Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #4

Rauchway’s claim in “Reflation and Relief” is that the New Deal would have succeeded if it had been the only solution for the Great Depression. The New Deal was created by Franklin D Roosevelt and included a number of government institutions such as the NRA, CCC, and etc. FDR did not believe in sending direct cash handouts, so the New Deal primarily consisted of job relief programs. This is because he did not prefer  “allowing Americans to rely directly on the federal government for assistance programs,” (Rauchway 7). FDR was a strong supporter of government programs like the CCC. Young males between the ages of 18 and 35 were supposed to be employed by the CCC. Due to their lack of work experience, young men during the Great Depression had a tough time finding work. Most firms did not employ unskilled workers, and young men were left jobless. To join the CCC all you had to be was healthy, American citizen, young(18-35), singel, and unemployed. Those who joined the program had a list of jobs and it was to “preserve the nation’s crops and forests. Floods and forest fires needed preventing and fighting; pests required eradication; roads and bridges, fences and firebreaks all wanted building,”(Rauchway 5). Unlike the other New Deal initiatives, the CCC was unfazed from criticism since it was justified in giving job experience to young men as it was deemed “worthy of the government’s resources,” (Rauchway ) .

Other New Deal programs that were criticized included the CWA and the PWA. The Public Works Administration (PWA) as an example barely made a dent in unemployment statistics even though it had a budget of $3.3 billion. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was created to supply laborers with jobs such as fixing city halls, public roads, and docks, and it employed nearly 4 million Americans. This  made Roosevelt anxious since these programs were supposed to be temporary relief programs, but it encouraged Americans to rely on government handouts. As a result FDR disbanded the program.

Although many of the New Deal’s relief initiatives were criticized, as Rauchman points out, they did bring in several changes aimed at preventing another recession. FDR instituted significant reforms, such as the Banking Act of 1933, which gave the Federal Reserve more power to oversee banking. Roosevelt also started “rescuing banks” by stating that all “banks must stop all gold transactions, thus shutting them down,” and he asked Congress to ratify his action. On March 9, Congress compiled with the Emergency Banking Act, which affirmed Roosevelt’s actions and appointed a receiver with the power to reorganize banks if necessary,” (Rauchman 1). Banks have reorganized and begun to reopen as a result of this and his other efforts.


One thought on “Blog Post #4”

  1. A very thorough and insightful post! I’m not sure, however, whether you have stated Rauchway’s argument correctly; I think he meant to say that, “if merely curing the immediate Depression” had been the New Deal’s only goal, it should be measured a success. But, as you make clear, it went far beyond that, experimenting with government-sponsored public works and jobs programs—some successful, others less so.

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