President Woodrow Wilson's Economic Policies

How He Made the Presidency So Powerful

President Woodrow Wilson
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was the 28th president, serving from 1913 to 1921. During his presidency, he of the presidency despite Congressional efforts to oppose him.

Wilson oversaw America’s entrance into World War I. His “14 Points” laid the groundwork for the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson argued vehemently for the League of Nations to protect the world from another horrific war. Wilson believed in free trade and a nation’s right to self-governance. Wilson received a Nobel Prize for his efforts to promote peace.

Wilson created the Federal Reserve and the Federal Trade Commission. He was one of eight Democratic presidents.

Wilson's Accomplishments

Immediately upon taking office, Wilson signed the  to create America’s first central bank. The nation had just suffered from devastating booms and busts. Congress wanted the regional banks to control the Fed. But Wilson insisted on a central board to balance the bankers’ regional structure. Unfortunately, these complicated arrangements are why people are confused about who owns the Fed. It is an independent body made up of 12 regional Federal Reserve banks.

Wilson signed the  in 1913. It reduced tariffs on manufactured goods and raw materials and this lowered costs for consumers. To compensate for the loss in revenue, it also created a graduated federal income tax. Most workers at that time made too little to get hit with the tax, and the reduction in tariffs did not immediately reduce the cost of imports. World War I broke out the following year, reducing European production.

In 1914, instructed Congress to create the . It expanded on the Sherman Act to limit monopolies' power. It established the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces these laws.

In 1919, Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act, which enforced the 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol. A year later, he advocated for the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in 1920.

Wilson’s Role in World War I

Germany sank the British ocean liner Lusitania in 1915. Wilson warned any further attacks would cause the United States to enter World War I.

In 1916, Wilson signed three acts to prepare the United States for war.

  1. He approved the  to create an eight-hour workday for railroad workers. Wilson wanted to avoid a strike by the railroad unions while the country was gearing up for World War I. That set the standard for Ford Motor Company to do the same 10 years later.
  2. The  set up government loans to farmers to develop and expand their farms.
  3. He also signed the . It banned articles produced by child labor from being sold in interstate commerce. The Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional two years later. 

    On April 2, 1917, where he famously said, “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire not conquest, no dominion.” Presidents have used Wilson’s quote to justify every war since then.

    Wilson declared war on April 6, 1917, after Germany attacked U.S. merchant ships. In early 1918, the United States deployed 1 million troops to Europe. In November 1918, they severed a critical German railway supply track at Meuse-Argonne. That crippled the German offensive. Germany surrendered in 1918.

    Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points

    Wilson presented the  in a speech to Congress on January 8, 1918. It called for the establishment of the League of Nations and independence for the smaller countries in the war. It didn't promote war reparations from Germany. But, the Republicans in the U.S. Congress defeated it.

    In summary, Wilson’s 14 points were:

    1. Peace treaties must be negotiated and remain in public.
    2. Freedom of navigation upon the seas.
    3. Free trade.
    4. Reduce armaments except for what is necessary for defense only.
    5. Colonized people must have an equal voice as the governing country.
    6. Russia must be allowed to determine its own future.
    7. Belgium must be restored to freedom and self-rule.
    8. Alsace-Lorraine should be returned to France.
    9. Italy’s boundaries should be aligned with its nationalities.
    10. People formerly under the Austro-Hungary Empire should be allowed to self-rule.
    1. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be restored to sovereignty. Serbia should have access to the sea.
    2. The Turkish portion of the Ottoman empire shall be free. Other countries under Turkish rule shall be allowed self-rule. The Dardanelles should be open to free trade.
    3. Poland should be free and be granted free access to the sea.
    4. A league of nations should be created.

    used these 14 points to broker the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. 

    Wilson and the Debt

    President Wilson was the second-largest contributor to the debt percentage-wise. He added $21 billion, which was a 727% increase over the $2.9 billion debt of his predecessor. That was because of World War I. During his presidency, the Second Liberty Bond Act gave Congress the right to adopt the national debt ceiling. See how much Wilson added to the national debt by comparing the U.S. debt by president.

    Salary

    President Wilson’s salary during his term was $75,000 a year. In 2019, this value translated to $1.9 million. It's much more than the $400,00 annual salary a president receives today.

    Wilson’s Early Years

    was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister. Wilson’s early years were affected by the horrors of war. His father used his church as a hospital for injured Confederate troops during the .

    , then referred to as the College of New Jersey, in 1879. He received a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School, He then earned a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University in 1886. He is the only U.S. president to have a Ph.D.

    He taught at Bryn Mawr, Wesleyan, and Princeton. He was president of Princeton from 1902 to 1920. He became nationally known for reforming education.

    This national reputation led some conservative Democrats to ask him to run for Governor of New Jersey in 1910. In the campaign, he abandoned the conservative machine and switched to a progressive platform.

    He was nominated for president at the 1912 Democratic Convention. He campaigned for the “New Freedom” program. It advocated individualism and states’ rights.

    After Leaving Office

    While in office on September 25, 1919, Wilson suffered a stroke that left him almost blind and partially paralyzed. His impairment was kept from the public and his wife Edith fulfilled many of his duties.  from accomplishing much after he left office. Although he was almost blind and remained partially paralyzed, Wilson fantasized about running for a third term in 1924 to seek a referendum from the American people on the League of Nations. He felt that, if he won, it would prove the American people supported a League of Nations.

    In August 1923, he published a brief plea for a more enlightened foreign policy entitled “.” In November, he labored through a short Armistice Day address on a nationwide radio network, but he could not manage any real public role. He died quietly at his home on February 3, 1924. He is buried in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

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