The New Deal – some ideas to consider …

The government’s role in the economy expanded, as the federal government put millions of dollars into the economy, created federal jobs and attempted to regulate supply and demand in order to stabilize the economy. The federal bureaucracy was increased, as was the federal deficit.

The New Deal was committed to conservation and promoted policies to protect the nation’s resources, including planting trees, creating hiking trails, and building fire lookout towers.

During the New Deal, the AAA was struck down by the Supreme Court on the grounds that agriculture is a local matter and should be regulated by the states rather than the federal government.  The NIRA was declared unconstitutional, as the Supreme Court felt it gave legislative power to the executive.

The government reacted to labor differently, since the government used to usually side with businesses instead of labor. New Deal programs were passed to help unions and workers.  The government ensured the right for workers to organize and bargain collectively, standards for wages and hours were set, and child labor was banned. Today, the National Labor Relations Board continues to act as a mediator in labor disputes between unions and employers.

The New Deal set a precedent of federal aid to farmers that has continued into today by helping set quotas on crop production and subsidizing farmers. Some New Deal programs taught farmers how to use soil more productively.

The New Deal recognized that social and economic problems in the U.S. required national political solutions and national political responsibility and that the old administration would not and could not work anymore.  The government took a major departure from the traditional attitude that churches and charities were the only groups that should help the needy.

The TVA polluted the Tennessee Valley region by engaging in strip mining to get coal for its coal-burning generators. The strip mining caused soil erosion, and the burning of coal increased air pollution. The TVA also caused water pollution by dumping untreated sewage and toxic chemicals from its strip-mining operations into the region’s rivers and streams.

Women made some gains under the New Deal. Many programs made a conscious effort not to discriminate, and many women were named to important official positions (Francis Perkins as Secretary of Labor, first female ambassador, and female federal judges).

African Americans received limited benefits from the New Deal. FDR did appoint some blacks to significant second level government positions. The “black cabinet” served as FDR’s advisors on race issues Eleanor Roosevelt again played an important role.

A number of New deal programs, including the FHA, CCC, TVA, and NRA codes, tolerated unequal pay for blacks. Still, African Americans supported the Roosevelt administration, seeing FDR and the New Deal as their best hope for the future.

The government’s role in the economy expanded, as the federal government put millions of dollars into the economy, created federal jobs and attempted to regulate supply and demand in order to stabilize the economy.

Conservatives believe that the New Deal stifled free enterprise and individual initiative in the U.S., replacing it with industry controlled by the government.

The presidency was established as the center of authority within the national government, and the power of the President as a legislator increased.  Congress would never be as independent as it was before the New Deal.

The New Deal programs established new policies in banking and finance (FDIC and SEC) to make sure that problems did not resurface in the future.  With Social Security, the federal government assumed some responsibility for the social welfare of its citizens.

Three new parks were added to the national park system during the 1930s, and wild life refuges and wilderness areas were protected.  The Tennessee Valley Authority harnessed water power to provide hydroelectric power and to help prevent floods in the Tennessee Valley.  Supporters of the New Deal contend that FDR struck a reasonable balance between two extremes – unregulated capitalism and over-regulated socialism.

FDR was never committed to full civil rights for African Americans, since he didn’t want to upset southerners that voted Democratic.  He refused to support a federal anti-lynching law and an end to the poll tax.

Women continued to struggle for equal rights.  They faced ongoing discrimination in the workplace – women shouldn’t take jobs from men!  The NRA codes set wage levels lower for women than for men, and the FERA and CWA hired far fewer women than men.  The CCC hired only men, and business-hiring practices were similar.

Many conservatives argue that FDR’s policies made the federal government too large and too powerful by involving government agencies in the nation’s finances, agriculture, industries, and housing.

Liberal critics argue that the New Deal did not do enough to control the economy and eliminate social and economic inequality in the U.S., since the nation still had a few rich people and too many poor people.


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