The New Deal Essay Research Paper The

The New Deal Essay, Research Paper

The New Deal

During the 1930’s, America witnessed a breakdown of the Democratic and

free enterprise system as the US fell into the worst depression in history. The

economic depression that beset the United States and other countries was unique

in its severity and its consequences. At the depth of the depression, in 1933,

one American worker in every four was out of a job. The great industrial slump

continued throughout the 1930’s, shaking the foundations of Western capitalism.

The New Deal describes the program of US president Franklin D. Roosevelt

from 1933 to 1939 of relief, recovery, and reform. These new policies aimed to

solve the economic problems created by the depression of the 1930’s. When

Roosevelt was nominated, he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal

for the American people.” The New Deal included federal action of unprecedented

scope to stimulate industrial recovery, assist victims of the Depression,

guarantee minimum living standards, and prevent future economic crises. Many

economic, political, and social factors lead up to the New Deal. Staggering

statistics, like a 25% unemployment rate, and the fact that 20% of NYC school

children were under weight and malnourished, made it clear immediate action was


In the first two years, the New Deal was concerned mainly with relief,

setting up shelters and soup kitchens to feed the millions of unemployed.

However as time progressed, the focus shifted towards recovery. In order to

accomplish this monumental task, several agencies were created. The National

Recovery Administration (NRA) was the keystone of the early new deal program

launched by Roosevelt. It was created in June 1933 under the terms of the

National Industrial Recovery Act. The NRA permitted businesses to draft “codes

of fair competition,” with presidential approval, that regulated prices, wages,

working conditions, and credit terms. Businesses that complied with the codes

were exempted from antitrust laws, and workers were given the right to organize

unions and bargain collectively. After that, the government set up long-range

goals which included permanent recovery, and a reform of current abuses.

Particularly those that produced the boom-or-bust catastrophe. The NRA gave the

President power to regulate interstate commerce. This power was originally

given to Congress. While the NRA was effective, it was bringing America closer

to socialism by giving the President unconstitutional powers. In May 1935 the

US Supreme Court, in Schechter Poultry Corporation V. United States,

unanimously declared the NRA unconstitutional on the grounds that the code-

drafting process was unconstitutional.

Another New Deal measure under Title II of the National Industrial

Recovery Act of June 1933, the Public Works Administration (PWA), was designed

to stimulate US industrial recovery by pumping federal funds into large-scale

construction projects. The head of the PWA exercised extreme caution in

allocating funds, and this did not stimulate the rapid revival of US industry

that New Dealers had hoped for. The PWA spent $6 billion enabling building

contractors to employ approximately 650,000 workers who might otherwise have

been jobless. The PWA built everything from schools and libraries to roads and

highways. The agency also financed the construction of cruisers, aircraft

carriers, and destroyers for the navy.

In addition, the New Deal program founded the Works Projects

Administration in 1939. It was the most important New Deal work-relief agency.

The WPA developed relief programs to preserve peoples skills and self-respect

by providing useful work during a period of massive unemployment. From 1935 to

1943 the WPA provided approximately 8 million jobs at a cost of more than $11

billion. This funded the construction of thousands of public buildings and

facilities. In addition, the WPA sponsored the Federal Theater Project, Federal

Art Project, and Federal Writers’ Project providing work for people in the

arts. In 1943, after the onset of wartime prosperity, Roosevelt terminated the


One of the most well known, The Social Security Act, created a system of

old-age pensions and unemployment insurance, which is still around today. Social

security consists of public programs to protect workers and their families from

income losses associated with old age, illness, unemployment, or death.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) established a federal Minimum Wage

and maximum-hours policy. The minimum wage, 25 cents per hour, applied to many

workers engaged in interstate commerce. The law was intended to prevent

competitive wage cutting by employers during the Depression. After the law was

passed, wages began to rise as the economy turned to war production. Wages and

prices continued to rise, and the original minimum wage ceased to be relevant.

However, this new law still excluded millions of working people, as did social


However, a severe recession led many people to turn against New Deal

policies. In addition, World War II erupted in September 1939. Causing an

enormous growth in the economy as war goods were once again in great demand. No

major New Deal legislation was enacted after 1938.

The Depression was a devastating event in America, and by regulating

banks and the stock market the New Deal eliminated the dubious financial

practices that had helped precipitate the Great Depression. However,

Roosevelt’s chief fiscal tool, deficit spending, proved to be ineffective in

averting downturns in the economy.


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