Roosevelt and the Great Depression
The Great Depression of the 1930’s was a great blow to America especially after the seeming prosperity of the twenties. The depression was a result not of false prosperity in the twenties, although the distribution of wealth was very uneven the affluence was very real, but rather from a lack of economic and political maturity to address the problems either before 1929 or as a cure post 1929. The Great Depression is often seen as a result of the twenties when rather it was a failure of the thirties. If the necessary policies had been drawn up in the twenties there would have been widespread hatred for these policies by the wealthy ruling class. This would have made them impossible to implement. It is only during the depression that they became a remote political possibility. Since most of these measures were never tried by either Hoover or Roosevelt we can only speculate as to the level of political acceptance such measures would have encountered.
Roosevelt's main measure in combating the Great Depression was the implementation of the New Deal. When Roosevelt excepted the presidential nomination he said “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people”. The New Deal, which was never clearly defined, became the label for the measures undertaken to combat the depression. This New Deal sparked off one of the most concentrated bursts of legislation in American history. In 1933 Roosevelt took up office in the face of an economic crisis. Massive unemployment had swept the country and a banking sector in crisis. “The New Deal was already in the oven, only half-baked, but it had to be served quickly” it was perhaps for this reason that the barrage of legislation lacked a coherent philosophy and sometimes seemed rather opportunistic in its approach to the problem. It did however have some consistent facets, it showed a willingness to expand federal powers in order to achieve its goals, it also had consistent humanitarian objectives as well as a desire to reform certain institutions to prevent a depression on this scale from ever reoccurring.
The policies of the New Deal can be broadly split into three categories for simplicity, relief, recovery and reform. In each of these types of legislation a vast array of government bodies were established all with acronyms, which are often likened to alphabet spaghetti rather than coherent legislation. The relief policies led to the founding of many agencies between 1933 and 1935, these included the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (F.E.R.A.), and Civil Works Administration (C.W.A.). There was also the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) and the Home Owners Loan Corporation (H.O.L.C) which helped thousands of lenders and property owners thought the depression. One of the most important agencies was the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A). During its time it improved many hospitals and schools as well as giving funding to theatres and the...