Fdr New Deal Essay Question

Always use specific historical examples to support your arguments.

Study Questions


In your opinion, was Roosevelt’s New Deal a success or a failure?

Although Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal provided relief to millions of Americans, the New Deal ultimately failed because it did not end the Great Depression. The New Deal was simply not enough to cure the economy of its maladies.

Admittedly, the New Deal was highly successful in achieving the limited goal of providing immediate relief to millions of hungry, homeless, and jobless Americans. The Federal Emergency Relief Act, for example, earmarked about half a billion dollars to distribute to states on the verge of bankruptcy and directly to Americans who needed government handouts the most. The Public Works Administration, Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and Civil Works Administration also provided invaluable employment to millions of young men during the depression. Most of Roosevelt’s new alphabet agencies, however, were just quick fixes to remedy the most visible effects of the Great Depression without doing anything to solve the problems that had caused the economic collapse in the first place.

Roosevelt and New Dealers did make attempts to put the nation back on track toward long-term recovery and to reform the American financial system. Along with Congress, Roosevelt created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (passed under the Glass-Steagall Banking Reform Act) to prevent future bank failures and the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate commodity trading on the stock market. The Wagner Act and Fair Labor Standard Acts, meanwhile, protected the rights of laborers, and the Social Security Act set up retirement pensions for the elderly and disabled.

These reforms were still not enough, however, as the Roosevelt Recession of 1937 demonstrated. Believing the worst of the depression to be over and wanting to appease critics, Roosevelt cut back deficit spending in the hopes that the government had already injected enough dollars into the economy for it to right itself. This hope proved mistaken, as the stock market collapsed again and millions of people lost their jobs. Perhaps contemporary critics such as Huey P. Long were correct: more federal dollars were needed to prime the economic pump. As it turns out, however, only the wartime demands placed on manufacturing and labor during World War II pulled the American economy out of its hole.


Why did the New Deal lose steam in 1938 and 1939?

The New Deal faded away in the late 1930s primarily because Roosevelt grew overconfident in his own abilities to end the Great Depression. As a result, he made several bad decisions that turned a significant group of Americans against him and the New Deal.

When Roosevelt was first elected president in 1933, most Americans believed he was the only person who could save the economy. As governor of New York, he had successfully used Keynesian-style deficit spending to inject money into the economy and reduce the devastating impacts of the depression. He had also had some success initiating across-the-board reforms to make sure the state would never again be hit hard by a financial crisis like the Crash of 1929. Compared to the conservative Herbert Hoover, who refused to provide any direct assistance at all, Roosevelt seemed like a godsend.

Roosevelt delivered on his promises in many ways and thus earned the solid support of the American people. During his First Hundred Days in office, he put the nation’s banks back on solid footing and created a variety of new alphabet agencies such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Federal Emergency Relief Administration to dole out jobs and money. He also reformed Wall Street and propped up American agriculture. His Second New Deal initiatives were also so popular that he received all but eight electoral votes in the presidential election of 1936.

During his second term, however, Roosevelt overstepped his bounds and took controversial actions that proved very unpopular. With Congress under his control, he had only to defeat the conservative Supreme Court in order to ensure that his New Deal policies would endure. With this in mind, in early 1937 he requested Congress to grant him the power to add as many as six pro–New Deal justices to the Supreme Court and to force all justices over the age of seventy to retire. This action shocked Congress, which flatly denied the request. Even fellow Democrats were astonished by Roosevelt’s flagrant attempt to undermine the system of checks and balances and separation of powers. The American public was also horrified, especially as Roosevelt repeatedly denied his obvious intentions for wanting to pack the Court with New Deal supporters.

This move cost Roosevelt dearly: he lost many supporters, not only among the American people but also among congressmen in his own party, on whom he relied to pass his legislation. Soon thereafter, Roosevelt made an additional mistake in reducing the amount of federal dollars he pumped into the economy in the hopes that the economy could finally pull out of the depression by itself. Lacking enough support, the economy crumpled again, causing the Roosevelt Recession. The president’s attempt to point fingers only frustrated Americans more. As a result, voters ousted many Democrats from Congress in the midterm elections of 1938, effectively ending any chance of passing additional New Deal legislation. Had Roosevelt not overstepped his bounds via the court-packing scheme nor vehemently denied responsibility for the 1937 recession, the New Deal might have survived longer than it did.


Which had greater immediate effect on the American economy, the First New Deal or the Second New Deal? Which had greater long-term significance after the end of the Great Depression?

Even though the First New Deal (1933–1934) and the Second New Deal (1935–1938) were both part of Roosevelt’s plan to reinvigorate the economy with Keynesian-style federal deficit spending, the two bundles of legislation were in many ways quite different. First New Deal legislation, for example, was passed primarily in order to provide immediate relief to the bankrupt states and directly to the people. On the other hand, much of the Second New Deal legislation was meant to reform the economy and prevent future depressions. As a result, the First New Deal had the more immediate effect on the U.S. economy, but the Second New Deal had much greater significance after the Great Depression.

Most legislation passed during Roosevelt’s First Hundred Days was intended to help the poorest Americans, to whom Herbert Hoover had refused to give assistance. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, for example, distributed over half a billion dollars in grants (rather than loans) to the individual state governments and directly to the people. The Civilian Conservation Corps, Civil Works Administration, and Public Works Administration were also established to give jobs to the unemployed and improve the national infrastructure. The first Agricultural Adjustment Administration provided subsidies to farmers to cut crop production and artificially raise the price of agricultural goods. These programs had an enormous impact on those Americans who needed immediate relief the most. On the other hand, benefits from these “alphabet agencies” were all short-term benefits. The agencies distributed money to those who needed it but made no attempt to cure the depression at the source.

Much of the legislation passed in the Second New Deal, however, did try to reform the system to prevent another catastrophic depression from occurring in the future. The Wagner Act and Fair Labor Standards Act altered the power imbalance between big business and labor by recognizing workers’ right to bargain collectively and by establishing a minimum wage and forty-hour workweek in select industries. These new laws gave a boost to blossoming labor organizations such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which has since become one of the largest unions in the United States. The Social Security Act of 1935 was even more sweeping, as it created a federal pension system funded by employers and taxpayers to keep the disabled and retired workers from becoming destitute.

Not all Second New Deal legislation focused on reform, however. In fact, Roosevelt and Congress created several new relief organizations, such as the Works Progress Administration and the United States Housing Authority, in response to criticism that the First New Deal had not helped Americans enough. Likewise, some reform-oriented agencies had been created in the First New Deal in 1933 and 1934, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Securities and Exchange Commission. For the most part, however, Roosevelt and fellow Democrats legislated the First New Deal to provide immediate relief and the Second New Deal to initiate long-term reform.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Explain how three of the following affected American politics or society during the 1920s:Warren G. Hardingthe Teapot Dome scandalthe Five-Power Naval Treatythe Sacco-Vanzetti TrialProhibitionthe Scopes Monkey Trial

2. What were some of the causes of the Great Depression? How did Hoover’s policies worsen the effects?

3. How did the Great Depression and New Deal transform American politics?

4. Some contemporary critics accused Roosevelt of being a dictator. Defend or refute this claim.


1. What was the Wagner Act? Why did Roosevelt support this legislation?

When the Supreme Court invalidated the national industrial recovery act in 1935 that act guaranteed that workers could organize in unions the Wagner act which is the national Labour relations act of 1935 gave workers federal protection created enforcement of the national Labour relations Board NLRB. The president signed it because American workers by 1935 were voters and his political future depended on them.

2. What is the background regarding the formation of the CIO? What was the CIO and what was its focus?

The AFL was a union for crafts or skilled labor they had fights about allowing unskilled labor in and when they threw them out they became their own organization

CIO is the Congress of industrial organization it was a rival of the AFL the CIO was better to women and blacks than the AFL had been. The CIO with the union for unskilled labor and went after an organized industries like textiles, laundry, tobacco where women and minorities worked. The CIO was more militant than the AFL and it was organizing the automobile and steel industry.

3. What was the UAW? Why did General Motors agree to recognize them? What tactics did the strikers use and why did they abandon these tactics soon afterward?

The United autoworkers got big in the 30s but corporations wouldn’t recognize them in December 1936 they had a sitdown strike employees in several GM plant in Detroit sat down in plants and refuse to work or to leave so the company could use strikebreakers. They had a big strike where National Guard was brought in but sitdown strikes were illegal and there was a lot of public outcry against it so they stopped using it.

Small steel companies called little skill opened fire on a group of marchers that were marching toward the steel plant 10 demonstrators were killed the 1937 strike failed it was called the Memorial Day massacre.

4. What was the status of labor unions at the end of the 1930s? In 1937, what percent of the strikes ended favorably for the workers? Compared with 1932, how did union membership stack up? By 1941? Why did US Steel give in to the demands of the workers without a fight?

80% of the strikes were in favor of the unions. They were 4720 strikes in 1937 alone. In 1932 there were 3 million union members. There were 8 million workers that were members of unions in 1938. By 1941 there were 10 million union members.

The US still gave in to the demands of the workers with out a fight because they didn’t want to risk a costly strike when the steel industry was recovering from the depression.

5. What was the Social Security Act and what did it provide for? Make sure to discuss specifics regarding the elderly, pensions, and unemployment insurance.

Social Security was from the first movements of the new deal. It is a system of federally sponsored social insurance for the elderly and unemployed. Social Security act in 1935 the elderly had two types of assistance they could get up to $15 a month in federal assistance many working Americans were incorporated into a pension system they would contribute by paying a payroll tax and it would give them money after they retired. Pension payments did not begin until 1942 and provided tenant to $85 a month.

Blacks and women were excluded from the program

unemployment system that employers alone would finance gave money to laid-off workers as temporary government assistance.

It also established a system of federal aid to disabled people

and aid to dependent children

it was a system of insurance not welfare it was similar to private insurance programs where contributions from participants benefited everybody it was based on need

it was meant to give support to people who couldn’t take care of themselves but later generations saw that it got larger and larger

6. The framers of the Social Security Act wanted a system of “insurance,” not “welfare.” Describe what this means, with examples from the text.

The new dealers believe that some people had “earned social protection… Because they or their employers had contributed to the programs from which they drew. Old age pensions and unemployment insurance or because they have performed some special service to the nation… Civil War and World War I veterans”

the other group of people that had earned money included “women that needed benefits because they were incapable of supporting themselves” the new dealers were willing to provide benefits for them as well although” less generously donated for those they believe had earned them”.

It was insurance because people got a payout for working and they and their employers had put in the money over a long period of time and it was to be paid out after their retirement. It was not welfare because they had put the money in themselves to work over a long period of time. Women worse a special class of people that didn’t need to work for it because they were considered unable to provide for themselves that is why it is not welfare.

7. What was the Works Progress Administration? What major projects did it oversee and how many people did it employ? Discuss how it helped workers who were not manual laborers.

The WPA was for millions of unemployed Americans that had immediate needs it was established in 1935. The WPA had a $5 billion budget it was a huge agency the WPA was responsible for building hundred and 10,000 schools post offices government and office buildings, constructing 600 airports, 500,000 miles of road, 100,000 bridges

2.1 million workers were employed at the WPA and it pumped money into the national economy

the WPA helped painters sculptors through federal music projects and federal theater projects that put on concerts and plays creating work for unemployed musicians actors and directors and artists

8. How did the way in which the government spent money during the New Deal reflect traditional assumptions of social (gender) roles?

Men got jobs and women got money. Most women got money through aid to dependent children programs through Social Security to assist single mothers. Government assumed men were going to be paid workers and that women needed to be treated in the context of the family

9. Describe the presidential election of 1936? What were the results of this election? The impact?

1936 presidential election Franklin Roosevelt and the new deal the economy was getting better he was sure to win a second term the Republican Party nominated the governor of Kansas L Landon a leader named Hugh belonged was assassinated in 1935 they had this union party. Pres. Roosevelt won with 61% of the vote to landings 36% of the vote he won every state except for Maine and Vermont the greatest landslide in American history the Democrats controlled the Western and Southern farmers and the urban working classes the poor and unemployed the black communities of the northern cities as well as new liberals and the majority of the electorate it would be decades before Republican Party could create a majority

10. What did Roosevelt want to do regarding the Supreme Court in 1937? What was Roosevelt’s public argument for overhauling the Supreme Court? Why did he really want to overhaul the Court? What became of this plan? (Was it necessary?)

Roosevelt overhauled the justice system including the Supreme Court said that the soup report was overworked but he really wanted to appoint new liberal justices and change the rulings of the court for justices consistently opposed the new deal and three generally supported it of the remaining two they often sided with the progresses the Supreme Court didn’t like the court packing bill and Congress ultimately defeated it

the court was not an obstacle to the new deal reforms when the older justices began to retire they were replaced by Roosevelt’s new appointed by the court packing episode had lasting political damage to the Roosevelt administration

11. Why did Roosevelt ask for $5 billion dollars in April of 1938? What approach to government spending did Roosevelt’s policies (and experiments) appear to support? (p.723)

Roosevelt believed that the reduction in government spending was the reason the economy was not going well so in April 1938 the president asked Congress for $5 billion for public works and relief programs in government money came back into the economy it seemed to be working and the economy approved which he believed was proof that spending would aid in recovery

12. Why did John Collier promote the Indian Reorganization Act? (refer to the idea of “cultural relativism”)

cultural relativism is the theory that every culture should be accepted and respected on its own terms and that no culture is inherently superior to another. Collier wanted the legislation to reverse pressure on Native Americans to assimilate and allow them to remain Indians the Indian reorganization act of 1934 tribe collectively to elect tribal governments, 13 years after the passage of the bill tribal land increase by 4,000,000 acres and agricultural income increased dramatically from 2 million in 1934 to 49,000,000 in 1947 but there is still the poorest people in the United States

13. List what you believe to be the most significant lasting effects of the New Deal. (At Least Four) Be able to explain why in class.

  1. Social Security when you are too old to work the government had a forced system of savings and would pay back slowly so you could survive without a job

  2. Indian reorganization act of 1934 it stopped years of land grabs against Native Americans and the decimation of Native American culture. It made Native Americans more proud of their own culture and stopped our attempts to assimilate them into white culture. Tribal land increased by 4,000,000 acres

  3. unemployment insurance it gave people a lifeline in between jobs so they could have food and shelter

  4. assistance to disabled this group is perceived as being genuinely unable to support themselves

14. What impact did the New Deal have on American politics?

Roosevelt was most powerful man for eight years as president for two terms it would be decades before the Republican Party could create a lasting majority coalition on its own the Democrats controlled Western and Southern farmers, urban working class, the poor, the unemployed, the blacks, northern cities, progresses, new liberals.

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