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#183: Roosevelt Aims for Economic Security With 'Second New Deal'

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President Franklin Roosevelt at his desk in the White House
President Franklin Roosevelt at his desk in the White House

DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English.

Franklin Roosevelt's first three months as president was one of the most exciting periods in American politics. Roosevelt entered the White House in March nineteen thirty-three. The nation was in crisis. Banks across the country had closed their doors. The Great Economic Depression was at its lowest point.

Roosevelt and the Congress moved quickly to help people with little food or money. They launched a series of major economic programs.

I'm Doug Johnson with Mario Ritter. This week in our series, we talk about the laws and policies of President Franklin Roosevelt including those known as the "Second New Deal."

MARIO RITTER: Conditions improved within a year after Roosevelt took office. There was no question about that. Banks were open. More people had jobs. Farmers were doing better. And poor people were not so close to disaster as before. However, conditions were far from perfect. Ten million workers still did not have jobs. Young people leaving school were lucky to find any job at all. And most business owners were only earning small profits, if any at all.

After the worst crisis was past, some groups of Americans began to attack Roosevelt and his programs. Conservatives were the first to break with the president. They accused Roosevelt of socialist economic policies.

DOUG JOHNSON: Much more serious to Roosevelt was criticism from reformers within his own party. A number of popular leaders with strong ideas began to attract support from large numbers of Americans. Roosevelt saw his national unity falling apart. Conservatives were accusing him of socialism. Leftist opponents said he was doing too little to end the depression. He saw that he had to change his path.

Roosevelt knew he had little chance to re-gain the support of conservative Americans. His policies were too progressive. So, halfway through his first term as president, he began to support new reforms in an effort to win more support from the left.

The Norris Dam in Tennessee in 1937
The Norris Dam in Tennessee in 1937

MARIO RITTER: The Supreme Court made the president's effort easier. Early in nineteen thirty-five, the court ruled that several of Roosevelt's earlier programs violated the constitution and ordered an end to them. Among them were major programs for farmers and industrial planning.

The court's decisions forced Roosevelt to create new programs and try new ideas. One of his first new actions was to support a plan for government controls on companies that supplied water and produced electricity.

Another was a measure to give jobs to workers. A third new law forced companies doing business with the federal government to pay workers a minimum wage. And the government also began enforcing a new law to control the actions of stock market traders and investment companies.

At the same time, Roosevelt began to attack large companies. He spoke about the importance of small businesses in a democracy. He warned the nation that large companies had too much power. And he called for new actions to increase business competition and control large companies.

DOUG JOHNSON: Roosevelt supported, and Congress passed, two laws during this period that would change the lives of working Americans for years to come. The first law gave more power to labor unions. The second created a federal system to provide money for workers after they retired.

Roosevelt's administration had already supported labor unions in an earlier law. But that law was over-ruled by the Supreme Court. So in nineteen thirty-five, the Congress passed a new law called the National Labor Relations Act.

The act created a national labor relations group to help negotiate agreements between workers and business owners. It gave all workers the right to join or form a labor union. And it ordered business owners to negotiate with a union if it represented most of the workers.

The new law, for the first time, gave unions real power and negotiating rights.

MARIO RITTER: The other very important law passed during this period created the national social security system. The law forced every worker and business owner to pay a small amount of money each month to the federal government. In exchange, the government paid money to workers who had retired or lost their jobs.

The new law did not serve everyone. Farmers, government workers, and a number of other groups were not included in the system. The plan also did nothing to help people who were already unemployed. A person had to have a job after the new system began and then lose it to get money.

However, the national social security law established a system that would grow and become a central part of American life.

DOUG JOHNSON: Roosevelt also supported other new laws during this period that changed the American economy. A banking act gave the nation's central bank -- the Federal Reserve Board -- new power to control the total amount of money in use.

Another law increased taxes for rich people. A third law limited the power of major companies to gain control of local electric utility companies.

The new laws openly challenged the power of big companies, big banks, and big money. Roosevelt rejected the idea that government should cooperate with major companies. Instead, he accused many of the companies of ruining the economy and hurting the working man. He called on Congress to help small companies and the average American.

MARIO RITTER: Perhaps the most important change during this period was that Roosevelt became willing to accept a federal budget that was not balanced. He began to agree with the ideas of Marriner Eccles, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Eccles believed that government had a duty to spend extra money during times of economic crisis. The extra money, he said, would create jobs for more people. They could buy more goods. And this would increase economic growth.

Eccles believed that it was good policy for a government to spend more money than it earned through taxes during such periods. He argued that a growing economy would increase wages and bring in more tax money.

DOUG JOHNSON: Roosevelt's administration had spent more money than it earned ever since it took office. But the president and his advisers did so only to end the economic crisis. They believed that it was a necessary evil. But Eccles and others told Roosevelt that it was not bad for the nation if the government spent more than it earned.

The British economist John Maynard Keynes published an influential book that supported the same policy. And Roosevelt and his top advisers began to accept the new idea.

MARIO RITTER: Roosevelt's economic policies were known as the "New Deal." But the many changes he made during this period became known as the "Second New Deal."

They included some of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the country, such as the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security law. And Roosevelt's willingness to accept an unbalanced budget would be the first step toward federal budget deficits that would grow steadily in the years to come.

Budget deficits would jump under President Lyndon Johnson during the war in Vietnam. They would be an important cause of economic inflation in the United States and the world in the nineteen-seventies. And Americans would elect Ronald Reagan president in nineteen-eighty partly to try to bring federal spending under control.

In nineteen-thirty-five, however, most Americans agreed with Franklin Roosevelt that budget deficits were necessary to fight the serious economic depression.

(MUSIC)

DOUG JOHNSON: Our program was written by David Jarmul. I'm Doug Johnson with Mario Ritter. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and images at www.unsv.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.

___

This is program #183

富兰克林.罗斯福就任总统头三个月是美国政治历史上最为激动人心的时期之一。罗斯福于1933年3月正式入主白宫,此时的美国正处于危机时期,全国各地的银行都关门停业,经济大萧条使经济跌到了最低点。罗斯福和国会迅速采取行动,帮助那些缺衣少食的贫穷美国人,他们推出了一系列经济计划。本周,我们就向你讲述这些法案和政策,其中还包括著名的"二次新政"。

罗斯福就任总统一年后,美国经济形势有了显著改善,这是毫无疑问的。银行开门营业,越来越多的人有了工作,农民的生产和生活条件有了好转,穷人不再像以前那样处于灾难的边缘。

然而,美国经济形势还远未达到完美,一千万人依然没有工作,年轻的大学生毕业后找工作只能凭运气,绝大多数企业主的盈利很少,甚至几乎没有。

渡过最困难的危机后,美国一些社团开始攻击罗斯福和他所推出的经济计划,保守分子率先断绝了与罗斯福的关系,他们指责他奉行社会主义经济政策。

更为严重的是,罗斯福受到了其党内改革派的批评。一些深受选民欢迎的领导人以其鲜明的观点而赢得了很多美国人的支持。罗斯福腹背受敌。保守派指责他是社会主义者,而左翼分子则批评他在结束大萧条方面所做的努力不够。罗斯福知道自己必须改变道路。

罗斯福知道,他不可能重新赢得保守派的支持,因为他力主革新。所以,在他第一个总统任期进行到一半的时候,他开始支持更多新的改革,以期赢得左翼分子的更多支持。

美国联邦最高法院帮了他的忙。1935年年初,联邦最高法院裁定,罗斯福早先的一些经济项目违犯了宪法,并下令停止执行,其中包括有关提高农民收入和振兴工业的计划。

最高法院的裁决迫使罗斯福推出新计划,尝试新想法,他最早采取的行动包括:一,支持政府加大对供水和电力生产企业控制;二,工人创造就业;三,通过一项新法律,确保与联邦政府交易的企业偿付最低工资。同时,联邦政府还推行新法,加强对证券交易者和投资公司的监管。

与此同时,罗斯福开始对大企业提出攻击。他强调民主社会中小企业的重要性,并警告选民说,大企业拥有的权力太大,他呼吁采取新措施来扩大企业之间的竞争,控制大企业。

这一时期,在罗斯福的支持下,国会通过了两项法案,这两项法律将改变美国工人的生活。第一项法律赋予工会更多的权利,第二项法律则确立了美国联邦雇员退休后领取退休金的制度。

罗斯福政府早就曾通过立法支持工会的发展,但是这部法律被最高法院否决了。1935年,国会又通过了一部新的《国家劳动关系法》,这部法律创立了一个新的全国性劳工组织,帮助工人与企业主的谈判。

这部法律赋予所有工人建立或加入工会的权利,要求企业主必须与代表绝大多数工人利益的工会进行谈判。这部新法律第一次赋予了工会真正的谈判权利。

这一时期通过的另一项重要法律创立了美国的社会保障体系。法律要求每个工人和企业主每个月都要向联邦政府交纳少量的钱,作为交换,工人退休或失业时,就可以从联邦政府领钱。

这项新法律并不适用于所有人,农民、政府雇员和其他一些团体的成员都不包括在社会保障体系之中。同样的,这项新法律对已经失业的人来说毫无意义。社会保险体制开始运行后,只有那些有工作,但后来失业的人才能从政府那领钱。

然而,这项全国性的社会保险法律创立的社会保险制度将在美国人的生活中发挥越来越大的作用,最终成为美国人生活的核心部分。

在罗斯福的第二个任期里,除了上次讲到的工会法和社会安全体系,还有另外一些立法也改变了美国的经济 。一部新的《银行法》赋予美国中央银行--美联储---控制全国货币总量的权力。另一项法律提高了富人纳税的税率。第三部法律限制了大企业控制地方电力公司的权利。

这些新法律公开地向大企业、大银行和大财团挑战。罗斯福否定了那种联邦政府应该与大企业合作的看法,相反的,他指责大企业毁灭了美国经济,并伤害了工人的利益。他呼吁国会帮助中小企业和普通的美国民众。

这一时期最重要的变化可能就是,罗斯福开始接受预算失衡,同意美联储主席马里纳.埃尔克斯的看法。埃尔克斯认为,经济危机时期,政府有责任多花钱,从而创造就业岗位,提高人们的购买力,促进经济的增长。

埃尔克斯认为,经济危机时期,政府开支超出税收是对的。他指出,经济的增长会提高工资,增加税收。罗斯福上任后,政府就一直是支出 超过税收。但罗斯福总统和他的顾问们认为,这只是为了能够结束经济危机的权宜之计。

但埃尔克斯等人告诉罗斯福说,政府开支超过收入,对国家而言并不是坏事。英国经济学家凯恩斯发表了一部很有影响的著作,也支持这一观点。因而,罗斯福和他的高级顾问们也开始接受了这一新的理念。

罗斯福刚上任时推行的经济政策是历史上著名的"新政",而这一时期他所促成的种种变化则被后人称为"二次新政",其中包括美国历史上一些最重要的法律,如《国家劳动关系法》和《社会保险法》。罗斯福开始接受预算失衡,也成为了美国此后奉行赤字预算所迈出的第一步。

美国联邦政府赤字在林登.约翰逊总统任期内的越南战争时期急剧上升,成为上世纪七十年代美国和世界通货膨胀的一个重要原因。1980年,美国民众推选罗纳德.里根当总统,部分原因就是希望他能设法让联邦政府预算得到控制。

然而,在1935年时,绝大多数美国人都同意富兰克林.罗斯福的想法,认为预算赤字是战胜严重的经济大萧条所必须的。

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