FDR's Battle to Power America
- John A. Riggs
15th February 2023
From the highest halls of power to the remote corners of rural America, featuring amazing technological innovation and an epic battle between the captains of a corrupted industry and America’s most politically astute president, here is the story behind the greatest peacetime achievement in US history – the electrification of an entire nation under Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When Roosevelt took office in the depths of the Depression, high tension – or high voltage – power lines had been marching across the country for decades, delivering urban Americans a parade of life-transforming inventions from electric lights and radios to refrigerators and washing machines. But most rural Americans still lived in the punishing pre-electric era, unconnected to the grid, their lives consumed and bodies broken by backbreaking chores.
High Tension is the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s battle against the ‘Power Trust,’ an elaborate Wall Street-controlled web of holding companies, to electrify all of America – even when the corrupt captains of the industry and their cronies cried that running lines to rural areas would not be profitable and that in a free market there would simply have to be a divide between the electricity haves and have-nots.
FDR knew better. And in this story of shrewd political manoeuvring, towering business figures and greedy villains, John A. Riggs has chronicled democracy’s greatest balancing act of government intervention with private market forces. Here is the tale of how FDR's efforts brought affordable electricity to all Americans, powered the industrial might that won the Second World War, and established a model for public-private solutions today in areas such as transportation infrastructure, broadband, and health care.