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The New Deal was a series of acts designed to pull the country out of economic strife. FDR started his presidency off with a bang when he passed the Emergency Banking Act. Under this act the federal government ordered an official bank holiday in which all banks across the nation shut down for a period of time and were permitted to reopen with the government's approval. After the trust in the banking system was restored, Roosevelt turned his head toward the needy in society, the lower class. Congress passed the Civilian Conservation Corps or the CCC to provide jobs and training to 10000 unemployed men and restored many of the country's resources by planting trees, fighting fires, and building roads. Though the number of citizens directly affected by this was small it instilled hope in the nation that the federal government was taking initiative towards helping the poor and unemployed. This was only the start of acts passed to directly relieve the poor; others were: the Federal Emergency Relief Administration which benefited those ineligible for the CCC, the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act was designed for the relief of farmers, and the Home Owners' Loan Corporation which helped homeowners who were in danger of losing their homes.
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Although it tried, the federal government could not help every citizen individually, the Roosevelt administration turned towards the recovery of the nation and its economy as a whole. Roosevelt believed he could end the depression with one act when it came to recovering the economy; he introduced to congress what was known as the National Industrial Recovery Act which in turn established the National Recovery Administration (NRA). The NRA acted primarily against the big businesses and for the employees, it acted as a third party arbitration between employers and the unions on issues such as negotiating salary and working conditions (hours, breaks, etc.). The NRA also fixed prices on goods along with standards on the quantity of certain products made by a single company. Stephanie Fitzgerald talks of this in her book The New Deal "The government had never been more deeply involved in the practices of individual businesses before." (Fitzgerald 59). Evidentially the NRA failed to bring the country out of the depression and was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court during Roosevelt's second term.
The first New Deal focused on the individuals of the country, during Roosevelt's second term he initiated the second New Deal to reform the system altogether and make it so the country would be safe from ever experiencing a economic depression of the same scale again. This gave way to the Roosevelt administration's crowning achievement of the Social Security Act or the SSA. The SSA was first created as an aide to widows and orphans but escalated to the elderly who could no longer work and the people who were between jobs. The government started an old age insurance fund in which people would get part of their pay taken out of their paycheck and is returned to them when they reach a certain age. The SSA worked as a safety net for those who had no insurance of their own to be able to keep their homes and support their families when they cannot work or are temporarily out of a job. This is made clear in FDR's speech on the Social Security Act, "I summarized the main objectives of our American program. Among these was, and is, the security of the men, women, and children of the nation against certain hazards and vicissitudes of life. This purpose is an essential part of our task," other acts passed to reform the economy and the nations were: the Works Progress Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Glass Steagall Act (A program for Social Security, pg 1).
Although the New Deal ended as a failure in its intended purpose, it eased the suffering brought upon the nation in the great depression. People were employed, getting direct relief from the government and almost guaranteed that another depression of that scale would never hit the United States at such a massive scale. The government also assumed new roles under the New Deal such as having direct connection with citizens, more ties to the economy such as regulations and insurance, and the government gained more power change laws and set conditions for the citizens and businesses.
Franklin D. Roosevelt "A Program for Social Security," Annals of American History.
[Accessed February 24, 2008].
Franklin D. Roosevelt "Progress of the Recovery Program," Annals of American History.
[Accessed February 24, 2008].
Fitzgerald, Stephanie. The New Deal. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2007.