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
necessary.
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
WPA.
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
security.
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