New Deal

The New Deal is the name given to the series of programs implemented between 1933-37 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the goal of relief, recovery and reform of the United States economy during the Great Depression. Dozens of "alphabet reform" agencies were created. Historians distinguish the "First New Deal" of 1933 that had something for almost every group, and the "Second New Deal" (1935-37) that introduced an element of class conflict. The opponents of the New Deal, complaining of the cost and the shift of power to Washington, stopped its expansion after Roosevelt was reelected in 1936, and managed to abolish many of its programs by 1943. The main programs still important today are Social Security and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the TVA.


Relief, recovery, and reform

The New Deal had three components: direct relief, economic recovery, and financial reform; this was also called the 'Three Rs'.

Relief was the immediate effort to help the one-third of the population that was hardest hit by the depression. Roosevelt expanded Hoover's Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) work relief program, and added the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Public Works Administration (PWA), and (starting in 1935) the Works Progress Administration (WPA). In 1935 the social security and unemployment insurance programs were added. Separate programs were set up for relief in rural America, such as the Resettlement Administration (RA) and Farm Security Administration (FSA). These work relief programs have been praised by most economists in retrospect, including Milton Friedman who called them "appropriate responses to the critical situation."<ref>Parker 2002, Friedman, Two Lucky People (1998) p. 59.</ref>

Recovery was the goal of restoring the economy to pre-depression levels. (That did not necessarily mean 1929, which many economists considered an artificially inflated bubble.) It involved "pump priming" (deficit spending), dropping the gold standard, efforts to re-inflate farm prices that were too low, and efforts to increase foreign trade. Much of the New Deal's efforts to help corporate America were channeled through a Hoover program, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC).

Reform was based on the assumption that the depression was caused by the inherent instability of the market and that government intervention was necessary to rationalize and stabilize the economy, and to balance the interests of farmers, business and labor. It included the National Recovery Administration (1933), regulation of Wall Street (SEC, 1933), the Agricultural Adjustment Act farm programs (1933 and later), insurance of bank deposits (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation 1933) and the Wagner Act encouraging labor unions (1935). Despite urgings by some New Dealers, there was no major anti-trust program. Roosevelt said that he opposed socialism (in the sense of state ownership of factories), and only one major program, the Tennessee Valley Authority (1933), involved government ownership of the means of production. Milton Friedman is typical of a majority of economists who have criticized the NRA and AAA for setting prices and wages, which distorted the market.<ref>Parker 2002, Friedman, Two Lucky People (1998) p. 59.</ref> Sixty years later Friedman continued to attack the NRA and the labor unions, saying, "Roosevelt's policies were very destructive. Roosevelt's policies made the depression longer and worse than it otherwise would have been. What pulled us out of the depression was the natural resilience of the economy and WW2." <ref>Friedman, Milton. Interview with John Hawkins. Right Wing News. (</ref>

Two old words now took on new meaning. "Liberal" no longer referred to classical liberalism but now meant a supporter of the New Deal; conservative meant an opponent. Whether the New Deal was successful in achieving the three Rs is usually approached not as a historical problem but as a current debate over whether the program should be a model for government action today. Liberals continue to battle conservatives. The term "New Deal" is also used to describe the liberal New Deal Coalition that Roosevelt created to support his programs, including the Democratic party, big city machines, labor unions, European and African-American minorities (now called "ethnics"), some farm groups, and most Southerners.

By 1934, the Supreme Court began declaring significant parts of the New Deal unconstitutional. This led Roosevelt to propose the Court-packing Bill in 1937. Although the bill failed, the Supreme Court started upholding New Deal laws. By 1942, the Supreme Court had almost completely abandoned its "judicial activism" of striking down congressional laws, as accused by New Deal supporters. The Supreme Court ruled in Wickard v. Filburn that the Commerce Clause covered almost all such regulation allowing the necessary expansion of federal power to make the New Deal "constitutional".

The Origins of the New Deal

On 1929-10-29, the crash of the U.S. stock market—known as Black Tuesday—reflected a trend of a worldwide economic crisis. In 1929–1933, unemployment in the U.S. soared from 4% of the workforce to 25%, while manufacturing output collapsed by one-third. Prices across the board fell, making the burden of debt repayment much heavier. Heavy industry, mining, lumbering and agriculture were badly hit. The impact was much less severe in white collar and service sectors, but every city and state was hit hard.

Upon accepting the Democratic nomination for president, Roosevelt promised "a new deal for the American people." The phrase was borrowed from the title of Stuart Chase's book A New Deal published earlier that year, and which has endured as a label for his administration and its many domestic changes. Meanwhile, other governments worldwide exacerbated the economic situation by continuing protectionist policies (high tariffs, import quotas, and barter agreements)—the very cause of the collapse of world trade in the late 1920s with its resultant job loss. Britain, led by the Labour party, was unable to adopt major programs to stop its depression. That led to collapse of Labour and replacement in 1931 by a National coalition (predominantly Conservative). As a result there was no "new deal" in Britain. In Nazi Germany, economic recovery was pursued through wage controls, suppression of unions, and spending programs such as public works; large-scale rearmament came later in the 1930s. In Mussolini's Italy, the economic controls of his corporate state were tightened. In the Soviet Union, Stalin continued his massive program of economic planning and state ownership. The apparent failure of capitalism led some Americans to flirt with communist or fascist ideology.

Roosevelt entered office with no single ideology or plan for dealing with the depression. He was willing to try anything, and, indeed, in the "First New Deal" (1933-34) virtually every organized group (except the Socialists and Communists) gained much of what they demanded. This "First New Deal" thus was self-contradictory, pragmatic, and experimental. The economy eventually recovered from the deep pit of 1932, and started heading upward again until 1937, when the Recession of 1937 sent the economy back to 1934 levels of unemployment. Whether the New Deal was responsible for the recovery, or whether it even slowed the recovery, is a subject of debate.

The New Deal, drawing heavily on the experiences of its leaders, reflected the ideas, and was influenced by the programs, that FDR and most of his original associates had absorbed in their political youths early in the progressive era; had absorbed while serving in the Woodrow Wilson administration; and had absorbed holding other offices in the 1920s.

Some New Dealers, led by Thurmond Arnold, went back to the anti-monopoly tradition in the Democratic party that stretched back a century. Monopoly was bad for America, Louis Brandeis kept insisting, because it produced waste and inefficiency. However the anti-monopoly group never had a major impact on New Deal policy.

From the Wilson administration, other New Dealers, such as Hugh Johnson of the NRA, were shaped by efforts to mobilize the economy for World War I, They brought ideas and experience from the government controls and spending of 1917-18.

And from the policy experiments of the 1920s, New Dealers picked up ideas from efforts to harmonize the economy by creating cooperative relationships among its constituent elements. Roosevelt brought together a Brain Trust of academic advisers to assist in his recovery efforts.

Intellectual historian, Clarence B. Carson says:

At this remove in time from the early days of the New Deal, it is difficult to recapture, even in imagination, the heady enthusiasm among a goodly number of intellectuals for a government planned economy. So far as can now be told, they believed that a bright new day was dawning, that national planning would result in an organically integrated economy in which everyone would joyfully work for the common good, and that American society would be freed at last from those antagonisms arising, as General Hugh Johnson put it, from “the murderous doctrine of savage and wolfish individualism, looking to dog-eat-dog and devil take the hindmost.<ref>Carson, Clarence B. The Relics of Intervention part 4. New Deal Collective Planning</ref>

The New Deal faced some very vocal opposition. The first organized opposition was from members of FDR's own party in the form of the American Liberty League which included Democrats such as John W. Davis and Al Smith. There was also a large loose grouping of opponents of the New Deal who have come to be known as the Old Right which included politicians, intellectuals, writers, and newspaper editors of various philosophical persuasions including classical liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans.

The First Hundred Days

Roosevelt's energetic public personality--"the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," and his "" helped restore confidence.
Roosevelt's energetic public personality--"the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," and his "fireside chats" helped restore confidence.

Having won a decisive victory in the 1932 presidential election, and with his party having decisively swept Congressional elections across the nation, the new president entered office with unprecedented political capital. Many Congressmen had their favorite projects, like the Tennessee Valley Authority plan of Senator George Norris, which the administration adopted and treated as its own. Finally there were numerous Hoover plans that he could not get passed but were ready to go, such as the emergency banking laws. Americans of all political persuasions were demanding immediate action, and Roosevelt responded with a remarkable series of new programs in the “first hundred days” of the administration.

The "Bank Holiday" and the Emergency Banking Act

Roosevelt hurled the blame at businessmen and bankers with religious rhetoric: "Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men....The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization."

By March 4 all banks in the country were virtually closed by their governors, and Roosevelt kept them all closed until he could pass new legislation. On March 9, Roosevelt sent to Congress the Emergency Banking Act, drafted in large part by Hoover's administration; the act was passed and signed into law the same day. It provided for a system of reopening sound banks under Treasury supervision, with federal loans available if needed. Three-quarters of the banks in the Federal Reserve System reopened within the next three days. Billions of dollars in "hoarded" currency and gold flowed back into them within a month, thus stabilizing the banking system. In all of 1933 4,004 small local banks were closed and were merged into larger banks. (Their depositors eventually received 85 cents on the dollar of their deposits.) Economists Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz <ref>1963 p 330</ref> said, "The 'cure' came close to being worse than the disease." To avoid future "cures" the Congress created up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in June, which insured deposits. In practice the day of the bank run was virtually ended by the FDIC. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 requiring that by next January all private gold be turned in for paper money at face value. (Legally he was following the March 9 law.) After January 1934 he then devalued the international value of the dollar by 40 percent in terms of gold.

The economy had hit rock bottom in March 1933 and now it started to expand. As historian Broadus Mitchell notes, "Most indexes worsened until the summer of 1932, which may be called the low point of the depression economically and psychologically."<ref>Mitchell p 404.</ref> Economic indicators show the economy reached nadir in the first days of March, then began a steady, sharp upward recovery that persisted until 1937 when it was hit with the Recession of 1937, creating a depression within a depression. Thus the Federal Reserve Index of Industrial Production hit its lowest point of 52.8 in July 1932 (with 1935-39 = 100) and was practically unchanged at 54.3 in March 1933; however by July 1933, it reached 85.5, a dramatic rebound of 57% in four months

The Economy Act

The Economy Act, drafted by Budget Director Lewis Douglas was passed on March 20, 1933. The act proposed to balance the "regular" (non-emergency) federal budget by cutting the salaries of government employees and cutting pensions to veterans by 40%. It saved $500 million a year and reassured deficit hawks like Douglas that the new president was fiscally conservative. Roosevelt argued there were two budgets: the "regular" federal budget which he balanced, and the "emergency budget" needed to defeat the depression. It was imbalanced on a temporary basis.

Roosevelt thus reflected the classical Democratic party position, dating back to Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian Democrat days. Roosevelt was initially in favor of balancing the budget but he would soon find himself using deficit spending in order to fund the numerous programs he created. Douglas, however, rejecting the distinction between a regular and emergency budget, resigned in 1934, and became an outspoken critic of the New Deal. Roosevelt strenuously opposed the Bonus Bill that would give World War I veterans a cash bonus. Finally, Congress passed it over his veto in 1936, and the Treasury distributed $1.5 billion in cash to 4 million veterans just before the 1936 election.

At least until John Kennedy in 1960 New Dealers never fully recognized the Keynesian argument for government spending as a vehicle for recovery. Most economists of the era, along with Henry Morgenthau at the Treasury, rejected Keynesian solutions and favored balanced budgets.

The Farm Programs

Roosevelt was keenly interested in farm issues, and emphasized that true prosperity would not return until farming was prosperous. Many different programs were directed at farmers. The first hundred days produced a federal program to protect commercial farmers from the uncertainties of the depression through subsidies and production controls. This program began with the Agricultural Adjustment Act, creating the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which Congress passed in May 1933. The Act reflected the demands of leaders of major farm organizations, especially the Farm Bureau, and reflected debates among Roosevelt's farm advisers such as Henry A. Wallace, Rexford Tugwell, and George Peek. The AAA implemented a provision for crop reductions known as the "domestic allotment" system of the act. Under this system producers of corn, cotton, dairy products, hogs, rice, tobacco, and wheat would decide on production limits for their crops. The AAA would then pay land owners subsidies for leaving some of their land idle with funds provided by a new tax on food processing. Farm prices were to be subsidized up to the point of parity. Some crops were ordered to be destroyed and some livestock slaughtered to maintain prices. The idea was that the less produced, the higher the price, and the farmer would benefit. Farm incomes increased significantly in the first three years of the New Deal. However, this was at the expense of consumers who had to pay more. The AAA established an important and long-lasting federal role in the planning on the entire agricultural sector of the economy. The AAA did not provide for any sharecroppers or tenants or farm laborers who might become unemployed, but there were other New Deal programs especially for them.

Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many New Dealers were highly sympathetic to the marginal farmers who lived on the land in severe poverty, especially in the South. Major programs addressed to their needs included the Resettlement Administration (RA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and rural welfare projects sponsored by the WPA, NYA, Forest Service and CCC, including school lunches, building new schools, opening roads in remote areas, reforestation, and purchase of marginal lands to enlarge national forests.

The AAA was the first program on such a scale on behalf of the troubled agricultural economy, and it established an important and long-lasting federal role in the planning on the entire agricultural sector of the economy.

In 1936, the Supreme Court declared the AAA to be unconstitutional, stating that "a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, [is] a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government..." The AAA was replaced by a similar program that did win Court approval. Federal regulation of agricultural production has been modified many times since then, but together with large subsidies it is still in effect in 2006.

Other initiatives

Also early in Roosevelt's first term, the administration launched a new federal regulatory agency to oversee the stock market dubbed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Another agency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), set out to reform of the banking system by setting up a system of insurance for deposits.

The administration launched a series of relief measures and welfare agencies to give meaningful jobs to the unemployed, especially unskilled laborers. The largest programs were the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the National Youth Administration (NYA), and above all, the Works Progress Administration (WPA). All these emergency programs were terminated in 1942-43, when unemployment had vanished due to World War II related employment offers.

In 1933 the administration launched the Tennessee Valley Authority, a project involving dam construction planning on an unprecedented scale in order to curb flooding, generate electricity, and modernize the very poor farms in the Tennessee Valley region of the Southern United States.

In a measure that garnered substantial popular support, Roosevelt, in his first days of office, moved to put to rest one of the most divisive cultural issues of the 1920s. He supported and signed a bill to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer, an interim measure pending the repeal of Prohibition, for which a constitutional amendment (the Twenty-first) was already in process. The amendment was ratified later in 1933.

Right wing critics complained that the New Deal was infiltrated with Communists. The most important group (in the Department of Agriculture) was fired in 1934. Outside government the far left was in fact exerting great influence in the labor movement (especially the CIO), and was building a network of membership organizations. The American League Against War and Fascism was formed in 1933 and, in 1937 became American League for Peace and Democracy. There followed the America Youth Congress, 1934; League of American Writers, 1935; National Negro Congress, 1936; and the American Congress for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom, 1939. All had significant Communist connections. In 1940, however, the Communists opposed Roosevelt because he was supporting Britain and the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany.

A separate set of programs operated in Puerto Rico, headed by the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. It promoted land reform and helped small farms; it set up farm cooperatives, promoted crop diversification, and helped local industry. It was directed by Ernest Gruening.

Reform: (NIRA)

Business, labor, and government cooperation

Besides programs for immediate 'relief' the New Deal started quickly on an agenda of long-term 'reform' so that another depression would not happen. Falling prices hurt the economy; the New Dealers responded to demands to inflate the currency by a variety of means. Another group of reformers sought to build consumer and farmer co-ops as a counterweight to big business. The consumer co-ops did not take off, but the Rural Electrification Administration used co-ops to bring electricity to rural areas. (As of 2005, many still operate.)

Roosevelt realized that these initial actions were nothing but stopgaps, that more comprehensive government programs would be necessary. In the roughly three years between the Great Crash and Roosevelt's First Hundred Days, the industrial economy had been suffering from a vicious cycle of deflation. Since 1931, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, then and now the voice of the nation's organized business, had been urging the Hoover administration to adopt an anti-deflationary scheme that would permit trade associations to cooperate in stabilizing prices within their industries. While existing antitrust laws clearly forbade such practices, organized business found a receptive ear in the Roosevelt administration.

The Roosevelt administration, packed with reformers aspiring to forge all elements of society into a cooperative unit (a reaction to the worldwide specter of business-labor "class struggle"), was fairly amenable to the idea of cooperation among producers.

The Roosevelt administration, insisted that business would have to ensure that the incomes of workers would rise along with their prices. The product of all these impulses and pressures was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), the most important undertaking of the First Hundred Days, that was passed by Congress in June 1933.

The NIRA guaranteed to workers the right of collective bargaining and helped spur some union organizing activity, but much faster growth of union membership came after the 1935 Wagner Act. The NIRA established the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which attempted to stabilize prices and wages through cooperative "code authorities" involving government, business, and labor. The NRA included a multitude of regulations imposing the pricing and production standards for all sorts of goods and services. Some ridiculed it as the "National Run Around." Most economists were dubious because it was based on fixing prices to reduce competition.<ref>Parker</ref>

To prime the pump and cut unemployment, the NIRA created the Public Works Administration (PWA), a major program of public works. From 1933 to 1939 PWA spent $6 billion with private companies to build 34,500 projects, many of them quite large.

The NRA "Blue Eagle" campaign

Hugh S. Johnson on the cover of Time
Hugh S. Johnson on the cover of Time
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NRA Blue Eagle

At the center of the NIRA was the National Recovery Administration (NRA), headed by former General Hugh Samuel Johnson. Johnson called on every business establishment in the nation to accept a stopgap "blanket code": a minimum wage of between 20 and 40 cents an hour, a maximum workweek of 35 to 40 hours, and the abolition of child labor. Johnson and Roosevelt contended that the "blanket code" would raise consumer purchasing power and increase employment.

To mobilize political support for the NRA, and the administrations "blanket code", Johnson launched the "NRA Blue Eagle" publicity campaign to boost his bargaining strength to negotiate the codes with business and labor. The NRA negotiated specific sets of codes with leaders of the nation's major industries; the most important provisions were anti-deflationary floors below which no company would lower prices or wages, and agreements on maintaining employment and production. In a remarkably short time, the WPA won agreements from almost every major industry in the nation. By the time it ended in May 1935, industrial production was 22% higher than in May 1933.

On May 27 1935, the NRA was found to be unconstitutional by a unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Schechter v. United States. No one mourned its passing and there were no calls for a substitute agency.

Second New Deal

Legislative successes and failures

In the spring of 1935, responding to the setbacks in the Court, a new skepticism in Congress, and the growing popular clamor for more dramatic action, the administration proposed or endorsed several important new initiatives. Historians refer to them as the "Second New Deal" and note that it was more radical, more pro-labor and anti-business, than the "First New Deal" of 1933-34. The National Labor Relations Act (July 5), also known as the Wagner Act, revived and strengthened the protections of collective bargaining contained in the original (and now unconstitutional) NIRA. The result was a tremendous growth of membership in the labor unions comprising the American Federation of Labor. Labor thus became a major component of the New Deal political coalition. Roosevelt nationalized unemployment relief through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), headed by close friend Harry Hopkins. It created hundreds of thousands of low-skilled blue collar jobs for unemployed men (and some for unemployed women and white collar workers). Applicants for WPA jobs did not have to be Democrats, but their foremen quickly explained that Roosevelt created their paychecks and that conservative Republicans wanted to abolish the program. The National Youth Administration was the semi-autonomous WPA program for youth. Its Texas director, Lyndon Baines Johnson, later used the NYA as a model for some of his Great Society programs in the 1960s.

In the very long run, the most important program of 1935, and perhaps the New Deal as a whole, was the Social Security Act (August 14), which established a system of insurance against old age. It also set up unemployment insurance and welfare benefits for such protected groups as dependent children and the handicapped. It established the modern framework for U.S. welfare system. Roosevelt insisted that it should be funded by payroll taxes rather than from the general fund; he said, "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program." One of the last New Deal agencies was the United States Housing Authority, created in 1937 with some Republican support to abolish slums.

Defeat: Court Packing and Executive Reorganization

Roosevelt, however, emboldened by the triumphs of his first term, set out in 1937 to consolidate authority within the government in ways that provoked powerful opposition. Early in the year, he asked Congress to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court so as to allow him to appoint members sympathetic to his ideas and hence tip the ideological balance of the Court. This proposal provoked a storm of protest.

In one sense, however, it succeeded; Justice Owen Roberts, almost certainly in response to the threat, switched positions and began voting to uphold New Deal measures, effectively creating a liberal majority in West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish and National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation. Journalists called this change "the switch in time that saved nine." But the "court packing plan," as it was known, did lasting political damage to Roosevelt and was finally rejected by Congress in July.

At about the same time, the administration proposed a plan to reorganize the executive branch in ways that would significantly increase the president's control over the bureaucracy. Like the Court-packing plan, executive reorganization garnered opposition from those who feared a "Roosevelt dictatorship" and it failed in Congress; a watered-down version of the bill finally won passage in 1939.

Attacks Right and Left

Historians on the right and left have generally been disappointed with Roosevelt's second term. On the right, there have been charges of an FDR "executive dictatorship" since the 1930s. Journalist John T. Flynn, for example, denounced FDR as a socialistic radical and a despot in The Roosevelt Myth (1956).

Conversely, historians on the left have denounced the New Deal as a conservative phenomenon that let slip the opportunity to radically reform capitalism. Since the 1960s, "New Left" historians have been among the New Deal's harsh critics. (For a list of relevant works, see the list of suggested readings appearing toward the bottom of the article.) Barton J. Bernstein, in a 1968 essay, compiled a chronicle of missed opportunities and inadequate responses to problems. The New Deal may have saved capitalism from itself, Bernstein charged, but it had failed to help—and in many cases actually harmed—those groups most in need of assistance. Paul K. Conkin in The New Deal (1967) similarly chastised the government of the 1930s for its policies toward marginal farmers, for its failure to institute sufficiently progressive tax reform, and its excessive generosity toward select business interests. Howard Zinn, in a 1966 essay, criticized the New Deal for working actively to actually preserve the worst evils of capitalism.

Yet, much of the more recent work on the New Deal has been less interested in the question of whether the New Deal was a "conservative" or "revolutionary" phenomenon than in the question of constraints within which it was operating. Political sociologist Theda Skocpol, in an influential series of articles, has emphasized the issue of "state capacity" as an often-crippling constraint. Ambitious reform ideas often failed, she argued because of the absence of a government bureaucracy with significant strength and expertise to administer them. Other more recent works have stressed the political constraints that the New Deal encountered. Both in Congress and among certain segments of the population conservative inhibitions about government remained strong; thus some scholars have stressed that the New Deal was not just a product of its liberal backers, but also a product of the pressures of its conservative opponents.

The New Deal and the "broker state"

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The Works Progress Administration (WPA) commissioned a series of public murals from the artists it employed. William Gropper's "Construction of a Dam" (1939), is characteristic of much of the national mural art of the 1930s. Workers are seen in heroic poses, laboring in unison to complete a great public project.

Government Role: balance labor, business and farming

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Work by the US Housing Authority transformed this street in New Orleans.

Despite the dismal record in aiding marginal farmers and African Americans, among others-- contrasted with its often frequent generosity toward certain business interests--the New Deal was to elevate and strengthen new interest groups so as to allow them to compete more effectively for the interests by having the federal government evolve into an arbitrator in competition among all elements and classes of society, acting as a force that could mediate when necessary to help some groups and limit the power of others. By the end of the 1930s, business found itself competing for influence with an increasingly powerful labor movement, one that was engaged in mass mobilization and sometimes militant action; with an organized agricultural economy, and occasionally with aroused consumers. The New Deal accomplished this by creating a series of state institutions that greatly, and permanently, expanded the role of the federal government in American life. The government was now committed to providing at least minimal assistance to the poor and unemployed; to protecting the rights of labor unions; to stabilizing the banking system; to building low-income housing; to regulating financial markets; to subsidizing agricultural production; and to doing many other things that had not previously been federal responsibilities.

Thus, perhaps the strongest legacy of the New Deal, in other words, was to make the federal government a protector of interest groups and a supervisor of competition among them. As a result of the New Deal, political and economic life became politically more competitive than before, with workers, farmers, consumers, and others now able to press their demands upon the government in ways that in the past had been available only to the corporate world. Hence the frequent description of the government the New Deal created as the "broker state," a state brokering the competing claims of numerous groups. If there was more political competition, there was less market competition. Farmers were not allowed to sell for less than the official price. The transportation industry (especially airlines, trucking and railroads) was tightly regulated so that every firm had a guaranteed market and management and labor had high profits and high wages, all at the cost of high prices and much inefficiency. Quotas in the oil industry were fixed by the Railroad Commission of Texas with the federal Connally Hot Oil Act of 1935<ref>The Handbook of Texas Online: Connally Hot Oil Act of 1935 (</ref>guaranteeing that illegal "hot oil" would not be sold. To the New Dealers, the free market meant "cut-throat competition" and they considered that evil. Not until the 1970s and 1980s would most of the New Deal regulations be relaxed.

Thus, it did not transform American capitalism in any genuinely radical way. Except in the field of labor relations, corporate power remained nearly as free from government regulation in 1939 as it had been in 1933, but that changed dramatically during the war, as Washington took control over wage rates, prices, and allocation of raw materials, and sent military officers into munitions plants. All the relief programs were closed down during the war, but one major program survived--Social Security--to become the liberal hallmark of the New Deal into the 21st century.

African Americans

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The New Deal set up numerous agencies to help impoverished farmers, but in the long run they had to move to the cities to become better off. This is a FSA photo of a Texas sharecropper's shack.

However, this so-called "broker state" would offer much less influence to those groups either too weak to demand assistance or not visible enough to arouse widespread public support.

The most notable group to receive much less influence than others in the broker state was African Americans. Many leading New Dealers, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Ickes, Aubrey Williams and Harry Hopkins worked hard to ensure Blacks received at least 10 % of welfare assistance payments. But the New Deal did not try to undercut segregation or change the second class political status of Blacks in the South. Roosevelt did appoint an unprecedented number of African Americans to second-level positions in his administration that collectively were called the Black Cabinet, perhaps due to the influence of his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, a vocal advocate of easing discrimination. Roosevelt and Hopkins worked with big city mayors to welcome Black political organizations that made the transition from the GOP to the Democratic party in 1934-36.

The WPA, NYA, and CCC relief programs allocated 10% of their budgets to blacks (who comprised about 10% of the total population, and 20% of the poor). They operated separate all-black units with the same pay and conditions as white units. The African American community responded favorably, so that by 1936 the majority who voted (usually in the North) were voting Democratic. This was a sharp realignment from 1932, when the most African Americans preferred the Republican ticket. The New Deal thus established a political alliance between African Americans and the Democratic Party that survives into the 21st century.

Roosevelt believed that other matters were far more pressing than racial discrimination. Never willing to lose the support of Southern Congressional Democrats, he declined to support legislation making lynching a federal crime, while denouncing lynching in speeches. He declined to advocate banning the poll tax, used by Southern whites to deny the vote to Southern blacks. He refused to use the relief agencies to challenge local patterns of discrimination: the NRA tolerated widespread practices of paying blacks less than whites; blacks were largely excluded from employment at the TVA; the FHA refused to provide mortgages to blacks moving into white neighborhoods; and the AAA was ineffectual in protecting the interests of black sharecroppers and tenant farmers.

Some liberal historians argue the New Deal laid the ground work for the "broker state" to be expanded a generation later, mostly through the work of the next wave of liberal reform—the civil rights movement and the Great Society—to embrace groups marginalized in the 1930s. However, many African American historians insist that the Civil Rights movement owed everything to black activists, and very little to the New Deal. Note that the New Deal was especially beneficial to white ethnic minorities, who responded with 80-90% of their votes for Roosevelt's reelection.

The recession of 1937 and recovery

The Roosevelt administration was under assault during FDR's second term, which presided over a new dip in the Great Depression in the fall of 1937 that continued through most of 1938. Production declined sharply, as did profits and employment. Unemployment jumped from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938. Keynesian economists speculated that this was a result of a premature effort to curb government spending and balance the budget, while conservatives said it was caused by attacks on business and by the huge strikes caused by the organizing activities of the CIO and AFL.

Roosevelt rejected the advice of Morgenthau to cut spending, and decided big business was trying to ruin the New Deal by causing another depression that voters would react against by voting Republican. It was a "capital strike" said Roosevelt, and he ordered the FBI to look for a criminal conspiracy (they found none). Roosevelt moved left and unleashed a rhetorical campaign against monopoly power, which was cast as the cause of the new crisis. Ickes attacked automaker Henry Ford, steelmaker Tom Girdler, and the superrich "Sixty Families" who supposedly comprised "the living center of the modern industrial oligarchy which dominates the United States." Left unchecked, Ickes warned, they would create "big-business Fascist America -- an enslaved America." The president appointed Robert Jackson as the aggressive new director of the antitrust division of the Justice Department, but this effort lost its effectiveness once World War II began and big business was urgently needed to produce war supplies. [Kennedy p 352]

But the administration's other response to the 1937 deepening of the Great Depression had more tangible results. Ignoring the vitriolic pleas of the Treasury Department and responding to the urgings of the converts to Keynesian economics and others in his administration, Roosevelt embarked on an antidote to the depression, reluctantly abandoning his efforts to balance the budget and launching a $5 billion spending program in the spring of 1938, an effort to increase mass purchasing power. The New Deal had in fact engaged in deficit spending since 1933, but it was apologetic about it, because a rise in the national debt was opposite of what the Democratic party had always preached. Now they had a theory to justify what they were doing. Roosevelt explained his program in a fireside chat in which he finally acknowledged that it was therefore up to the government to "create an economic upturn" by making "additions to the purchasing power of the nation."

Business-oriented observers explained the recession and recovery in very different terms from the Keynesians. They argued that the New Deal had been very hostile to business expansion in 1935-37, had encouraged massive strikes which had a negative impact on major industries such as automobiles, and had threatened massive anti-trust legal attacks on big corporations. All those threats diminished sharply after 1938. For example, the antitrust efforts fizzled out without major cases. The CIO and AFL unions started battling each other more than corporations, and tax policy became more favorable to long-term growth.

Lawrence Reed notes that "when a nationally representative poll by the American Institute of Public Opinion in the spring of 1939 asked, “Do you think the attitude of the Roosevelt administration toward business is delaying business recovery?” the American people responded “yes” by a margin of more than two-to-one. The business community felt even more strongly so"<ref>Great Myths of the Great Depression. (</ref> Roosevelt's Treasury Secretary, Henry Morganthau, said in May 1939: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and now if I am wrong somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosper. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of this administration, we have just as much unemployment as when we started. And enormous debt to boot."

World War II and the end of the Great Depression

The Depression, however, continued until the U.S. entered the Second World War; Roosevelt, once committed to war in Europe and Asia, then had little choice. Under the special circumstances of war mobilization, massive war spending doubled the GNP. Businessmen ignored the mounting national debt and heavy new taxes, redoubling their efforts for greater output as an expression of patriotism. Patriotism drove most people to voluntarily work overtime and give up leisure activities to make money after so many hard years. Patriotism meant that people accepted rationing and price controls for the first time. Cost-plus pricing in munitions contracts guaranteed that businesses would make a profit no matter how many mediocre workers they employed, no matter how inefficient the techniques they used. The demand was for a vast quantity of war supplies as soon as possible, regardless of cost. Business hired every person in sight, even driving sound trucks up and down city streets begging people to apply for jobs. New workers were needed to replace the 12 million working-age men serving in the military. These events magnified the role of the federal government in the national economy. In 1929, federal expenditures accounted for only 3% of GNP. Between 1933 and 1939, federal expenditure tripled, and Roosevelt's critics charged that he was turning America into a socialist state. However, spending on the New Deal was far smaller than on the war effort.

In the first peacetime year of 1946, federal spending still amounted to $62 billion, or 30% of GNP. Wartime spending and other measures were able to provide an enormous output. Between 1939 and 1944 (the peak of wartime production), the nation's total output almost doubled. This, along with the conscription and removal of soldiers, meant that civilian unemployment plummeted—from 14% in 1940 to less than 2% in 1943 as the labor force grew by ten million. Millions of farmers left marginal operations, students quit school, and housewives returned to the labor force. The war economy was not run on the basis of free enterprise, but was the result of government/business cooperation, with government bankrolling business.

A major result of the full employment at high wages was a sharp, permanent decrease in the level of income inequality. The gap between rich and poor narrowed dramatically in the area of nutrition, because food rationing and price controls guaranteed a reasonably priced diet to everyone. Large families that had been poverty-stricken in the 1930s had four or five or more workers, and shot to the top one-third income bracket. Overtime made for huge paychecks in the munitions factories; white collar workers were fully employed too, but they did not receive overtime and their salary scale was no longer much higher than the blue collar wage scale.

Economist Robert Higgs (1987), argues that the War did not end the Great Depression but a return to normalcy after the war, as the government relaxed wage controls, price controls, capital controls, reduced tariffs and other trade barriers, and eliminated the rationing of goods and the relaxing of Federal control over American industries ended it.

Conflicting interpretation of the New Deal economic policies

Depression Statistics

"Most indexes worsened until the summer of 1932, which may be called the low point of the depression economically and psychologically."<ref>Mitchell, p. 404.</ref> Economic indicators show the American economy reached nadir in summer 1932 to February 1933, then began recovering until the Roosevelt recession of 1937-1938. Thus the Federal Reserve Industrial Production Index hit its low of 52.8 on 1932-07-01 and was practically unchanged at 54.3 on 1933-03-01; however by 1933-07-01, it reached 85.5 (with 1935-39 = 100, and for comparison 2005 = 1,342).<ref>Industrial Production Index (</ref>

Statistic<ref>U.S. Dept of Commerce, National Income and Product Accounts Real GDP and GNP (; Mitchell 446, 449, 451; Consumer Price Index AND M2 Money Supply: 1800-2003 (</ref> 1929 1931 1933 1937 1938 1940
Real Gross National Product (GNP) (1) 101.4 84.3 68.3 103.9 96.7 113.0
Consumer Price Index (2) 122.5 108.7 92.4 102.7 99.4 100.2
Index of Industrial Production (2) 109 75 69 112 89 126
Money Supply M2 ($ billions) 46.6 42.7 32.2 45.7 49.3 55.2
Exports ($ billions) 5.24 2.42 1.67 3.35 3.18 4.02
Unemployment (% of civilian work force) 3.1 16.1 25.2 13.8 16.5 13.9

(1) in 1929 dollars (2) 1935-39 = 100

Relief Statistics

Families on Relief 1936-41<ref>Donald S. Howard, WPA and Federal Relief Policy. 1943 p 34.</ref>

Relief Cases 1936-1941
monthly average in 1,000
1936</FONT> 1937</FONT> 1938</FONT> 1939</FONT> 1940</FONT> 1941</FONT>
Workers employed:</FONT>
WPA</FONT> 1,995</FONT> 2,227</FONT> 1,932</FONT> 2,911</FONT> 1,971</FONT> 1,638</FONT>
CCC and NYA</FONT> 712</FONT> 801</FONT> 643</FONT> 793</FONT> 877</FONT> 919</FONT>
Other federal work projects</FONT> 554</FONT> 663</FONT> 452</FONT> 488</FONT> 468</FONT> 681</FONT>
Public assistance cases:</FONT>
Social security programs</FONT> 602</FONT> 1,306</FONT> 1,852</FONT> 2,132</FONT> 2,308</FONT> 2,517</FONT>
General relief</FONT> 2,946</FONT> 1,484</FONT> 1,611</FONT> 1,647</FONT> 1,570</FONT> 1,206</FONT>
5,886</FONT> 5,660</FONT> 5,474</FONT> 6,751</FONT> 5,860</FONT> 5,167</FONT>
Total families helped</FONT>
Unemployed workers (Bur Lab Stat)</FONT> 9,030</FONT> 7,700</FONT> 10,390</FONT> 9,480</FONT> 8,120</FONT> 5,560</FONT>
coverage (cases/unemployed) 65% 74% 53% 71% 72% 93%

Spending to Recovery?

The New Deal tried public works, farm subsidies and other devices to reduce unemployment, but he never completely gave up trying to balance the budget. Unemployment remained high throughout the New Deal years; business simply would not hire more people, especially the low skilled and supposedly "untrainable" men who had been unemployed for years and lost any job skill they once had. Keynesians later argued that by spending vastly more money--using fiscal policy--the government could provide the needed stimulus through the "multiplier" effect. Critics of Keynesianism said that would just take money out of the private sector, causing a negative multiplier effect there. However no economist has written a full-scale Keynesian analysis of the depression, so it is difficult to evaluate how that model would work.

In recent years more influential among economists has been the monetarist interpretation of Milton Friedman, which did include a full-scale monetary history of what he calls the "Great Contraction." However Friedman concentrated on the failures before 1933. He never explained what policies Roosevelt should have followed to reduce unemployment.

It was World War II, not the New Deal, that finally ended the unemployment. Apart from building up labor unions, the New Deal did not substantially alter the distribution of power within American capitalism. It had only a small impact on the distribution of wealth among the American people; World War Two, however, had a massive equalizing effect that lasted 40 years.

Keynes's visit to the White House in 1934 to urge President Roosevelt to do more deficit spending was a debacle. A dazed, Roosevelt complained to Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, "He left a whole rigmarole of figures--he must be a mathematician rather than a political economist." That is, Keynes had an abstract theory but no useful suggestions about what to do.

Fiscal Conservatism

Fiscal conservatism was a key component of the New Deal, as Zelizer (2000) demonstrates. It was supported by Wall Street and local investors and most of the business community; mainstream academic economists believed in it, as apparently did the majority of the public. Conservative southern Democrats, who favored balanced budgets and opposed new taxes, controlled Congress and its major committees. Even liberal Democrats at the time regarded balanced budgets as essential to economic stability in the long run, although they were more willing to accept short-term deficits. Public opinion polls consistently showed public opposition to deficits and debt. Throughout his terms, Roosevelt recruited fiscal conservatives to serve in his administration, most notably Lewis Douglas the Director of Budget from 1933 to 1934, and Henry Morgenthau Jr., Secretary of the Treasury from 1934 to 1945. They defined policy in terms of budgetary cost and tax burdens rather than needs, rights, obligations, or political benefits. Personally the president embraced their fiscal conservatism. Politically, he realized that fiscal conservatism enjoyed a strong wide base of support among voters, leading Democrats, and businessmen. On the other hand there was enormous pressure to act–and spending money on high visibility programs attracted Roosevelt, especially if it tied millions of voters to him, as did the WPA.

Douglas proved too inflexible, and quit in 1934. Morgenthau made it his highest priority to stay close to Roosevelt, no matter what. Douglas' position, like many of the Old Right was grounded in a basic distrust of politicians and the deeply ingrained fear that government spending always involved a degree of patronage and corruption that offended his Progressive sense of efficiency. The Economy Act of 1933, passed early in the Hundred Days, was Douglas' great achievement. It reduced federal expenditures by $500 million, to be achieved by reducing veterans’ payments and federal salaries. Douglas cut government spending through executive orders that cut the military budget by $125 million, $75 million from the Post Office, $12 million from Commerce, $75 million from government salaries, and $100 million from staff layoffs. As Freidel concludes, "The economy program was not a minor aberration of the spring of 1933, or a hypocritical concession to delighted conservatives. Rather it was an integral part of Roosevelt's overall New Deal."<ref>Freidel 1990, p. 96</ref> Revenues were so low that borrowing was necessary (only the richest 3% paid any income tax before 1942.) Douglas therefore hated the relief programs, which he said reduced business confidence, threatened the government’s future credit, and had the "destructive psychological effects of making mendicants of self-respecting American citizens."<ref>Zelizer</ref> Roosevelt was pulled toward greater spending by Hopkins and Ickes, and as the 1936 election approached he decided to gain votes by attacking big business.

Morgenthau shifted with FDR, but at all times tried to inject fiscal responsibility; he deeply believed in balanced budgets, stable currency, reduction of the national debt, and the need for more private investment . The Wagner Act met Morgenthau’s requirement because it strengthened the party’s political base and involved no new spending. In contrast to Douglas, Morgenthau accepted Roosevelt’s double budget as legitimate–that is a balanced regular budget, and an “emergency” budget for agencies, like the WPA, PWA and CCC, that would be temporary until full recovery was at hand. He fought against the veterans’ bonus until Congress finally overrode Roosevelt’s veto and gave out $2.2 billion in 1936. His biggest success was the new Social Security program; he managed to reverse the proposals to fund it from general revenue and insisted it be funded by new taxes on employees. It was Morgenthau who insisted on excluding farm workers and domestic servants from Social Security because workers outside industry would not be paying their way.<ref>Zelizer 2000; Savage 1998</ref>

New Deal and statism

"Fascism" in the 21st century has very strong connotations of mass murder and death camps, making it a highly loaded term. However in the 1930s it was treated as a technical term regarding how much control in a capitalist system the government should have over business. From the time the New Deal was introduced commentators tried to relate its control over business to the fascist model. These commentators ranged from contemporary Communists, to Republican Herbert Hoover, and libertarian economist Murray Rothbard. Ronald Reagan, a strong supporter of the New Deal at the time reversed positions and said in 1976, "Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal." Journalist John T. Flynn, a former socialist, in his 1944 book As We Go Marching, said that "the New Dealers...began to flirt with the alluring pastime of reconstructing the capitalist system...and in the process of this new career they began to fashion doctrines that turned out to be the principles of fascism." Historian Srđa Trifković says "Roosevelt and his “Brain Trust,” the architects of the New Deal, were fascinated by Italy’s fascism — a term which was not pejorative at the time. In America, it was seen as a form of economic nationalism built around consensus planning by the established elites in government, business, and labor."<ref>Trifkovic, Srdja FDR and Mussolini, Chronicles August 2000</ref> As a leading historian of fascism explains, "What Fascist corporatism and the New Deal had in common was a certain amount of state intervention in the economy. Beyond that, the only figure who seemed to look on Fascist corporatism as a kind of model was Hugh Johnson, head of the National Recovery Administration."<ref>Stanley Payne, History of Fascism (1995) p 230.</ref> Johnson strenuously denied any association with Mussolini, saying the NRA "is being organized almost as you would organize a business. I want to avoid any Mussolini appearance -- the President calls this Act industrial self-government."<ref>Hugh S. Johnson, The Blue Eagle, from Egg to Earth (1935), p 223</ref> Donald Richberg eventually replaced General Hugh Johnson as head of NRA and speaking before a Senate committee said "A nationally planned economy is the only salvation of our present situation and the only hope for the future."<ref>Leuchtenburg p. 58</ref> Historians such as Hawley (1966) have examined the origins of the NRA in detail, showing the main inspiration came from Senators Hugo Black and Robert Wagner and from American business leaders such as the Chamber of Commerce. The main model was Woodrow Wilson's War Industries Board, in which Johnson had been involved. No historian reports that any New Deal agency was copied from Italy, Germany or any other country.

In 1934, Roosevelt himself warned his "fireside chat" radio audiences against linguistic confusion. Some people, he said,:

will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it 'Fascism,' sometimes 'Communism,' sometimes 'Regimentation,' sometimes 'Socialism.' But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical. . . . Plausible self-seekers and theoretical die-hards will tell you of the loss of individual liberty. Answer this question out of the facts of your own life. Have you lost any of your rights or liberty or constitutional freedom of action and choice?<ref>Kennedy 1999, p 246.</ref>

In September 1934 Roosevelt defended a more powerful national government as he believed was necessary to control the economy, by quoting conservative Republicans Elihu Root:

The tremendous power of organization [Root had said] has combined great aggregations of capital in enormous industrial establishments . . . so great in the mass that each individual concerned in them is quite helpless by himself. . . . The old reliance upon the free action of individual wills appears quite inadequate. . . . The intervention of that organized control we call government seems necessary. . . . Men may differ as to the particular form of governmental activity with respect to industry or business, but nearly all are agreed that private enterprise in times such as these cannot be left without assistance and without reasonable safeguards lest it destroy not only itself but also our process of civilization.<ref>Kennedy 1999, p 246.</ref>

New Deal arts and culture

The New Deal promoted the arts. "Project One" of the WPA and the Federal Writers' Project subsidized artists, musicians painters and writers on relief. The Treasury department had a separate program which hired commercial artists at usual commissions to add murals and sculptures to federal buildings. The Resettlement Administration (RA) and Farm Security Administration (FSA) had major photography programs. The New Deal arts programs emphasized regionalism, socialist realism, class conflict, proletarian interpretations, and audience participation. The unstoppable collective powers of common man, contrasted to the failure of individualism, was a favorite theme.<ref>Mathews 1975</ref>

The FSA photography project is most responsible for creating the image of the Depression in the USA. Many of the images appeared in popular magazines. The photographers were under instruction from Washington as to what overall impression the New Deal wanted to give out. Director Roy Stryker's agenda focused on his faith in social engineering, the poor conditions among cotton tenant farmers, and the very poor conditions among migrant farm workers; above all he was committed to social reform through New Deal intervention in people's lives. Stryker demanded photographs that "related people to the land and vice versa" because these photographs reinforced the RA's position that poverty could be controlled by "changing land practices." Though Stryker did not dictate to his photographers how they should compose the shots, he did send them lists of desirable themes, e.g., "church," "court day," "barns." <ref> Cara A. Finnegan. Picturing Poverty: Print Culture and FSA Photographs Smithsonian Books, 2003 pp 43-44 </ref> New Deal era movies such as "Citizen Kane" ridiculed so-called "great men" while class warfare appeared in numerous movies, such as "Meet John Doe" and "Grapes of Wrath."

By contrast there was also a smaller but influential stream of anti-New Deal art. Thus Gutzon Borglum's sculptures on Mount Rushmore emphasized great men in history (his designs had the approval of Calvin Coolidge). Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway disliked the New Deal and celebrated the organic autonomy of perfected written work in opposition to the New Deal trope of writing as performative labor. The Southern Agrarians celebrated a premodern regionalism and opposed the TVA as a modernizing, disruptive force. Under Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes the Supreme Court built one of the most architecturally striking buildings, its classic lines and small size contrasted sharply with the gargantuan modernistic federal buildings in Washington. Hollywood managed to synthesize both streams, as in Busby Berkeley's Gold Digger musicals, where the story line exalts individual autonomy, while the spectacular musical numbers show abstract populations of interchangeable dancers securely contained within patterns beyond their control.<ref>Szalay 2000</ref>

The legacies of the New Deal

The New Deal was the inspiration for LBJ's Great Society in 1960s. Johnson (on right) headed the Texas NYA and was elected to Congress in 1938.
The New Deal was the inspiration for LBJ's Great Society in 1960s. Johnson (on right) headed the Texas NYA and was elected to Congress in 1938.

Some economists argue that although the New Deal did not end the depression, all in all it helped to prevent the economy from decaying further by increasing the regulatory functions of the federal government in ways that helped stabilize previous trouble areas of the economy: the stock market, the banking system, and others. Others argue that it worsened the depression. All analysts agree the New Deal produced a new political coalition that sustained the Democratic Party as the majority party in national politics for more than a generation after its own end.

Roosevelt's 12 years in office saw a dramatic increase in the power of the federal government as a whole. Roosevelt also established the presidency as the preeminent center of authority within the federal government. By creating a large array of agencies protecting various groups of citizens—workers, farmers, and others—who suffered from the crisis, enabling them to challenge the powers of the corporations, the Roosevelt administration generated a set of political ideas—known to later generations as New Deal liberalism—that remained a source of inspiration and controversy for decades and that helped shape the next great experiment in liberal reform, the Great Society of the 1960s. The wartime FEPC executive orders that forbade job discrimination against African Americans, women and ethnic groups was a major breakthrough that brought better jobs and pay to millions of minority Americans. Historians usually treat FEPC as part of the war effort and not part of the New Deal.

"New Deal" as Political Metaphor

Since 1933 politicians and pundits have often called for a "new deal" regarding this or that political object. That is, they demand a completely new, large-scale approach to a project. As Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. (1971) has shown, the New Deal stimulated utopianism in American political and social thought on a wide range of issues.

Notable New Deal programs

Missing image
The "alphabet soup" agencies of the New Deal included the TVA, CCC, WPA, FDIC, SEC and NRA.

The New Deal was composed of countless programs, labeled an "alphabet soup" by its detractors. Among the New Deal acts were the following, most of them passed within the first 100 days of FDR's administration. Most were abolished around 1943, others remain in operation in 2006:

See also




Secondary sources


  • Allswang, John. The New Deal and American Politics (1978)
  • Badger, Anthony J. The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933-1940. (2002)
  • Beasley, Maurine H., Holly C. Shulman, Henry R. Beasley. The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia (2001)
  • Bernanke, Ben S. Essays on the Great Depression (2004); the author became chairman of the Federal Reserve in 2006
  • Bernstein, Barton J. "The New Deal: The Conservative Achievements of Liberal Reform." In Barton J. Bernstein, ed., Towards a New Past: Dissenting Essays in American History, pp. 263-88. (1968), an influential New Left attack on the New Deal.
  • Bernstein, Irving. Turbulent Years: A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941 (1970)
  • Best, Gary Dean. The Critical Press and the New Deal: The Press Versus Presidential Power, 1933-1938 (1993) looks at conservative papers and magazines
  • Best, Gary Dean. Pride, Prejudice, and Politics. (1990), a conservative critique.
  • Blumberg Barbara. The New Deal and the Unemployed: The View from New York City (1977).
  • Bremer William W. "Along the American Way: The New Deal's Work Relief Programs for the Unemployed." Journal of American History 62 (December 1975): 636-652. online at JSTOR in most academic libraries
  • Brock William R. Welfare, Democracy and the New Deal (1988)
  • Brinkley, Alan. The End Of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War. (1995) what happened after 1937
  • Burns, Helen M. The American Banking Community and New Deal Banking Reforms, 1933-1935 (1974)
  • Cantril, Hadley and Mildred Strunk, eds. Public Opinion, 1935-1946 (1951), massive compilation of many public opinion polls from US, UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.
  • Chafe, William H. ed. The Achievement of American Liberalism: The New Deal and its Legacies (2003)
  • Charles, Searle F. Minister of Relief: Harry Hopkins and the Depression (1963)
  • Cobb, James and Michael Namaroto , eds. The New Deal and the South (1984).
  • Conkin, Paul K. The New Deal. (1967), a brief New Left critique.
  • Dubofsky, Melvyn, ed. The New Deal: Conflicting Interpretations and Shifting Perspectives. (1992)
  • Eden, Robert, ed. New Deal and Its Legacy: Critique and Reappraisal (1989)
  • Ekirch Jr., Arthur A. Ideologies and Utopias: The Impact of the New Deal on American Thought (1971)
  • Fraser, Steve and Gary Gerstle, eds., The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, (1989), essays focused on the long-term results.
  • Friedman, Milton, and Anna Schwartz. Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (1963)
  • Friedman, Milton, and Friedman, Rose D. Two Lucky People: Memoirs (1998)
  • Garraty, John A. "The New Deal, National Socialism, and the Great Depression," American Historical Review, 78, 4 (1973), pp. 907-44. in JSTOR
  • Gordon, Colin. New Deals: Business, Labor, and Politics, 1920-1935 (1994)
  • Graham, Otis L. and Meghan Robinson Wander, eds. Franklin D. Roosevelt: His Life and Times. (1985). An encyclopedic reference.
  • Grant, Michael Johnston. Down and Out on the Family Farm: Rural Rehabilitation in the Great Plains, 1929-1945 (2002)
  • Hawley, Ellis W. The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly (1966)
  • Higgs, Robert. Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (1987)
  • Howard, Donald S. The WPA and Federal Relief Policy (1943)
  • Ingalls, Robert P. Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal (1975)
  • Jensen, Richard J. "The Causes and Cures of Unemployment in the Great Depression," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 19 (1989) 553-83. online at JSTOR
  • Kennedy, David M. Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. (1999)
  • Ladd, Everett Carll and Charles D. Hadley. Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s (1975)
  • Leff, Mark H. The Limits of Symbolic Reform: The New Deal and Taxation (1984)
  • Leuchtenberg, William E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. (1963). A standard interpretive history.
  • Lindley, Betty Grimes and Ernest K. Lindley. A New Deal for Youth: The Story of the National Youth Administration (1938)
  • Lowitt, Richard. The New Deal and the West (1984).
  • McElvaine Robert S. The Great Depression 2nd ed (1993)
  • Manza; Jeff. "Political Sociological Models of the U.S. New Deal" Annual Review of Sociology: 2000, 26 (2000): 297-322.
  • Mathews, Jane De Hart. "Arts and the People: The New Deal Quest for a Cultural Democracy," Journal of American History 62 (1975): 316-39,
  • Malamud; Deborah C. "'Who They Are - or Were': Middle-Class Welfare in the Early New Deal" University of Pennsylvania Law Review v 151 #6 2003. pp 2019+.
  • McKinzie, Richard. The New Deal for Artists (1984), well illustrated scholarly study
  • Meriam; Lewis. Relief and Social Security The Brookings Institution. 1946. Highly detailed analysis and statistical summary of all New Deal relief programs
  • Mitchell, Broadus. Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-1941 (1947)
  • Parker, Randall E. Reflections on the Great Depression (2002) interviews with 11 leading economists
  • Patterson, James T. The New Deal and the States: Federalism in Transition (Princeton UP, 1969).
  • Powell, Jim. FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. (Crown Forum, 2003), a critique from the right.
  • Reed, Lawrence. Great Myths of the Great Depression ( Mackinac Center for Public Policy. (pdf)
  • Rosenof, Theodore. Economics in the Long Run: New Deal Theorists and Their Legacies, 1933-1993 (1997)
  • Rosen, Elliot A. Roosevelt, the Great Depression, and the Economics of Recovery (2005) argues productivity gains were more responsible for long-term recovery than New Deal
  • Rothbard, Murray. America's Great Depression (1963) (, an analytic critique from a leading libertarian.
  • Saloutos, Theodore. The American Farmer and the New Deal (1982).
  • Savage, James D. Balanced Budgets & American Politics. Cornell University Press. 1988.
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, 3 vols, (1957-1960), the classic narrative history. Online at vol 2 ( vol 3 (
  • Singleton, Jeff. The American Dole: Unemployment Relief and the Welfare State in the Great Depression (2000)
  • Sitkoff, Harvard. A New Deal for Blacks (1978).
  • Sitkoff, Harvard. ed. Fifty Years Later: The New Deal Evaluated. (New York; McGraw Hill, 1984). A friendly liberal evaluation.
  • Skocpol, Theda, and Kenneth Finegold. "State Capacity and Economic Intervention in the Early New Deal." Political Science Quarterly 97 (1982): 255-78. Online at JSTOR .
  • Skocpol, Theda, and Kenneth Finegold. "Explaining New Deal Labor Policy" American Political Science Review (1990) 84:1297-1304 online at JSTOR
  • Smith, Jason Scott. Building New Deal Liberalism: The Political Economy of Public Works, 1933-1956 (2005).
  • Sternsher, Bernard ed., Hitting Home: The Great Depression in Town and Country (1970)
  • Szalay, Michael. New Deal Modernism: American Literature and the Invention of the Welfare State (2000)
  • Tindall George B. The Emergence of the New South, 1915-1945 (1967).
  • Trout Charles H. Boston, the Great Depression, and the New Deal (1977)
  • Ware, Susan. Beyond Suffrage: Women and the New Deal (1981)
  • Wecter, Dixon. The Age of the Great Depression, 1929-1941 (1948), social history
  • Zelizer; Julian E. "The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal: Fiscal Conservatism and the Roosevelt Administration, 1933-1938" Presidential Studies Quarterly . Volume: 30. Issue: 2. pp: 331+. (2000)

Primary sources

  • Cope, Alfred Haines and Fred Krinsky, eds. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Supreme Court (1952), excerpts from 1937 debate
  • Gallup, George Horace, ed. The Gallup Poll; Public Opinion, 1935-1971 3 vol (1972) summarizes results of each poll.
  • Lowitt, Richard and Beardsley Maurice, eds. One Third of a Nation: Lorena Hickock Reports on the Great Depression (1981)
  • Moley, Raymond. After Seven Years (1939), conservative memoir by ex-Brain Truster
  • Nixon, Edgar B. ed. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Foreign Affairs (3 vol 1969), covers 1933-37. 2nd series 1937-39 available on microfiche and in a 14 vol print edition at some academic libraries.
  • Roosevelt, Franklin D.; Rosenman, Samuel Irving, ed. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (13 vol, 1938, 1945); public material only (no letters); covers 1928-1945.
  • Documentary History of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration ( 20 vol. available in some large academic libraries.
  • Zinn, Howard, ed. New Deal Thought (1966), a compilation of primary sources.

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