The New Deal Questions and Answers

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Who remained outside the reach New Deal assistance, and why?

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Not everyone benefited from New Deal programs for several reasons.  First, the New Deal represented a massive reformulation of the relationship between the federal government and the economy. Most New Deal programs were anathema to fiscal conservatives who rejected the suggestion that the government should inject itself into economic matters to the extent that these programs did and, as importantly, who rejected the massive fiscal deficits these programs would entail.  To fiscal conservatives, little was more objectionable than government policies predicated upon fiscal deficits, and the New Deal was, if anything, one enormous financial imposition that would have to be paid for by future generations.  The New Deal was a fundamental shift in the federal government’s role in the economy, and its programs, some of which survive to this day, were opposed then and are opposed now by those who believe the government should minimize its role in the economy in deference to private enterprise.  Conservative opposition to the New Deal, then, meant legislative challenges to its implementation, which prevented President Roosevelt from extending it as far and wide as he envisioned.

One category of individual or family that did not benefit from New Deal programs anywhere near as much as it should have was the African American community. The racism endemic across much of the country precluded the expansion of New Deal benefits, especially in the area of employment, to the one group most victimized by institutionalized racism: blacks.  Just because the New Deal programs were established, and provided tens of thousands of jobs, didn’t mean those hiring employees were necessarily of the mind to distribute those jobs equitably, let alone preferentially for the benefit of blacks. In addition, and as a corollary of the hiring situation, African Americans, unable to find jobs, were not contributing into the newly-established Social Security system, which meant they also wouldn’t be beneficiaries of Social Security annuities down the road.

Another group that did not benefit from the New Deal programs was the large Mexican migrant population, which worked off-the-books and without any legitimate address of residence.  In short, they didn’t exist as far as the government was concerned, even though they represented a major component of the agricultural industry’s work force in the Western part of the country. 

The New Deal was also considered, in some ways, a victim of its successes. As whites regained a measure of affluence, they left the blighted urban centers for newly-established suburbs, leaving those urban centers to the under- and unemployed African American community that, as noted, remained economically marginalized.

The intervention of World War II in the economic recovery programs seriously skewed data with regard to the effectiveness of New Deal programs.  The imperative of national mobilization resulted in tens of millions of Americans seeing their financial or employment situations radically transformed, as men were inducted into the military and those who didn’t qualify because of age or physical infirmity were employed in the factories established or expanded to support the war effort.  In addition, many women previously outside of the workforce were hired to work in munitions factories and in other industries to compensate for the shortage of men, who were now serving in Europe or Asia.

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