The programs from Works Progress Administration (WPA) period include the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Federal Writer's Project (FWP), the Social Security Act (SSA), the Federal Art,...

The programs from Works Progress Administration (WPA) period include the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Federal Writer's Project (FWP), the Social Security Act (SSA), the Federal Art, Music, and Theatre Projects (FAP, FMP, FTP) as well as the National Youth Administration (NYA) among others.

Chose one of the programs and explain the reason it was founded, its value at the time, and its lasting effect (even a project that was eliminated can have a lasting effect).

I have to write a long paper about this subject but I am still struggling. In other words, I got stuck. I need one of these programs to be explained in detail. Thanks in advance.

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Any of the agencies or programs established as part of then-President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, a massive government effort at lifting the country out of the depths of the Great Depression, provide the basis for an essay, and there is no shortage of background information on each one.  Some of these programs, including establishment of the Public Works Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Tennessee Valley Authority either continue to exist (e.g., the TVA) or survive in spirit, especially during this era of wide-spread economic malaise with high levels of unemployment.  New Deal programs represent the living embodiment of the most crucial distinction between politically-liberal and conservative ideas of what precisely should be the role of government in the economy.  Most of these programs, understandably, were oriented towards addressing the massive problem of unemployment following Black Friday, the crash of the stock markets in October 1929.  Whereas Americans today consider unemployment rates of eight to ten percent high, the nation’s unemployment rate following Black Friday rose to an estimated 25 percent of the total workforce. [See the U.S. Department of Labor reference to the estimate provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/chapter5.htm]  It was in this context that the Roosevelt Administration pushed through the New Deal programs.

One New Deal program that has survived and remains as politically contentious as ever, is the Social Security Administration.  Established in 1935 with Congress’s passage of the Social Security Act, this law was passed not to address the pressing issue of unemployment, but rather to provide a social welfare “safety net” to Americans whose savings were wiped out by the massive failure of the banking system and who were incapable due to age or infirmity of earning a wage with which to support him- or herself.  The intention of the Social Security Act was specified as follows:

“An act to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health, and the administration of their unemployment compensation laws; to establish a Social Security Board; to raise revenue; and for other purposes.” [See the text of the Social Security Act provided in the link below]

This landmark law established the Social Security system that exists today, and that is counted on my most American retirees for a source of income beyond any savings they have successfully preserved for retirement.  A percentage of every American workers’ income is withheld from their paychecks and held by the federal government.  Upon reaching retirement age, usually considered 65-years-of-age, but sometimes earlier depending upon an individual’s situation and willingness to accept a lower level of income from the Social Security system in exchange for being able to begin receiving monthly checks at an earlier age, the now-retired individual becomes eligible to begin receiving those monthly checks. 

The concept of “Social Security” was anathema to many economically-conservative individuals who believe the federal government has no place deducting income from paychecks for the purpose of establishing mandatory retirement accounts for members of the public.  Liberals, and many moderate conservatives, believe the Social Security system has served its intended purpose of providing a safety net for lower-income retirees.  Many Americans, however, are skeptical that the system will be solvent when it is their turn to retire and start receiving their monthly annuities.  These concerns are valid, as the so-called “Baby Boomers,” those born in the exuberant years after World War II, and extending into the early-1960s, reach retirement age while the pool of working-age Americans paying into the system shrinks as a result of more successful birth control methods and as a result of married couples choosing to have fewer children.  Lower birth rates, in other words, mean less money is fed into the system for the benefit of those who need it now or in the near future. 

Social Security is a legacy of the New Deal, a depression-era series of programs designed for a specific set of circumstances existing during the 1930s.  Its survival is a product of its success in providing a minimum amount of money on which to live when one is no longer able to earn an income due to age or physical impairment.  That it remains a politically-contentious program almost 80 years after its establishment is testament to the continued demand for its benefits at the same time its mere reason for being continues to inspire resentment among those who feel their mandatory contributions deprive them of money they could save or invest for themselves. 

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