American Great Depression and New Deal Reforms Essay
The Great Depression that started in 1929 is known as the longest economic downturn in the history of the US and other Western countries. Many researchers still cannot come to a general consensus about what exactly caused the Great Depression. What is definitely certain is that many factors like the shifting of the economy, unstable credit and financial system, poor government decisions, and the fact that the international economy was still recovering from ruinous effects of World War I all played a considerable part in contributing to the beginning of the Great Depression.
There is no denying that the Great Depression has affected every American in a disastrous way. Collapsing of business, thousands of unemployed people, lack of food and clothes – these are just a few terrifying consequences of the Great Depression. Oakes mentions how “men wrapped newspapers beneath their shirts as protection from the cold” (721). These papers later got called “Hoover shirts”, as a pinpoint to the failure of Herbert Hoover, the president of the US at the time of depression. The latter was no stranger to difficult and harsh situations and attempted a few tries to restore the economy, which, alas, still ended up in a failure. It was not until 1932, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected as the president of the US, that the real working solutions to the depression were implemented. The array of reforms enacted between 1933 and 1938 would be further known as the New Deal for American people (Oakes 725).
Roosevelt was trying hard to come up with a way to deal with the Great Depression, having gathered many intellectuals to help him in analyzing the situation. Oakes states that “Roosevelt has never allowed any of the groups to dominate his thinking” (727), often trying to find a solution based on multiple final compromise proposals. The first successful reform of the New Deal was the Emergency Banking Act, which reopened 12756 banks and solved the banking crisis. Further reforms regarding conservative banking practices and protection of deposits were implemented to ensure that the US banking system will be credible in a long run. Another successful program of the New Deal was the Tennessee Valley Authority, which helped to mitigate the farm crisis by controlling flooding, creating reservoirs for irrigation, and providing cheap hydroelectric power (Oakes 729).
However, the following enactments like the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 or the National Industrial Recovery Act did not appear to be quite as successful as the previous reforms. Roosevelt’s respond to the critics was the introduction of the second wave of the New Deal in 1935. The first reform of the second hundred days was the Revenue Act proposed by Roosevelt to raise estate and corporate taxes. Roosevelt would also further introduce the questionable Work Progress Administration program, which was criticized on being politically corrupted and on introducing meaningful “make-work” jobs. However, despite the strong opposition and critique, the second wave of the New Deal has managed to fulfill many of its goals. Oakes states that “more Americans than ever before were protected from the ravages of unemployment, disability, poverty, and old age” (736).
The New Deal was definitely a step in the right direction towards mitigating the pernicious effects of the Great Depression. It did not end the Great Depression completely, but it surely helped to restore most of the US economy. Although the New Deal had its flaws in some of its projects, the overall positive effect of reforms was noticed by millions of people.
Oakes, James. “The Great Depression and the New Deal.” Of the People: A History of the United States. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
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