control, and irrigation projects in the west. Like Roosevelt, Truman was concerned about the welfare of farmers and encouraged the Brennan Plan to maintain farm income standards through price supports, loans, and storage of nonperishable commodities. Although the plan failed , the Agriculture Act of October, 1949 continued price supports at 90% parity through 1950 and then at 75-90% afterwards. This act was consistent with New Deal farm policy. Truman made other New Dealish attempts, like National Health Insurance and federal aid to education, but both were defeated with the help of protests by interest groups, namely the American Medical Association and the Roman Catholic Church. Truman also provided for the survivors of Nazi death camps by creating the Displaced Persons Act, which allowed 205,000 of them entry into the United States.

Also along the lines of democratic New and Fair Deals, the government provided for war veterans with the GI Bill of Rights, which granted $500 a year for tuition and $50 a month for living costs. In these actions, Truman attempted to provide for the common good and appease the greatest number of people in the postwar era.

During the Truman presidency, race relations were deteriorating. Blacks that served in the war were demanding their right to vote without intimidation and death threats from white supremacists. The percentage of black voters did rise from 2% to 12%, but this only angered southerners since it was see as an act of increased black aggression. White supremacists governors like Eugene Talmadge of Georgia and Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi urged anti-black violence and black war veterans were killed and tortured for expressing their constitutional right to vote. In September of 1946, President Truman met with the NAACP, National Emergency Committee on Violence and other civil rights organizations and heard of the atrocities occurring against black citizens. Truman was appalled and vowed to act. He created the first President?s Committee on Civil Rights, an issue Roosevelt had failed to act upon. Truman urged for action upon the proposals for equality as explained in the publication To Secure These Rights but southern leaders called the act ?a stab in the back? for the south. Dissenting southern Democrats created the State?s Rights Democratic Party for this reason but had little success in coming to power. Nevertheless, Truman issued executive orders in July 1948 barring discrimination in federal employment and creating a committee to ensure the ?equality of treatment and oppurtunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin?. The integration of