New Deal Essay, Research Paper
The 1930 s were one of the most difficult times in American history. It was the time of the Great Depression. Millions of Americans suffered hardships as the economy continued to be in a freefall. Many Americans were unemployed and lost almost everything the owned. This created social and economic unrest as America was ripe for a change.
In 1932, America realized it was time for a change, and elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a landslide vote. Roosevelt promised to help end the depression and with his New Deal. The New Deal was Roosevelt s plan to end the Great Depression. Through increased government spending, FDR enacted numerous public works programs in an effort to simulate the economy. The New Deal s alphabet soup (this was the nickname for the numerous programs FDR enacted) was FDR s plan to people out of the depression. The New Deal affected different industries and groups of Americans in unique ways.
One of the groups hardest hit by the Great Depression were the farmers. Due to overproduction and under consumption after World War I and during the 1920 s, the prices of crops fell dramatically. As a result of the low prices, Farmers incomes dramatically fell. The farmer was in dire straits as the Great Depression hit. The farmers were crucial to the American economy and FDR and the New Deal intended to help them.
In the first one hundred days of the New Deal, Roosevelt attempted to help the farmers by establishing the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). The AAA was intended to help restore purchasing power of farmers. It restored the price parody that helped farmers make all that money during the war. It main plan was to reduce the size of crops by paying farmers to plow there crops under. This, in theory, would drive up the price of the crops. There were a few problems with the AAA though. It was perceived as cruel because the government was destroying crops that could be used to feed all the starving people. The AAA also didn t do much to help tenant farmers and sharecroppers. This was because the money that the government was paying the owners of the farm to plow the fields under was never shared with the tenant farmers and sharecroppers. Even though the farmer owners were told to give some of the money to the people who worked their land they never did.
The New Deal also set up other agencies to help farmers. FDR set up the Farm Resettlement Administration, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), and the Farm Security Administration (FSA). These agencies attempted to help families on the ground. The Farm Resettlement Administration help move families that were effected by things like the Dust Bowl, which destroyed hundreds of acres of farms in the Midwest. The REA helped bring farmers into the twentieth century by providing farmers with electricity. The FSA was to provide assistance to rural poor and migrant agricultural worker. Farmers were also benefited from the Farm Credit Act of 1933, which refinanced a fifth of all farm mortgages.
The New Deal also attempted to help workers. The workingman was one of the people hardest hit by the Great Depression. At one point during the one in four Americans, 25%, were unemployed. FDR saw this as a major problem and attempted to correct it with a massive public works programs.
The New Deal set up agencies such as the Federal Emergency Relief Association (FERA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). FERA was given one billions dollars to help end hardship. Under FERA, the Civilian Works Association (CWA) and the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) helped to ease people s suffering. The CWA hired 4 million people to help do public works projects. The CCC took city boys into the country to do construction work. Their pay was mailed home to their families to help ease the financial struggles. The TVA was perhaps the most successful New Deal project. It built 20 dams and provided cheap power. It also put lots of people to work.
The most important agency to the workers and FDR s primary vehicle for fighting the depression was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). Under NIRA, FDR set up set up the National Recovery Agency (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). The NRA was set up to help business leaders draw up and enforce codes governing prices, wages, and other matters (coded industries would be exempt from the antitrust laws). The PWA was a large-scale public construction company. The PWA had three billion dollars to work with. It created millions of jobs and built a legacy in its work: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Tri-Borough Bridge, and the Hoover Dam are examples of its legacy.
The New Deal also provided a boast for Labor Unions. Unions had taken a beating during the early years of the depression. As unemployment rose during the early years of the depression, membership in unions dropped. Unions were about to be come an extinct species when the New Deal provided them with the ammunition they needed to become the power that they are today.
When the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed there was a certain section that benefited unions, that was Section 7a. This section was rather vague, but it reenergized unions. Section 7a gave workers the right to organize and collectively bargain. It also gave unions the idea that joining a union was patriotic because it was in a government act. Section 7a inspired the strike wave of 1934, but since it had no real power the strike wave was beaten back. In 1935, the NIRA was declared unconstitutional and Section 7a was thrown out.
Section 7a had brought unions to the attention of FDR and in 1935 the National Labor Relation or Wagner Act was passed. This finally gave power to the unions. It gave workers the right to choose a union by vote, it gave workers the right to strike and boycott legally, and made company methods for breaking strikes illegal. The CIO used this power to get higher pay and shorter hours during strikes like the Flint Sit-Down Strike and even made companies crack with threat of a strike. The Wagner Act finally gave unions the power they needed because the government was now on there side.
The New Deal also supplied security for everyone. In 1935, the United States became a welfare state with the introduction of the Social Security Act (SSA). The Social Security Act gave people the security blanket that they finally needed. The main provision of the SSA was that it provided federal aid for the elderly, but it was not meant to be the main source of retirement. It also provided unemployment insurance, aid for persons who were blind or crippled, and aid to dependent children. Roosevelt would pay for this act with a tax on corporations and well-to-do-people. This act gave the people comfort because they now believed that the government would help them financially when they needed it. It also gave unions more initiative to strike because the government has a security net for them.
The New Deal might have been immensely popular with the public, but there were those who felt that the New Deal didn t do enough to enough, that it wasn t radical enough. People complained that it wasn t ending the depression, and over time they started to attack Roosevelt and the New Deal even though it was it was very popular.
One of these people was Huey Long. Long, who was nicknamed the Kingfish, was a senator from Louisiana, who felt that the New Deal wasn t doing anything to solve the depression. He thought that the problem was that the majority of the wealth was concentrated in the hands of the few. His plan was to tax the rich and give to the poor. He would tax all inherited fortunes over a million dollars and personal income over four million would pay for the redistribution of wealth. Long wanted to give every family a five thousand dollar allowance, a guaranteed two thousand dollar income to all for a 30-hour workweek, cancel all personal debt, give free education through college and a pension for the aged over sixty.
Long, who originally, supported FDR tried to get FDR to support his plan for the redistribution of wealth. After Long criticized FDR s many of the New Deal acts, like the Bank Act and the NIRA, FDR completely wrote Long off. Roosevelt might not have like Long but he did adopt some of his ideas, most notably the old age pension. FDR s Social Security Act is something that Long pushed for in his redistribution of wealth plan. So Huey did have some influence on FDR.
Another one of Roosevelt critics was Father Charles Coughlin. Coughlin was a priest from a small suburb of Detroit. Coughlin had a radio show called the Golden Hour of the Little Flower from which he gained all his power. Father Coughlin thought that free silver would solve the Great Depression. Coughlin also promoted the nationalizing of banks, utilities, and natural resources.
Coughlin, like Huey Long, was at first pro New Deal, but soon he realized that Roosevelt didn t take him seriously. In 1934, Coughlin introduced the National Union for Social Justice, which denounced President Roosevelt and the New Deal. Coughlin also founded a magazine called Social Justice, which carried out attacks on Communists, Wall Street, and Jews. Coughlin influenced millions of people and even attempted to back someone for president, but when the people had to choose between Coughlin and Roosevelt, the people chose FDR.
FDR s New Deal created enemies like Long and Coughlin, but gave American hope during a time when there was little optimism. It gave Americans jobs; it put food on the table, and started to restored confidence in the economy. FDR s New Deal might not have ended the Great Depression, but it left a legacy. A legacy that you can see in the unions, in the numerous public works projects, in the big government we have today, in the acts like Social Security, and most importantly in the people whose lives it changed for ever.