Did the New Deal Lead to the Road to Recovery?
Approximately 75 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created and implemented the “New Deal” in an effort to jump-start the economic recovery after the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Major public works projects were designed to remove people from the unemployment rolls, and social programs were started that supported the elderly and the poor. In spite of the apparent improvements that resulted, the New Deal did not end the depression, nor did it help the average worker. In reality, the government sent troops to break up striking workers, and some union leaders were imprisoned. The unemployment rate remained quite high, and the only ones able to claim any profits were the larger corporations. In fact, after June of 1937, President Roosevelt eliminated many public works projects as well as numerous government jobs. This caused the economy to tumble quicker than in the economic crash of 1929. Finally, with the onset of World War II, the government began pouring significant money into wartime production, and the economy rebounded. The “New Deal” that should have created and sustained a stronger economy actually caused more hardship than anyone could ever have imagined. America was struggling to find its way through economic recovery after the stock market crashed in 1929. Under the presidential reign of Herbert Hoover, the “bottom had dropped out of the stock market and industrial production had been cut more than half,…steel plants were operating at a sickening 12 percent of capacity,…and unemployment numbered upward of thirteen million. Many lived in the primitive conditions of a preindustrial society stricken by famine.” (Leuchtenburg 1) Families across the country were struggling simply to survive. Whether they were forced to live in tents or makeshift shantytowns, cook without electricity, or wander from town to town looking for any kind of work, Americans were in a crisis. America’s hope was stirred when the governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran as the democratic candidate in 1932. While he was governor, he “created the first comprehensive system of unemployment relief, sponsored an extensive program for industrial welfare, and won western progressives by expanding the work Al Smith had begun in conservation and public power.” (Leuchtenburg 4) Roosevelt appealed to the “forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” (Leuchtenburg 4) After a long and bitter battle to win the presidential nomination, Roosevelt told those in attendance at the democratic convention that he intended to move away from the candidates who were out of touch with the citizens. Rather, he thanked them for the nomination, and stated that it signified a new way of doing things. He wanted to set the government on to a new path. Roosevelt told the convention, “Let it be from now on the task of our Party to break foolish traditions…I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people.” (Leuchtenburg 8) Roosevelt had committed himself to improve the lives of all Americans, but not all people had confidence in his abilities. Roosevelt believed that constant communication with the American people was paramount to an economic turn-around. Eight days after his inauguration, he gave his first fireside chat, which was a more informal conversation. These chats “achieved a bond of sympathetic understanding and reassurance between the president and his people.” (Hamby 124) His effort to gain the trust of the Americans was highly successful. In his first and most successful fireside chat, he reassured the American people that “we have provided the machinery to restore our financial system, and it is up to you to support and make it work…Together we cannot fail.” (Hamby 124-125) One of Roosevelt’s first efforts was to shut down all of the country’s banks, declaring a “banking holiday” and “halted all transactions in gold.” (Leuchtenburg...
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