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The newly-elected administration of President Franklin Roosevelt wasted no time conceptualizing and working to implement a massive series of programs intended to lift the United States out of the depths of the Great Depression. These programs, the New Deal, represented the most significant expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy in the nation’s history (excluding the special circumstances associated with the Civil War), and fundamentally transformed the public’s expectations with respect to the role.
The Great Depression was characterized by catastrophic failures of the financial services industry and the collapse of the nation’s manufacturing base as the money supply previously available to businesses to expand dried up. Unemployment reached astronomical levels, and every facet of the economy, save the film industry and organized crime, suffered terribly. The Roosevelt Administration, consequently, fostered the establishment of that series of programs intended to address each element of the economy that had failed and collectively constituted the depression. The Works Progress Administration and the Civil Works Administration were established to directly address the enormous problem of mass unemployment; the Federal Housing Administration and Home Owners Loan Corporation were established to curb mortgage defaults while programs like the National Recovery Act were designed to similarly facilitate or stimulate economic activity. Specific to the area of agriculture, the Rural Electrification Administration, Farm Security Administration, and the Agricultural Adjustment Act were all established for the express purpose of aiding farmers and other elements of the rural population.
In short, the New Deal programs, which collectively cost an estimated $32 billion in current-year dollars, represented a huge expansion of the federal government in the nation’s economy, and the above didn’t even address programs like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which protected consumers from future bank failures by insuring their deposits up to a certain amount. These programs played an important role in helping the country survive the Great Depression.
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