After his 1933 inauguration, Franklin Roosevelt began working with his Administration and Congress to help the country recover from the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Over the next five years, Congress enacted many new laws, creating a large-scale federal government plan, known as the New Deal, that provided relief for the needy, economic recovery, and government reform.
Among the programs and reforms that employed or assisted Americans were:
- The Public Works Administration, which funded public works projects, such as building roads, bridges, and hospitals. These projects employed local people and pumped money into local economies. Many of these public works projects still exist.
- The Civilian Conservation Corps, which created jobs, particularly for young, unemployed Americans. CCC workers planted trees, worked on flood control projects, and built trails and buildings in national parks.
- The Social Security Act, which provided assistance to poor elderly Americans, poor widows and fatherless children, and the unemployed. The Act was controversial when Roosevelt signed it into law and remains controversial because of the Social Security system's expense and its expansion to include such programs as Medicare and Medicaid.
- The Securities Act of 1933, which enacted new stock market regulations aimed at avoiding a future stock market crash like the Great Crash of 1929. It also created the SEC, which continues to enforce securities laws.
It is also important to remember the size and scope of the New Deal. It was an immense, several year long effort to right our economic ship.
When FDR was elected in 1932, he immediately called together his "Brain Trust" - business leaders and economists - to come up with a plan for saving the US economy from the Great Depression. As a politician he then packaged their ideas and explained it to the public and Congress as The New Deal. He took complex ideas and expressed them in common, everyday language, which was reassuring to Americans.
Three programs in addition to the ones listed above that we still use today include:
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which built a series of hydroelectric dams in the Tennessee River Valley, providing thousands of jobs, flood and irrigation control and cheap electricity.
The FDIC - An insurance program for banks whereby a citizen's deposits in that bank are insured. If the bank goes under, you get your money back. This gave us confidence in the system, enough so that we re-deposited our cash back into banks. We recently used the FDIC extensively during the 2008 - 2009 banking crisis.
The REA - Responsible for the construction of hundreds of smaller hydro dams in rural areas that provided electricity to the countryside in places that had never had it before. The REA in my town is still there, still providing jobs and cheap, reliable electricity.
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