In 1928 there was a presidential election, Herbert Hoover was the Republican and he won by a landslide. One of the earliest statements Hoover made was: ‘We in America today are nearer the final triumph over poverty than ever before… the poor man is vanishing among us.’ But six months later saw a very different picture. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 made the Great Depression in America much worse. The American economy had collapsed, and the USA entered a long depression that destroyed much of the prosperity of the 1920’s. Hoover had paid the price for being unable to solve the problem.
With such ill feeling towards Hoover being expressed throughout the country, Roosevelt with great contrast to Hoover was his opponent in the 1932 elections and he was confident in his win. Roosevelt’s own plans were he realised people wanted action, whatever that action was. He promised the American people a ‘New Deal’. The election was a landslide victory for Roosevelt; he won by 7 million votes. It was the worst defeat the Republicans had ever suffered.
Roosevelt planned to use the full power of the government to get the US out of the Depression. He set his priorities as getting Americans back to work; protecting their savings and property; providing relief for the sick, old and unemployed and getting American industry and Agriculture back on its feet. To do this he set up the ‘alphabet agencies’ which was part of the New Deal. There was a New Deal for the unemployed, farmers, land and industry.
There were agencies that Roosevelt set up to help the unemployed during the first hundred days as President. The PWA, the Public Works Administration, was to create work for the unemployed by starting public work schemes. The FERA, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, was to give $500 million to the states for the relief of the hungry and the homeless. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was aimed at unemployed young men in particular. They lived in government camps in the countryside and sis heard work such as clearing land, planting tress to stop soil blowing away, and strengthening riverbanks for flood control. The young men got food and clothing and small wages of $1a day were sent to parents. Around 2.5 million young men were helped by this scheme.
The Civilian Works Administration (CWA) was designed as a short-term scheme to give as many people jobs as possible. Useful work was done like they built or improved 800,000 km of roads; built or improved 40,000 schools, built 500 airports and improved 500 more and built 150,000 public toilets. Also unemployed actors were hired to give free shows, but many of the jobs were just sweeping leaves in the parks.
The aim of the Public Works Administration (PWA) was to create public works of real and lasting value. Dams were built, bridges, sewage systems and houses all costing $7 billion. Between 1933 and 1939, the PWA built 70 per cent of America’s schools and 35 per cent of its hospitals.
Roosevelt also set up agencies to help farmers. The Farm Credit Adjustment made loans to a fifth of all farmers so that they would not lose their farms. The Agricultural Adjustment Agency (AAA) paid farmers to produce less food, by taking land out of production or reducing their livestock. Less produce meant that the prices would go up and between 1933 and 1939 farmers’ incomes doubled. Cotton farmers were paid to plough up ten million acres already planted. The government bought and killed six million piglets in 1933. Some of the meat was tinned and given to the poor, but about nine-tenths was destroyed. The problem with the AAA was that it only helped the farmers but not the tenants and sharecroppers who worked on the land. Many of them were evicted because there was not enough work for them to do and farmers replaced them with machinery that they had bought with government money.
The agency to help industry was the National Recovery Administration (NRA) was set up by the National Industry Recovery Act (NIRA). They aimed to increase workers wages so that they could spend money on goods; to increase the prices of factory goods to help factory owners make more profit and employ more men and also to give workers a fairer deal in the workplace, including better conditions and shorter working hours. Codes were drawn up for each industry which owners and businessman and businessmen were encouraged to sign. Theses codes fixed prices for the goods, limited workers hours, set minimum wages and forbade child labour. Workers were also given the right to join trade unions. Businesses that signed up were allowed to use the NRA’s sign, which was the Blue Eagle. Big publicity campaigns and parades encouraged the public to buy goods from members of the scheme.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was set up to develop the Tennessee Valley, which was a vast area, which cut through seven states. It was a poverty stricken area that cut through seven states; it had soil erosion and flooding. The TVA organised the building of 33 dams to control the river. Measures were also taken to improve the quality of the soil so that it could be farmed again and new forests were planted. A new 650-mile waterway linking major rivers systems gave easy access area. Power stations were built at the dams to provide cheap electricity for farmers and domestic customers. The TVA became the largest producer of electricity in America.
The TVA was the most impressive schemes of the New Deal. Thousands of jobs were created, the land was conserved and improved and health and welfare facilities were provided. Roosevelt hoped that all the agencies that he had set up would bring confidence back to America so they could have a chance to recover from the worst effects of the Depression.