Advocates of progressivism had a goal of curing society’s ills by improving government and its role, but some progressives had different approaches to this reform. Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt can be used as examples of this complex reform because they both wanted to improve the economy, but had different incentives behind the programs they used to do so. Roosevelt’s program of progressive reform, New Nationalism, was created in an effort to regulate only those trusts that were “bad” for public welfare – he distinguished some trusts to be either “good” or “bad. He stressed the need for control of corporations, consumer protection, and conservation of natural resources. To illustrate, he intervened in the Anthracite Coal Strike on behalf of the workers. He threatened to nationalize mines if the corporations who owned them didn’t consent to arbitration and pay increases for the workers. The Hepburn Act of 1906 was passed to regulate the railroads by increasing the government’s power to oversee their rates.
In that same year the pure food and drug act was passed which prohibited the selling of dangerous medicines and impure foods. Along with that, the Meat Inspection Act was passed and it helped eliminate diseases caused by meat because it enforced sanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry. However, Roosevelt’s greatest success was in the conservation of the environment. The Newlands Act was passed which created a way for government to irrigate deserts. Roosevelt became an admired public figure because of his involvement in reforming society.
Unlike President Roosevelt, President Wilson believed that every single monopolistic business was bad because it disrupted the economy and must be abolished as a result, so he worked towards “busting trusts. ” Wilson’s reform program, New Freedom, sought to attack what Wilson called the Triple Wall of Privilege – the tariff, banks, and trusts. After it passed, the Underwood-Simmons Bill reduced tariff rates substantial enough to bring real competition to America which helped break the power of the trusts. The Federal Reserve act was happily signed by Wilson and it directly affected the amount of currency circulation.