The American Great Depression signified a period when the stockmarket went down resulting in a ruthless economic recession. Thecountry’s supply of money declined, banks became un-operational,bankruptcy was widespread in many companies compelling them to sacktheir employee and many people became jobless. At that time,then-President Herbert Hoover presumed that the recession wouldsubdue, and the federal administration had no role in attempting toresolve it. However, after Franklin Roosevelt took over as president,he endeavored to even out the economy to create employment and easesuffering associated with the recession. As a result, Roosevelt’sgovernment implemented several programs as well as projects, referredto as New Deal. The New Deal’s objective was bringing backaffluence to most civilians.
The New Deal was both successful and unsuccessful. Using historicdocuments, the following discussion aims at demonstrating what wassuccessful about the programs and projects and what was not.
The New Deal was successful as it resulted in the creation ofemployment opportunities for many people. Following the greatdepression, many Americans were jobless, despite having needs, likefamilies to feed. Roosevelt realized the need to create jobs, notjust as a source of income, but to bring an end to the widespreadidleness in the country. Hence, he resorted to creating specialagencies. These agencies resulted in employment opportunities formillion resulting in earning that salvaged desperate families. As isevident in Roosevelt’s fireside chats, realizing the widespreadjoblessness, he came up with “The Unemployment Census” (FiresideChats). The census involved issuing civilians with cards wherethey were expected to provide information about their experience andwillingness to work. In short, the cards provided importantinformation on the needs for employment. Roosevelt notes that thecensus was a reasonable “first step to a constructive re-employmentprogram” (Fireside Chats). The census would provide facts onthe unemployment status of Americans, which would aid in findingsolution to the problem.
Job creation was realized via projects such as the formation ofcitizen conservation corps. As a result, Congress was able to offeremployment opportunities to almost a quarter of the jobless, inspecific young men that had dependents. These young men would beinvolved in “forestry and flood prevention work” (FiresideChats). Such a plan worked not just to improve the value ofAmerica’s natural resources, but also alleviate civilians offsuffering. Without work, most people would without a doubt plummetinto poverty, which would be hard to recover. However, throughemployment, civilians would be in a position to earn money, making itpossible to cater for their needs. In addition, Roosevelt’sadministration also worked towards reviving Muscle Shoals. Followingyears of inactivity, reviving the shoals many civilians would benefitby getting employment. The New Deal’s successful job creation is aswell apparent in the laws making selling beer legal, which led tosubstantial reemployment. Through public works, the administrationwould encourage employment through properly-contemplated projects.
Another reason for declaring the New Deal as successful is becauseit resulted in public uplift. The projects, as well as programsenacted by Roosevelt, had an impact on every town, state as well ascity. This led to the growth of the living standards of commonpeople. In addition, the projects significantly resulted in arestructuring of the public sphere. The civilians employed to work onNew Deal projects and in programs, resulted in the development ofsociety. In “The River”, the documentary demonstrates how the USbenefits from the Mississippi River (Lorentz). However, due towidespread farming and cutting down of trees, too much topsoil filledthe river. The outcome was catastrophic floods as well as farmersthat were impoverished. However, the film demonstrates how during theNew Deal, projects like the “Tennessee Valley Authority” resultin the reversing of such challenges, in turn improving the lives ofAmerican farmers (Lorentz).
In Roosevelt’s chat, it is evident that during the greatdepression, the nation was slowly dying. This was due to a drop inbusiness, the prices for basic needs had skyrocketed making lifecompletely difficult for civilians, and institutions such as bankswere facing a decline in asset value. As a result, banks begun toforeclose mortgages, called loans and did not accept credit. Thismeans that for millions of individuals that had taken bank loans topurchase property, they risked losing mortgages to banks (FiresideChats). Apparently, the great depression resulted in a debtburden on so many Americans. This burden is best illustrated in “TheRiver” as the Garveys struggle to stop Scott Glenn from foreclosingon their property (Lorentz). To relieve the burden, Congress passedlaw, which would tremendously lessen the mortgage burden to homeowners as well as farmers. Another step towards public uplift was inthe form of grant relief. Money was issued to municipalities, statesas well as counties aimed at caring for individuals that neededinstant relief.
Another success of the New Deal is the contribution towards economicrecovery. This was possible through the stabilization of banks andcleaning of the financial issues following the 1929 crash in stockmarket. Roosevelt explains that owing to the public’s lack ofconfidence in the banking sector, most individuals resorted towithdrawing all their money. “Because of undermined confidence onthe part of the public, there was a general rush by a large portionof our population to turn bank deposits into currency or gold”(Fireside Chats). Such a rush made it impossible for banks toget ample money to meet civilians’ demand. As a result, most bankswere forced to close down from business. In light of this, Rooseveltpassed a country-wide holiday for all banks. The holiday was the NewDeal’s initial step towards the economic and monetaryreconstruction. The holiday made it possible to create arehabilitation program that would revive the banking sector.
The New Deal was not a success in that some of the problemsexperienced during the depression were also present even followingthe new programs. In “Dubois Battle” Steinbeck narrates theencounters of agricultural workers engaged in a strike during thegreat depression. The employees work under poor working conditionsand in addition their pay is not enough to cater for their needs(Steinbeck 3). The same challenges are experienced even after the NewDeal. Because many people were jobless, they did not have analternative and were compelled to take up the government createdjobs. Most of these jobs were manual jobs, which required a lot ofhard labor, yet their living standards continued to be poor. Themoney from the jobs was not enough to cater for all their needs.Hence, although the New Deal proactively created employment, some ofthe problems associated with unemployment remained constant, forinstance, poor living standards and the gap between the wealthy andthe poor continued to widen. Strikes were also experienced evenfollowing the New Deal and efforts to push for workers rights. Anillustration is the Michigan “United Auto Workers” who initiateda strike, which spread to other cities, and the expressively demandedfor their rights (History).
The New Deal was unsuccessful owing to its inability to bring an endto the great depression. Although there was a boost in the nationaleconomy, it did not record tremendous growth as anticipated. Therewere laws enacted towards the protection of workers. However, somesection of the population did not enjoy these benefits, being thewomen and African Americans. In the employment programs, millions ofwhite men were hired, yet females and blacks did not seem to getsimilar opportunities. The employment programs were temporary, thusdid not provide a lasting solution to the issue of joblessness. Inaddition, the programs created could not accommodate all those thatwere unemployed. Hence, the programs failed in restructuring thechallenges that Americans were facing. The New Deal experiencednumerous political drawbacks. The Supreme Court declared some reformprojects invalid, which resulted in a lot of harm to the publicoutlook of Roosevelt’s administration (History). Thesentiments against Roosevelt made it impossible for him to releasemore funds to aid new programs as a result, putting an end tostimulus spending. Also the economy experienced a set back as itbegun to experience recession following a reduction in government’sstimulus spending (History).
Fireside Chats. March 12, 1933. http://www.mhric.org/fdr/chat1.html
Fireside Chats. May 7, 1933.http://www.mhric.org/fdr/chat2.html
Fireside Chats. Speech of the President on UnemploymentCensus, 1937. http://www.mhric.org/fdr/chat11.html
History. New Deal, 2015.http://www.history.com/topics/new-deal
Lorentz, Pare. The River. United States: Farm SecurityAdministration, 1938.
Steinbeck, John. In Dubious Battle. London: Penguin Books,2000.