The New Deal

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How did the Tennessee Valley Authority help?

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When historians look at the New Deal, they tend to say that it had programs that were aimed at three separate goals.  There were “relief” programs that were meant to help people who needed money immediately.  There were “recovery” programs to help the economy get back on its feet.  Finally, there were “reform” programs that were meant to ensure that the Depression could never happen again.  The TVA was a program that mixed recovery and reform.  It was meant to ensure that the region that it covered would become more economically productive and less prone to poverty.  In doing so, it was to help promote recovery by giving people jobs.

The main work of the TVA was building dams.  As the dams were being built, they provided jobs for large numbers of people.  This helped fight the Depression because it reduced unemployment and allowed more people to make money.  This work had a long-term purpose, however.  It was meant to ensure that the region could get electricity from the dams.  It was also meant to control flooding and make the river more navigable.  All of these things would make the Tennessee Valley more economically productive.

Thus, the TVA helped by providing people with jobs and by setting up infrastructure to improve the region’s economy in the long term. 

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How did the programs of the Tennessee Valley Authority transform the region?

TVA was an agency authorized by the New Deal under Franklin D. Roosevelt to bring the Tennessee Valley power, flood control and economic stability during the 1930's ravages of the Great Depression.

TVA is a corporation that acts with the power of government but has the flexibility of private enterprise.

During the 1930's the dam building projects meant jobs and flood control to a ravaged region of the United States. TVA also developed fertilizers that improved crop yields at a time when soils were depleted.

During the 1950s TVA was granted permission to issue bonds and became self-sufficient paying its own way.  TVA in the 1960s electric rates were the lowest in the nation. The rural southeast was electrified, productive and relatively free from devastation caused from flooding. The 650 mile channel of the Tennessee River was powered by electricity generated by hydroelectric dams along the way.

During the 1960s up through the 1990s TVA attempted to build several nuclear power plants, but 12 of these were stopped due to high costs of building and the rise of electric rates. Now TVA is dealing with an environmental disaster in Kingston, TN that makes the Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska look like a pin-prick.

The region was left behind during the Great Depression due to the distance between homes, lack of capital, and the general poverty of the region.  Electricity must be used as it is produced, and the homes were too far apart to make rural electrification cost-effective. A calculation was done that showed that there would have to be a minimum of 3 houses per mile of transmission line for the electrification to be efficient.  Investors did not...

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want to put their capital into a rural electrification project that might not "pay-off" at a later time.  The government creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority paved the way for the region to be brought forward into the 20th Century.

Cheap electricity paved the way for industries to move into the TVA region thereby providing even more work and jobs for the area's residents.

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How did the programs of the Tennessee Valley Authority transform the region?

Here are some ways the TVA changed the Tennessee Valley area which includes Tennessee, and parts of other states such as Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi:

When the TVA was begun in the depression (early 1930s), the goal was largely to provide jobs and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a desperately poor area. The main work involved was building hydroelectric dams which would produce affordable electricity for the region. 

As a result, the TVA did improve economic conditions through employing citizens of the valley, as well as through providing the means (electricity) through which other production could take place.  One of the key products produced in the area has been aluminum.  

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