Prompt: How “revolutionary” was the New Deal? Evaluate the significant changes that it brought and determine how different the nation became because of it.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was the ultimate reform movement, providing bold reform without bloodshed or revolution. Although many Americans criticized President Roosevelt for his “try anything” approach and wasteful spending, Roosevelt saved the American system of free enterprise by stepping in and actually doing something to help the unemployed, starving masses during the Great Depression. Before Roosevelt was elected, the gap between the haves and have-nots was ever-widening and the country probably would have experienced a revolution if another laissez-faire president like Hoover had been elected in 1932. When Roosevelt was elected, he created a series of reforms to deal with the countless problems in American society; many failed, though some achieved long-lasting success and exist to this day. The New Deal was the ultimate “revolution” providing lasting reforms like Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act, and establishing precedents that continue to shape the lives of millions of Americans to this day.
Roosevelt was a radical president in many ways, expanding Federal power and establishing numerous precedents that have served to empower the federal government ever since. Unlike previous presidents, Roosevelt believed that the American government had an obligation to help its citizens in a crisis. Roosevelt also felt that doing anything was better than doing nothing and he was criticized frequently for this. Nonetheless, most of his “alphabet agencies” served their purposes and provided immediate rather than long-term relief to over nine million desperate Americans. He started by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which provided employment in government camps for three million young men. These men served doing useful, but (some would say) unnecessary tasks like reforesting, firefighting, draining swamps, and controlling floods. The Works Progress Administration, or WPA, was another extremely helpful agency during the Depression, putting $11 million dollars into public buildings, bridges, and hard-surfaced roads, creating millions of new jobs. To the American people who were used to coming into contact with the government only at the post office and on other infrequent occasions, Roosevelt’s system was ground-breaking; never before had the government intervened to help farmers in need (AAA), or homeowners struggling with mortgages (HOLC), or families starving during the winter (CWA). Roosevelt had no uncertainties or misgivings about the use of Federal money to help Americans. If the U.S. government would not help its own citizens, then who would? Roosevelt also made other revolutionary changes with his New Deal.
The plight of the worker had always been of concern to Roosevelt, and he did much during his time as president to improve overall working conditions. Firstly, Roosevelt set up the National Recovery Administration, or NRA, to assist labor unions in their struggle against greedy corporations. The NRA, for the first time in American history, guaranteed the right for labor union members to choose their own representatives in bargaining. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or “Wages and Hours Bill”, established maximum hours of labor, minimum wages, and forbid children under the age of sixteen from working. By limiting the number of hours a single worker could work, Roosevelt created new jobs and improved the working conditions for existing workers. Roosevelt was one of the first Presidents to earnestly fight for the rights of the average worker. The Fair Labor Standards Act is still in use today (though the monetary values have been increased to account for seventy years of inflation), and unions still have the rights that Roosevelt guaranteed to them with the NRA. Roosevelt, it seemed, went out of his way to ensure that workers were treated fairly and given their due rights. Roosevelt’s crowning achievement to Americans was the Social Security Act, which he signed in 1935, creating the pension, insurance for the old-aged, the blind, the physically handicapped, delinquent, and other dependents by taxing employees and employers; in essence, Americans were providing for their own futures. Social Security still exists today, and though some people oppose it, it no doubt provides a valuable service to people unable to care for themselves—which was Roosevelt’s strong point: appealing to the “forgotten man”. However, he had yet another lasting achievement that truly revolutionized America.
After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, it became apparent that speculation and overselling stocks and bonds were key causes of the crash. Roosevelt passed the Federal Securities Act to encourage honesty during the sale of stocks and bonds; promoters were required to transmit to the investor sworn information regarding the soundness of their investments. While many crooked businessmen hated Roosevelt for this, many historians argue that his wise actions saved the American system from untimely demise. With the passage of this Act, Roosevelt encouraged fairer trading and less speculation, which ultimately revitalized the American economy.
Roosevelt was a revolutionary for his time. He challenged the accepted role of government in society by intervening to improve the quality of life for countless Americans. Though his actions were controversial, it is clear that they had a positive effect on American society. Ultimately, though, it would take World War II to lift the American economy out of the Great Depression; Roosevelt’s New Deal served to satisfy the American people’s demands for action until America joined the war in 1941.
Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Roosevelt and the Revolutionary New Deal" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/sample-essays/roosevelt-and-the-revolutionary-new-deal/>.
Great Depression and The New Deal
Although there was an economic boom in Florida during the early 1920s, the economy went downhill as the decade came to an end. Two severe hurricanes damaged a large portion of South Florida. The first one hit the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas in the middle of the night, which came as a surprise to many people including tourists. Severe flooding and wind damage crippled the community. The second one hit the Palm Beach area, which caused Lake Okeechobee to flood and drown over 2,000 people in nearby communities.
The next disaster occurred when there was an outbreak of the Mediterranean fruit fly in a grapefruit grove near Orlando. These insects quickly spread across the state and killed off most of the citrus crop. Because of a quarantine imposed on all remaining citrus, this was another blow to Florida's economy. These two hurricanes, the crop destruction, and an attempt to recover from the previous wars put a financial burden on Florida.
The Great Depression
All across the United States, people were facing economic difficulties. By 1929, our country was facing a depression, which is a situation when there isn't any money and there are very few jobs open to the public. "The Great Depression" began when the stock market fell. This was called the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929. People who invested their money in stocks began to lose all of their money. They couldn't pay their bank loans or personal bills.
In 1931, the Florida State Legislature created a State Racing Commission which legalized betting at both horse and dog racing tracks and at all Jai Alai frontons. When people won money from betting, a tax was taken out of the money. This partially aided the state, but not as much as the legislature planned. After all, people did not have enough money to bet! This idea that the Legislature hoped would pull Florida out of the depression did not work.
The depression affected the nation's banks as well. By 1932, many banks had closed their doors. This meant that people lost their savings. Without money, families could not afford a place to live or adequate food to eat. They also couldn't buy goods and services, which meant most businesses had to close as well. Over 12 million people across the U.S. were unemployed at the peak of the depression. In Florida, there were over 90,000 families affected by the depression.
During the first years of the Great Depression, Florida's government did little to help people. But the federal government gave help by providing Floridians with financial aid called relief. One fourth of the people who lived in Florida were on relief.
Tourism supported Florida's economy a little during the winter months. Many people drove to Florida to enjoy the warm climate. Because Floridians were facing economic difficulties, however, Florida State Police were stationed at Florida's border; if people did not have enough money or a job to support them, they were not allowed to enter the state. Florida was having a hard enough time supporting residents without increasing the extra number of people who wanted to live in a year-round warm state but who didn't have the means to take care of themselves or their family.
The New Deal
In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the United States. His presidency became known as the "New Deal" because of the promises that he made to Americans. This deal consisted of ideas to get the country and people back on their feet. Soon, millions of Americans were working again. One of the programs was called the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC. Young men from all over the country lived in work camps. About 40,000 Floridians participated in the CCC. They received food and clothing and their paychecks were sent home to their families. Some of the work in Florida consisted of cutting down millions of trees to build fire lines. The CCC also planted 13 million trees in Florida and created many of the state parks and wildlife preserves. Other New Deal workers built federal buildings and schools.
The CCC also rebuilt the Overseas Railroad connecting Miami to Key West, originally built by Henry Flagler, but destroyed in 1935 by a hurricane. The reconstruction finished in 1938 and the railroad was opened once again. It helped bring tourism to Key West. It is 100 miles long and has more than 40 bridges. Florida owns many of its conservation projects, parks, and preserves thanks to President Roosevelt's CCC.
Another New Deal program was called the Works Progress Administration, or WPA. This program gave jobs to researchers, writers, and editors. One Floridian writer, Zora Neale Hurston, became a very well known African American author who wrote about growing up in Florida.
Through the New Deal era, many Florida businesses began to redevelop. Industries grew and Florida's banking business was becoming stronger. Alfred Du Pont, a wealthy businessman, took control of a few Florida banks and reestablished them. He bought forestland and used it to start the paper industry in Florida. Paper mills sprang up all around the state.
The citrus industry began to ship fruit to other parts of the country, and by 1939, three airlines scheduled flights into Florida. Because of new roads, businesses, and air flights, tourism started to flourish. The United States was coming out of the depression by the end of the 1930s. Once again, people were able to find jobs and take care of their families.