How did the New Deal transform the role of the federal government through the use of federal programs? 

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There is no doubt that many who lived through the Great Depression perceived the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt as the beginning of the expansion of the Executive Branch of government and an equal expansion of the role and power of the federal government in daily life in the...

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There is no doubt that many who lived through the Great Depression perceived the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt as the beginning of the expansion of the Executive Branch of government and an equal expansion of the role and power of the federal government in daily life in the United States. That this was the feeling is evidenced in many news articles. For example in the Sandusky (Ohio) Register of June, 1935, one story bore the headline, “Roosevelt Urges Share-Wealth Taxes.” 

FDR himself declared that the government must be used to improve the social conditions of the American people and for the embetterment of living conditions through improved working conditions:

to put idle money and idle men to work, to increase our public wealth and to build up the health and strength of the people—to help our system of private enterprise to function again.

One government undertaking to put idle money and men to work was the Tennessee Valley Authority. This massive enterprise was envisioned not only as a provider of electricity, flood control, navigation, but also as a regional economic development agency which would utilize federal experts and electricity to quickly modernize the region's economy and society. A negative effect of this project and the dam is that while it accomplished its intended ends, the project also re-routed water creating flooded areas where there had been dry land, which forced many people out of their homes.

Many were skeptical of this expansion of the federal government into what had been private enterprise because it was perceived as government interference. Before the completion of the TVA, private enterprise had controlled 94 percent of the production of electricity, whil the TVA was wholly federally-controlled hydropower (today most hydropower agencies are federally managed). With the passage of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, many private companies in the Tennessee Valley were purchased by the federal government and government regulations were also passed to prevent competition with TVA.

With the Social Security Act, the government became involved in the individual's retirement. This act was passed as part of the Second New Deal in order to provide federal assistance to the elderly, widows, and fatherless children. The danger of this expansive program came from the fact that young workers provided for the elderly since who retired before the passage of the Social Security System. In 1930, the Supreme Court struck down many portions of the Social Security Act as unconstitutional, such as the Railroad Retirement Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act.  As part of the Social Security Act, unemployment compensation, and welfare benefits for the needy and disabled established the framework for an expanded Executive Branch and for future precedent for social intervention by the government through the expanded role and power given by the New Deal.

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