New Deal

The New Deal was a series of domestic programs enacted in the United States between 1933 and 1938, and a few that came later. They included both laws passed by Congress as well as presidential executive orders during the first term (1933–37) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were in response to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call the "3 Rs": Relief, Recovery, and Reform. That is Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

The New Deal produced a political realignment, making the Democratic Party the majority (as well as the party that held the White House for seven out of nine Presidential terms from 1933 to 1969), with its base in liberal ideas, the white South, traditional Democrats, big city machines, and the newly empowered labor unions and ethnic minorities. The Republicans were split, with conservatives opposing the entire New Deal as an enemy of business and growth, and liberals accepting some of it and promising to make it more efficient. The realignment crystallized into the New Deal Coalition that dominated most presidential elections into the 1960s, while the opposition Conservative Coalition largely controlled Congress from 1937 to 1963. By 1936 the term "liberal" typically was used for supporters of the New Deal, and "conservative" for its opponents.

Many historians distinguish between a "First New Deal" (1933–34) and a "Second New Deal" (1935–38), with the second one more liberal and more controversial. The "First New Deal" (1933–34) dealt with diverse groups, from banking and railroads to industry and farming, all of which demanded help for economic survival. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, for instance, provided $500 million for relief operations by states and cities, while the short-lived CWA (Civil Works Administration) gave localities money to operate make-work projects in 1933–34.

The "Second New Deal" in 1935–38 included the Wagner Act to promote labor unions, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief program (which made the federal government by far the largest single employer in the nation), the Social Security Act, and new programs to aid tenant farmers and migrant workers. The final major items of New Deal legislation were the creation of the United States Housing Authority and Farm Security Administration, both in 1937, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which set maximum hours and minimum wages for most categories of workers.

The economic downturn of 1937–38, and the bitter split between the AFL and CIO labor unions led to major Republican gains in Congress in 1938. Conservative Republicans and Democrats in Congress joined in the informal Conservative Coalition. By 1942–43 they shut down relief programs such as the WPA and CCC and blocked major liberal proposals. Roosevelt himself turned his attention to the war effort, and won reelection in 1940 and 1944. The Supreme Court declared the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the first version of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) unconstitutional, however the AAA was rewritten and then upheld. As the first Republican president elected after FDR, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–61) left the New Deal largely intact, even expanding it in some areas. In the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society used the New Deal as inspiration for a dramatic expansion of liberal programs, which Republican Richard M. Nixon generally retained. After 1974, however, the call for deregulation of the economy gained bipartisan support. The New Deal regulation of banking (Glass–Steagall Act) was suspended in the 1990s. Many New Deal programs remain active, with some still operating under the original names, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The largest programs still in existence today are the Social Security System and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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