FDR's First Term in Office and the Alphabet Soup

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FDR and His First Term New Deal

During Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term in office he initiated many programs that would become known as alphabet soup. These programs were part of the overall larger program called the New Deal. The New Deal was designed by Roosevelt and his advisors to bring relief to the American people and stimulate the flaccid economy. The New Deal was effective in small bursts but it was nowhere near as extensive as it needed to be, mainly due to the fact that Roosevelt believed in balancing the budget. Roosevelt’s desire, like Hoover’s, prevented many of his New Deal programs from getting the funding that was necessary. Perhaps, if the programs had the funding, the New Deal would have been much more successful.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal had other flaws as well. Many of his New Deal programs were contradictory to each other and in many cases contradictory to the well being of the common people. Although there were contradictions in Roosevelt’s New Deal there were also continuities. Some of these continuities were between the different agencies that Roosevelt set up, and some were between Roosevelt’s agencies and agencies set up during the previous administration.

One of the main, and most painful, contradictions in the New Deal was the practices of the Agricultural Adjustment Agency (AAA). The AAA was set up to try and aid the farmers who suffered greatly during the great depression and the Dust Bowl that occurred during the same period. The AAA, in order to fix the problem of poor farmers loosing their farms and moving away, sought to drive up the prices of farm goods and put money into the pockets of the farmers. In order to do this the AAA advocated that farmers destroy some or all of their crops and work together to keep their farms in order to increase the prices. If the farmers worked together they could increase crop prices and save their farms. That idea sounded good, but did it actually work? The AAA really created more problems than it solved. When farmers destroyed their crops they took away food from people who were starving around the country. Also by destroying their crops and working together they actually added to unemployment because fewer farmhands were needed to tend to the crops. These practices took food from the tables of the hungry, and because of this, it was one of the worst contradictories in the New Deal.

Another contradictory agency was the National Recovery Agency (NRA). The NRA’s job was to provide assistance to both organized labor and industry. These two forces have never really seen eye to eye and the NRA took a centrist approach. This, in the end, never really pleased anyone. What the NRA did was to fix industry prices, which industry liked, and to set high wages for laborers. Eventually industry would break the agreement they had made with labor through the NRA. Businesses began to try and operate again the way a business does, as a profit making enterprise. If industry kept wages high they were loosing money and in order to make money, in a flaccid economy, they had to cut back and reduce wages. In order for the NRA’s program to have worked, it would have needed to be expanded with additional funding. Industry was not looking for the good of the country; they were simply trying to weather the storm.

Another inconsistency in Roosevelt’s first New Deal was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). The FERA did many good things and they were set up to provide relief to destitute and starving people and it was the first of his major relief operations. While this agency did very much to help people, the administration could have done much more to make this agency even more successful. The problem was that the FERA was handing out food to starving people while the AAA was destroying it or paying farmers not to grow crops. There is an obvious contradiction here. It would have been much wiser and beneficial for the...
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