What were the three main goals of the New Deal?
The three main goals of the New Deal are usually described as the "three Rs": relief, recovery, and reform. To achieve these goals, the administration of Franklin Roosevelt passed an array of programs and created a number of federal agencies to administer them. I will elaborate on these goals, including some of the programs and agencies that were created, below.
- Relief: By the time Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, the nation's economy was mired in the very worst period of the Great Depression. Nearly 1/3 of the nation's workforce was unemployed, and a far greater percentage were underemployed. Banks were closing and businesses were shutting their doors. This led to a desperate need for direct relief, something the federal government had been reluctant to do under FDR's predecessor Herbert Hoover. One major relief program was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which attempted to provide work, as well as relief payments, to those stricken by the Depression. Like the FERA, the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, put people to work, namely young people who worked to combat soil erosion and on other conservation projects.
- Recovery: A major goal of the programs of the first "Hundred Days", the flurry of programs implemented in 1933, was to bring about economic recovery by stabilizing prices and by putting more money into the economy. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) attempted to regulate wages as well as prices in industry, while the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) tried to do the same for farmers. These were the programs that met with the most resistance from conservatives--the Supreme Court struck down both on the grounds that they involved excessive government intervention in the economy.
- Reform: Another, and perhaps the most important, goal of the New Deal was to enact structural reforms that would make another economic disaster less likely, removing a degree of uncertainty from American capitalism and from the lives of the American people. One example was the FDIC, or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This program insured bank deposits, making people less likely to panic and remove their funds from banks as they had done in the bank panics of the early 1930s. Congress also passed the Glass-Steagall Act, which limited the investments that banks could make. Finally, the Social Security Act created a pension for the elderly financed by a payroll tax.