The New Deal was one of the largest government interventions in the history of the United States. As the Great Depression sank its teeth into the country, the New Deal originally aimed to restore full faith and confidence in the US economy. However, it changed the way US citizens perceived...
The New Deal was one of the largest government interventions in the history of the United States. As the Great Depression sank its teeth into the country, the New Deal originally aimed to restore full faith and confidence in the US economy. However, it changed the way US citizens perceived the government—a perception that lasts to this day. The size and scope of these programs touched nearly all aspects of society and changed the government's relationship with the citizens economically, politically, and culturally.
Economically, the United States was generally fiscally conservative before and during the New Deal. One specific change that the program instigated was increased taxes. While the New Deal might appear as a leftist program by modern standards, the Democrats of the time were considered conservatives in terms of spending. Being fiscally conservative meant offsetting debt-spending with tax increases. Americans who once opposed major tax increases now saw the benefit of it. In fact, FDR's programs formed a significant part of the foundation for modern liberalism.
Another major change was making the United States paternalistic in its approach to citizens. The US government was now responsible for certain aspects of the medical and financial well-being of the citizenry. For instance, Social Security created pensions for millions of Americans and guaranteed assistance for the disabled. Today, nearly 90% of all Americans work in a job covered by Social Security. As a result of the New Deal, citizens could now depend on the government to provide security in times of need.
One specific area to research for this topic is the relationship between the Democratic Party and African American citizens that resulted from the New Deal. During the Depression, African American unemployment was two or three times higher than white unemployment. However, the New Deal strengthened the relationship between the Democrats and African American citizens by providing assistance during this difficult period. Programs such as low-cost housing provided government homes to minorities. The Civilian Conservation Corps helped improve and continue education for African American children while they worked. In some ways, the government began to take a more active role in the civil and economic rights of minorities in America. This was one of the first major steps in paving the way for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. However, because FDR needed the support of Southern politicians for the success of his New Deal, the programs that were offered remained racially segregated and were often unequal.
Politically, the New Deal sparked the a debate between conservatives and liberals with regards to government spending—a debate that persists to this day. While the tax increases were met with great anger by conservatives in Congress, their constituents continued to vote for it. To this day, a staple of conservative ideology is to acknowledge the overreach of the New Deal. Members of the Republican Party believe that the government went too far with the New Deal, whereas Democrats defend social spending.
Additionally, there were moves made by the Democratic Party to ease the passage of the New Deal through Congress. FDR was adamant on adding more liberal justices to the Supreme Court in order to override the conservative opposition to his programs. This was the subject of significant skepticism because it was seen as an abuse of power. However, this practice continues to this day, with standing Presidents appointing Supreme Court justices according to their ideologies in preparation for political fights.
Overall, the New Deal changed the relationship between the US government and its citizens in nearly all aspects. One of the largest changes was the establishment of short- and long-term government benefit programs that support US citizens. Before the programs started, welfare programs were almost non-existent in the United States. To this day, many New Deal programs still exist, and millions of Americans are dependent on the help they provide.