AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – 90 years ago this year, a series of programs, regulations, public work projects, and financial reforms were introduced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the American public. This would collectively be called the New Deal and the goal of the New Deal was to help the U.S. Recover from the Great Depression.
At the beginning of 1933, the United States reached its all-time highest rate of unemployment at 25%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This was months before Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States and after being sworn in, FDR moved swiftly on a plan to bring relief, reform, and recovery to the U.S.
“It provided things like work relief for individuals that were unemployed, also did a whole host of other things brought electricity to rural farmers in many parts of the south, sought to fix commodities prices for agriculture, sought to fix prices for, literally sometimes fix prices in certain ways for industry in the midwest. It was really a wholescale, wide-ranging attempt to revive the US economy during the dregs of the great depression in the early 1930s,” said Dr. Tim Bowman, head of the Department of History at WTAMU.
The New Deal was split into two segments, the first New Deal and second New Deal, and Dr. Bowman said the first New Deal was to provide short-term immediate relief to Americans, while the second New Deal, which kicked off around 1935 focused on longer-term fixes.
“One for example in 1933, there was a bill called the Agricultural Adjustment Act which was an attempt to prop up prices for things like cotton for farmers who were struggling, The Emergency Banking Act, which was an attempt to get banks back on their feet and help create the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to provide insurance for individuals’ deposits in the banking system… so that was the first New Deal, it was an attempt to meet immediate needs when people were suffering,” said Bowman, “The second New Deal, which most historians say kicked in around 1935 or so, focused more on long-term fixes, and what that did was really reorient in a large-scale kind of way the relationship between the federal government and the people in the United States. So, these would be things like Social Security, which passed in 1935… the minimum wage, for example, the Fair Labor Standard Act, the idea people needed to be paid time and a half if they worked over 40 hours per week, collective bargaining rights for unions, so for workers to gather together and put a price on their labor.”
This platform would create a multitude of agencies to carry out the three R’s of the New Deal.
“This is where you see the creation of agencies like the Civil Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration, the Public Works Administration, the National Youth Administration, and countless others,” said Texas Historical Commission National Register Historian Alyssa Gerszewski.
Since so many agencies were introduced during the New Deal and with their use of acronyms, it resulted in them being called “Alphabet soup” or “Alphabet soup agencies.”
|AAA, Agricultural Adjustment Administration||1933|
|BCLB, Bituminous Coal Labor Board||1935|
|CAA, Civil Aeronautics Authority||1938|
|CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps||1933|
|CCC, Commodity Credit Corporation||1933|
|CWA, Civil Works Administration||1933|
|FCA, Farm Credit Administration||1933|
|FCC, Federal Communications Commission||1934|
|FCIC, Federal Crop Insurance Corporation||1938|
|FDIC, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation||1933|
|FERA, Federal Emergency Relief Agency||1933|
|FFMC, Federal Farm Mortgage Corporation||1934|
|FHA, Federal Housing Administration||1934|
|FLA, Federal Loan Agency||1939|
|FSA, Farm Security Administration||1937|
|FSA, Federal Security Agency||1939|
|FWA, Federal Works Agency||1939|
|HOLC, Home Owners Loan Corporation||1933|
|MLB, Maritime Labor Board||1938|
|NBCC, National Bituminous Coal Commission||1935|
|NLB, National Labor Board||1933|
|NLRB, National Labor Relations Board||1935|
|NRAB, National Railroad Adjustment Board||1934|
|NRA, National Recovery Administration||1933|
|NRB, National Resources Board||1934|
|NRC, National Resources Committee||1935|
|NRPB, National Resources Planning Board||1939|
|NYA, National Youth Administration||1935|
|PWA, Public Works Administration||1933|
|RA, Resettlement Administration||1935|
|REA, Rural Electrification Administration||1935|
|RFC, Reconstruction Finance Corporation||1932|
|RRB, Railroad Retirement Board||1935|
|SCS, Soil Conservation Service||1935|
|SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission||1934|
|SSB, Social Security Board||1935|
|TNEC, Temporary National Economic Committee||1938|
|TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority||1933|
|USEP, United States Employment Service||1933|
|USHA, United States Housing Authority||1937|
|USMC, United States Maritime Commission||1936|
|WPA, Works Progress Administration||1935|
|WPA, Name changed to Works Projects Administration||1939|
Gerszewski said funds from the New Deal were passed on to the counties, and then to the local communities.
She added aspects of the New Deal still can be seen today.
“The legacy of the New Deal depends on how you are looking at it, if you are looking at things like Social Security, which are tremendously impactful to this day and something that is very common in society today or you see the Texas state parks, which everybody loves to visit them, they are wonderful resources… So there are physical legacies and maybe things that are less tangible that we don’t think about, but the new deal touches a lot of different aspects of the economy,” said Gerszewski.
Dr. Bowman said the New Deal also leaves behind a political legacy.
“The New Deal defines for generations what it means to be a liberal democratic in the modern political system. Of, course, there is going to be a section of society that is in line with that kind of politics and that kind of philosophy and then there is going to be a portion of society that has a problem with that. Questions of, ‘Does the government, under the auspices of things like the New Deal interfere with people’s individual liberties too much?’ ‘Is it too big?’ ‘Do people become overly reliant upon things like Social Security and does that need to change?’ This then examples the bulk of domestic politics in the United States for the rest of the 20th century, what kind of role should the government have in people’s lives?… There is a small rift that develops in the 30s, that I think gets bigger over time over this question of the government’s role in people’s lives. While that doesn’t necessarily have everything to do with the New Deal, that is something that politically that really raises to the fore…I see, for me the political division in the country today a lot of those I think echo some of the things that supporters and critics were saying as far back as the 1930s,” said Bowman.
According to the Texas Secretary of State Office, in the 1928 election, Texans voted for Herbert Hoover, and in 1932 overwhelmingly selected FDR over Hoover.
“Right before the Great Depression in 1928, I believe the Panhandle went for the Republican candidate for the first time in that election, but it certainly Hoover, a lot of people considered him a failure for a wide variety of reasons and made them willing to give FDR a chance, it’s pretty astounding the widespread level of support that FDR won,” said Bowman.
|W. H. Harvey||Liberty||324|
|D. Leigh Colvin||Prohi||514|
|Gerald L. K. Smith||Am. 1st||251|
Dr. Bowman said some aspects of the New Deal were questioned.
“The Agricultural Adjustment Act, so fixing prices of commodities is that even constitutional? The courts found that it was not. There were people, there is a great book by a journalist named Timothy Egan called “The Worst Hard Time,” that chronicles the Dust Bowl and what happened here in this area. One of the things Egan talks about in his book were farmers in the Dalhart area who resented the government’s kind of line on agriculture, that agriculture on the High Plains was too capital intensive, there wasn’t attention paid to environmental issues, and that what led to the erosion of the topsoil in the Dust Bowl and there were some farmers who felt that was kind of a judgemental attitude to take…and under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration, which was a way to pay for farmers to essentially move out of an area and reestablish themselves in other places, that the government was judgemental toward people,” said Bowman.
Some of the United States Supreme Court cases brought against the New Deal included:
|Jan. 7th, 1935||Panama Refining Company v. Ryan||Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot regulate petroleum shipments under the authority of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA).|
|May 27th, 1935||A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States||The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Schechter and declared Section 3 of NIRA unconstitutional.|
|Jan. 6th, 1936||United States v. Butler||Ruled that the Agricultural Adjustment Act is unconstitutional.|
|March 29th, 1937||West Coast Hotel v. Parrish||The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Washington Supreme Court and upheld it was constitutional to establish minimum wages for women.|
|April 12th, 1937||N.L.R.B. v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation||The Supreme Court upheld that the Commerce Clause granted Congress the authority to regulate intrastate labor relations, due to such issues directly and indirectly affected interstate commerce.|
|May 24th, 1937||Steward Machine Co. v. Collector of Internal Revenue||The Supreme Court upheld the unemployment compensation sections of the Social Security Act.|
|May 24th, 1937||Helvering v. Davis||The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the federal government has the authority to spend money for the public good.|
Dr. Bowman added that it’s hard to say if the New Deal could have ended the Great Depression.
“I think there is evidence in the 1930s that it was working, in certain respects. If you look at unemployment in the New Deal, what you were getting at is unemployment hit its worst levels in 1932 and then it kind of started to get better and then there was another bad steep decline in the late 1930s and there is a wide variety of reasons for that. Some of those are mistakes that Roosevelt himself made. He believed during his, this would have been his second term in office, he was really starting to believe that things were working, so one point in the late 1930s, he laid off a bunch of WPA workers, and by a bunch, I mean like I think it was a million, maybe even more and then that causes like a second valley to form in term of recovery. To his credit, he learned from his mistake and got people back on the WPA payroll and things seemed to get better. It’s hard to say, in certain respects without taking into account World War II. World War II was so good for the country, in terms of industrial manufacturing and making things for the war, and really putting the nail in the coffin of unemployment that makes it awfully difficult to say, ‘well, the New Deal had it had enough time it would have fully ended the Depression.’ Maybe it would’ve, maybe it wouldn’t’ve. I don’t think. It’s a complicated kind of question, I think yes, in a lot of ways it was effective, but it’s messy. Sure there were things, that were problematic with it, ultimately, does it end the problem of the Great Depression, I don’t know that it does. There is a case to be made that it certainly did help, obviously, but there is also the case to be made that the New Deal by itself does not end the Great Depression.” said Bowman.