He learned that in a time of crisis Americans need direct relief from their national government.
The United States has surpassed an ignominious milestone: 500,000 deaths from covid-19. President Biden has promised strong leadership and proposed legislation to provide both relief and the stirrings of a recovery. Such an approach emulates the way that Franklin D. Roosevelt also attempted to lead the country through a grim period, a model of presidential activism that Biden has frequently invoked. Many Americans remember the New Deal’s popular recovery programs such as the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, which gave unemployed people dignity through necessary work and a paycheck. Or, they might think of Social Security, a program that lasted almost a century.
But Roosevelt’s efforts also included direct relief.
When he took office, unemployment was well above 20 percent, environmental disaster in the form of drought was sweeping the middle of the country, an upsurge in racial lynching was taking place in the South, and the worst financial collapse in American history was driving a rolling bank crisis, not to mention the looming threat of authoritarianism abroad. The new Roosevelt administration had ambitions to restructure the economy, but it also knew that a key first step was immediate relief to struggling Americans.
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ADDENDUM (11:23am): The House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.