The New Deal was a series of government induced programmes which assisted the poor and downtrodden in society to recuperate from financial disaster. One has to remember that the country, especially the Midwest and the South was suffering through the worst depression in living memory with thousands of farms destroyed by drought and several millions close to famine. Something needed to be done to re-invigorate the economy and it had to be done fast.
The New Deal focused on the 3 R’s which were Recovery, Relief and Reform and it came in two parts, phase I and phase II. There were several programs but the most important ones were those to get men back into productive work as unemployment had run into the millions with no hope in sight for many of them.
The relief program to get men back into work had a long lasting effect on American society right up to the Second World War. The program managed to send millions back to work through grants, fiscal incentives for employers as well as the creation of new industry and new job opportunities.
There were also programmes for women which are not always acknowledged. The FERA programme initiated several jobs for women who could now participate in various programmes initiated by the state and which were also funded to that extent. Several women were employed in a number of industries and in diverse work programmes.
The New Deal also dealt with economic problems with such programmes as the Banking Act and the Commerce Act which sought to regularize the banking system and the whole economy which was in the dustbin at the time of the depression. One could argue that the farm programmes were the most successful as they helped to revive this industry substantially
Criticism of the New Deal
Initially the business community was too in a stupor to oppose the New Deal policies initiated by Roosevelt in the so called ‘100 Days’. However as time progressed and more acts began being passed with Congress in special session, there were many who began to criticize the deal as too socialist and others resented government intervention rather bitterly. Even within Roosevelt’s own Democratic Party, splits began to appear as some representatives and senators from the South who always historically resented federal intervention began to stand up to Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Eventually though although the President faced stiff opposition from several quarters, the programmes can be said to have been a huge success as they brought Americans back to work, invigorated the economy and also brought new impetus to society.
Lasting impact on society and government
The New Deal is still relevant today in the sense that the policies of economic regeneration and stimulus are still very much part of the American economy. We have seen these put into practice in the recent debates on the Banking Crisis as well as the Healthcare debate. American society still remains somewhat skeptical on any sort of government intervention although there are sections of it such as the poor and downtrodden who still need it. American politics also remains slightly insular and not outward looking with state politicians always looking at their own angle instead of the bigger picture. In that sense the New Deal has still not arrived.