“It is common sense to take a method and try it,” explained Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. “If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. ” This adventurous attitude was characteristic of Roosevelt, who in his four terms as President, made boundless efforts to end the Depression of the 1930s, and to turn back the Axis Powers in World War II.
Depression-stunned Americans first elected Roosevelt to office in 1932, after he promised them a new deal for American people. Roosevelt plunged into the Presidency determined to restore American confidence, because he felt that he national government had the final responsibility for the people”s welfare. Between March and June 1933, known as the First Hundred Days, Roosevelt easily persuaded Congress to create a series of New Deal agencies to combat the Depression.
The agencies formed included the Civilian Conservation Corps, Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Agricultural Adjustment Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Farm Security Administration, Home Owners Loan Corporation, and following months brought the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Also enacted during the First Hundred Days was legislation such as the Emergency Banking Relief Act, and the The Civilian Conservation Corps was created to put jobless young men to work in state forests and parks, planting trees, and constructing roads and erosion-control dams.
At its peak, 500,000 men between the ages of 18 and 25 were put to work by the Corps, and a total of 2. 5 million had seen service The most pressing problem facing Roosevelt when he took office was to aid the 13 to 15 million unemployed workers and their families. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration was created and given a $500 million ppropriation to provide food and other necessities for the unemployed.
FERA led to the creation of the Civil Works Administration, which put millions of unemployed workers back to work through $900 million worth of maintenance and repair of local facilities, such as schools, airports, and sewage systems. The CWA was soon absorbed by the Public Works Administration, which concentrated on construction and conservation projects. To improve the situation of the American farmer, Roosevelt set up the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, whose solution was to boost farmers” ncome by reducing the number of crops.
Farmers who agreed to limit their output of staple crops were given payments by the Administration. As the supply of crops decreased, farm prices increased. In three years, farm income increased from $5. 6 billion to $8. 7 billion. The Tennessee Valley Authority was created to develop the largely untapped resources of the Tennessee River and its tributaries. The purpose of the TVA was to control the river”s destructive flood waters, improve its navigational facilities, and produce low-cost electrical power for the surrounding area.
Flood waters were contained through the construction of 32 dams, which opened up large tracts of land for agricultural and industrial use. Cargo shipping was increased by over 70 times the previous amount through constructing locks in 9 dams, which enlarged and deepened the channel, and encouraged the construction of port facilities. The TVA has also conducted an effective forestry program, replanting eroded timberland, and exploring new methods of fire prevention and forest management.
The Great Depression caused more than two-fifths of the nation”s farmers o lose their farms, and become tenant farmers. To halt the decline in farm ownership, the Farm Security Administration was set up to provide low-interest, long-term loans that would enable tenant farmers to buy and operate their own farms and retire worn out land from use. The FSA also regulated the wages and hours of migrant workers, and helped nearly 40,000 Many homeowners were threatened with foreclosure as the Great Depression wore on, and the Home Owners Loan Corporation was established to help.
The HOLC was authorized to use $3 billion in bonds which were exchanged for ortgages, which were then converted into monthly installments over 15 years at low interest rates. About 1 million homeowners were given financial aid, on approximately 20% of all urban dwellings. To enforce the Truth-in Securities Act, which required that all stocks and bonds offered for public sale be registered with the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission was established. Set up to stop an economic depression from occurring again, the SEC was empowered to license all stock exchanges and regulate the manner in which securities were
The Emergency Banking Relief Act confirmed the President”s right to close banks, setting standards for their reopening, and giving the President broad powers over the nation”s money and banking systems. Banks began to reopen under strict new regulations and government supervision, and the export of gold was prohibited, and the US was taken off the international Gold Standard. The act soon led to basic reforms of the banking system. The National Industrial Recovery Act suspended anti-trust laws, permitting firms to ease competition by rationing production and making price greements.
In exchange, they promised to improve working conditions, reduce the work week, abolish child labor, and guarantee the right of their employees to organize and bargain collectively. Tailored to meet an immediate crisis, these early New Deal actions, though failing to end the economic slump, greatly eased the burdens of farmers, workers, and industrialists. A series of Supreme Court decisions that struck down the AAA and the NIRA led Roosevelt to launch a Second New Deal, which included the Social Security Act, Wagner Act, and set up the Works
Many older Americans saw their life savings wiped out during the Great Depression, and were forced to rely on their children for support. To alleviate the burden of the family, and to provide a measure of security for the unemployed and their families, the Social Security Act was passed. The Act provided survivors” and disability insurance, public assistance, unemployment insurance, and old age retirement insurance. Various welfare measures were also mandated such as aid to dependent children, and aid to The Wagner Act gave Congress jurisdiction over the labor practices of mployers engaged in interstate commerce.
The Act upheld the workers” rights to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. Under the Act, the National Labor Relations Board was established to deal with charges of unfair labor practices and to issue cease and desist orders. The number of unionized workers grew rapidly from 3. 5 million to about 15 million in the first years of the Wagner Act. The purpose of the Works Progress Administration was to reduce dependence on private charity and federal, state, and local relief by putting eople to work on a variety of needed projects.
Over 8. million individuals were put to work on over 1. 4 million individual projects, including building schools, hospitals, and post offices. Hundreds of artists and writers also found work under the Federal Arts Program, which was created by the WPA. The last major reform of the New Deal was the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The Act abolished child labor, and provided for an initial minimum wage of 25 cents an hour and a maximum workweek of 44 hours. Hourly wages were gradually lifted to 40 cents and the workweek reduced to 40 hours, with ime and a half pay for overtime.
These controls applied only to firms engaged in interstate commerce, and affected nearly 2 million workers. Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal committed the federal government to act forcefully to prevent future economic disasters through direct intervention in virtually every aspect of economic life-from agricultural prices to the workings of the stock exchange. The New Deal energized the labor movement, and so swelled the number of people in the Democratic Party that it remained the nation”s major political party for several decades.
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