During the Progressive era, the administrative decisions of Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson affected the course of the time period. The three presidents dealt with issues in distinctly different manners. The foreign policies enacted by these presidents were the basis of the era. The issue concerning the standard of living was addressed during their terms of office. Politically, industrial policies varied between the presidents. Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy paved the way for expansionism in the United States.
As McKinley's successor, Theodore Roosevelt firmly established his foreign policy through the motto "speak softly and carry a big stick." Through the aggressive tactic of foregoing Congress" approval in regards to Panama the U.S. gained control of the Canal Zone (1903). Roosevelt's determination to build the canal brought him most Americans approval. William Taft, unlike Roosevelt, was not as forceful in his policies regarding expansionism. Taft's "Dollar Diplomacy" promoted U.S. trade by focusing primarily on economic status. He gave little regard to the acquisition of new territories in his foreign policies. Differing from both Roosevelt and Taft, Woodrow Wilson's highest concern was for the rights of lesser nations. Wilson, an anti-imperialist, had a moral approach to the nation's foreign affairs. .
When focus on other nations dwindled, each president began a series of social reforms. As the Progressive movement gained momentum, Roosevelt turned his eye towards the consumer protection. In 1906, his administration passed two laws, the Pure Food and Drug Act, and the Meat Inspection Act. The first act forbade the manufacture and sale of mislabeled foods and drugs. The second provided federal inspectors to ensure that meatpacking plants met minimum sanitation standards. His predecessor, Taft brought about more reforms to society. He passed laws creating an eight hour work day for Federal workers.