How do you pull a country out of the worst depression of the 20th century, especially after all of your predecessor's attempts to mitigate the damage utterly failed?
This was the task Franklin Delano Roosevelt was tasked with after defeating Herbert Hoover in a rout during the 1932 Presidential election. FDR had campaigned on reform after the disastrous single term of the Hoover presidency, and won election on the back of the "New Deal coalition," a diverse group of voters who supported, as the name suggests, a New Deal.
The New Deal was a series of massive reforms designed to stimulate the American economy, and the programs within them were the most important parts of Roosevelt's first two terms as president. What were some of these programs, and how many of them still resonate to this day?
First New Deal Programs
Upon being sworn in, FDR had ambitious plans for what to accomplish in his first 100 days in office. Those 100 days, as well as the several years after that would follow, saw many initiatives being passed - some by executive order.
New Deal Programs: 1933
Roosevelt was sworn in March 4, 1933. On March 5, he announced a bank holiday that lasted several days, as prior to this many had been withdrawing their money from banks as their faith in the system shattered. March 9 was the first day Roosevelt passed a New Deal program: the Emergency Banking Act, which attempted to stabilize banks as they reopened and close any insolvent ones.
That March would be a busy month for the administration. On the March 22, the Beer-Wine Revenue Act was passed, the beginning of the end for prohibition. The act permitted alcohol under a certain percentage to be sold and taxed; by the end of the year, the 21st amendment was passed, ending the Prohibition Era.
One of the next big programs created early in the New Deal was the Civilian Conservation Corps. With unemployment continuing to skyrocket in the early days of the Depression, the CCC was created to employ men who weren't finding work to conserve the country's parks and forests. Over the next decade, the CCC would employ over 3 million men to plant trees, fight fires, build roads and create trails. It became one of the most successful programs.
It was also far from the only jobs program for a country struggling to find consistent employment. In May, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration was created to create job and cash relief for struggling citizens.
The 1930s were devastating to farmers, especially in the middle of the country. Thus, May saw not only the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which provided farmers subsidies if they reduced crops, but the Tennessee Valley Authority Act as well. This was to help modernize farming in the poorest area of the nation by curbing flooding and generating electricity.
Financial reforms were crucial to the New Deal and ending the Depression. The Securities Act of 1933 was passed to attempt to regulate Wall Street and lessen fraudulent activities with securities in the hopes of avoiding another stock market crash. The Banking Act of 1933, meanwhile, was further implementing banking regulations, this time invoking a separation of investment banking and commercial banking and creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as part of the Glass-Steagall Act.
The Home Owners' Loan Act of 1933 established the Home Owners Loan Corporation to help not only increase the number of people and families buying homes but avoid foreclosures from those struggling to pay their loans.
The National Industrial Recovery Act was another program to create jobs, particularly in public infrastructure. The Public Works Administration, which came to fruition via NIRA, helped employ Americans to work on the construction of bridges, schools and more.
These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to New Deal programs from 1933 alone. The FDR administration wasted no time in creating programs to try and pull the country out of its depression.
New Deal Programs: 1934
1934 saw both new programs and continuations of previous programs. In January, Roosevelt passed the Gold Reserve Act, which raised the nominal price of gold after outlawing the majority of private gold ownership, belonging now to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Building on 1933's Securities Act, the administration expanded the regulation of Wall Street and securities by creating the Securities Act of 1934. This act created an institution that still looms large in the financial world to this day: the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The National Housing Act was a continuation on Roosevelt's plans to help Americans buy houses. Crucial to this act was the creation of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which was created to improve housing conditions and provide federal mortgage loans.
1934 is also when the New Deal created the Federal Communications Commission, more commonly known today as the FCC. This regulated the communications industry, radio in particular.
In addition, 1934 also saw the Indian Reorganization Act, which sought to restore Native American tribal land to its tribes and allow them self-governance.
Second New Deal Programs
Thanks in large part to the various programs of the New Deal, the first two years of the Roosevelt presidency saw a large decrease in the unemployment rate and a stabilizing of the banks. But in 1935, Roosevelt decided to be more aggressive in his programs and policies, creating a Second New Deal. This was due in part to his concern of the Supreme Court eliminating programs, as they had begun to do. This is how many government programs that have survived to this day came into being.
New Deal Programs: 1935
The most notable New Deal program, and one that has survived for nearly a full century now, is the Social Security Act. Signed in August 1935, the act created a retirement pension system for elderly Americans, as well as various social safety net programs for struggling citizens, such as unemployment and welfare.
Another program that still exists (though nowhere near as strong in its current state) is the National Labor Relations Act, more colloquially known as the Wagner Act. Creating the National Labor Relations Board, this act was meant to make it easier for employees to improve their working conditions, including by organizing and unionizing, strengthening workforces as employment numbers grew.
The Soil Conservation Act was another New Deal program centered around conservation and the environment. The Soil Conservation Act was passed to help fight soil erosion, which was devastating to farmers in the midst of the Dust Bowl, and paid farmers who helped counter it by growing crops that helped promote soil growth. Soon after, the Resettlement Administration was created to resettle farmers on more usable land.
The Emergency Relief Appropriation in 1935 acted similarly to the Federal Emergency Relief Act in 1933, creating the Works Progress Administration via executive order. The WPA, in its lifespan, would employ over 8.5 million people to public works jobs. This included not just construction jobs, but jobs in the arts as well.
New Deal Programs: 1936
1936 didn't see anywhere near as many New Deal programs as the previous few years, as Roosevelt campaigned for reelection against Alf Landon, an election he won overwhelmingly. Famously, FDR had a campaign speech at Madison Square Garden in October where he referred to financial monopolies as an enemy of peace, and that the powers that be in these industries despised him.
One of the more notable programs of the few that came into being in 1936 was the Rural Electrification Act, which offered assistance in providing much-needed electricity for rural farmers.
Third New Deal Programs
As Roosevelt entered his second term, a "Third New Deal" of sorts was rolled out. This includes the United States Housing Act of 1937 that created the United States Housing Authority, which helped to fund affordable public housing.
1938 also saw the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing commonly used labor practices like minimum wage and overtime pay.