Comparison of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt’s view of government


President Johnson and Roosevelt both used their inaugural speeches to introduce radical policy reforms. Roosevelt gave his speech right after the depression when dire economic reforms were desperately needed. Johnson launched a bold social policy largely identified as the Great Society program. Their perceptions of the role of government were somewhat congruent since both Presidents advocated for an enlargement of administrative control in the country’s economy. However, while Roosevelt did it in order to remedy a tumultuous financial system, Johnson’s intentions were less pressing.

On the role of government

Perhaps the most significant phrase in the 1964 was the President’s decisive attack against poverty. He asked society in general and Congress in particular to assist him in fighting this great plague. Some of the results of his declarations were evident a few months after his speech. He introduced Medicaid, Head Start, VIST and a food stamp program. Medicaid and Medicare were particularly instrumental to the former President’s legacy because they targeted vulnerable members of the community; that is the poor and the elderly.

Overall, the president felt that discrimination, unemployment as well as illiteracy were the key issues that had to be tackled in order to eradicate poverty. He argued that instead of focusing on symptoms of problems like employment, the country needed to embrace a more holistic approach that addressed why people were poor to begin with. The former president felt that weak, inadequate social programs were the chief concerns for the country, so some education and medical reforms were imperative. Johnson touched on a number of strategies that would assist in the eradication of poverty. Most of them can thus be classified as anti-poverty or anti-discrimination policies.

Some clear similarities are evident in the Johnson and Roosevelt speeches. First, both leaders acknowledged the plaguing effects of economic under performance in the country. Roosevelt was unsettled by the fact that a substantial portion of the population could not afford the necessities of life. Poverty was a pressing concern for Johnson when he first introduced the New Deal. Likewise, Johnson acknowledged the effects of unemployment in all elements of his speech as this was his justification for budget cuts.

Both presidents also believed that government should be deeply involved in the economy. They asserted that if matters were left unattended, then they would cause dire consequences. Lyndon said that the country cannot afford to ignore the problem of poverty towards the end of the speech. Likewise, Roosevelt declared:

“I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. ….In the event that congress fails, I shall not evade the duty…to wage war against the emergency.” (Roosevelt, 1933, p. 90)

The above statement indicates that Roosevelt had acknowledged the failures of the free market, and he wanted to do something about it. The former president felt that government should be deeply involved in the economy. He was even prepared to override Congress’s duties if they failed to support him in this.

Additionally, the two presidents also shared a belief in the power of the constitution to solve market inefficiencies. They asserted that the country’s laws were already powerful and sufficient enough to deal with the problem. This was the reason why Lyndon largely focused on a number of budget cuts to fund his aggressive reforms. On the other hand, Roosevelt thought that mere differences in emphasis of constitutional terms were sufficient to deal with the crisis.

In terms of policy, both presidents appeared to be reading from the same script in their speeches. They ascribed to social democratic principles. In this regard, the principles in the Great Society scheme were an extension of the new deal. Social democrats aim to intervene in markets in order to introduce a socialist dimension in the social order. However, the latter objective is often achieved in the long run. In the short term, it seeks to minimize unequal wealth distribution as well as make the public accountable for market outcomes. Social democrats value the needs of the working class and strive to deal with their challenges as they go along.

It appears that both Roosevelt and Johnson ascribed to these schools of thought. A number of their statements in both their speech indicated that they wanted to orient the way the capitalist regime had been reorganized. The support for such a movement emanated from failures of capitalist values. Roosevelt believed that unchecked markets had led to the great depression. Conversely, Johnson affirmed that some failures were evident in the current system if so many unemployed youth existed.

Johnsons’ speech was an extension of the role of government in the economy even at a time when aggressive expansion of government had previously been toned down. The previous president – John F. Kennedy – had not focused excessively on government intervention because he had to contend with some political factions in the Democratic party that wanted to quiet down social-democratic forces. Therefore, Johnson found an opportunity to incarnate the ideas that had started in the 1930s under Roosevelt after his reelection.

Roosevelt believed that economic strife in the country was a direct result of imprudent individuals. He got to the heart of the crisis by pointing out the short-term thinking and selfishness of business men. The former president firmly believed that individuals were incompetent and unable to carry out their responsibilities. They abused their positions of power by using public office to profit themselves………