During the Depression Roosevelt tried one economic cure after another--heavy spending, public works, direct relief, the NRA Codes, the Blue Eagle campaigns, regulation of industry, restrictions on spending.
"He understood," Garry Wills noted, "the importance of psychology--the people have to have the courage to keep seeking a cure, no matter what the cure is. Those who wanted ideological consistency or even policy coherence, were rightly exasperated with Roosevelt. He switched economic plans as often as he changed treatments for polio."
And while the New Deal did not overcome the Depression--it took World War II to fully mobilized the economy--the multiplicity of government programs kept the people going, and in the process preserved the system of democracy at a time when so many other countries in similar despair were turning to fascism or communism.
(Character Above All: Franklin D. Roosevelt)
The term New Deal is commonly used in the United States to describe the domestic reform agenda of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Roosevelt first used it in his speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination for President in 1932. The New Deal is generally considered to have consisted of two phases. The first phase occurred from 1933 to 1934 and endeavored to provide recovery and relief from the Great Depression through programs of” agricultural and business regulation, inflation, price stabilization, and public works”.

In 1933 Congress held special session to establish several emergency organizations, notably the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Public Works Administration. Congress also established farm relief, stiffened banking and finance regulations, and created the Tennessee Valley Authority.

As these relief and recovery measures to provide got off the ground the second phase of the New Deal was put into motion from1935 to 1941 with social and economic legislation to assist the mass of working people. The first year saw the establishment of the social security system along with the initiation of National Youth Administration and Work Projects Administration. By 1938 the Wages and Hours Act was passed into law.

The speed of reform relaxed by 1937 as Republican opposition emerged from the huge public spending, high taxes, and centralization of power in the executive branch of government. Among the Democratic party members there was strong condemnation from the “old guard” and from angry members of the Brain Trust.

At the end of World War II, most of the New Deal legislation was still intact and it remains the foundation for American social policy.


Character Above All: Franklin D. Roosevelt Essay:
www.pbs.org/newshour/character/essays/roosevelt.html -

New Deal:

In a terrific example of no good deed goes unpunished, most of the southern third of the United States hates FDR for these programs, and its legacy.

In my high school this era of American History was described as the socialist period. There are many, many people who still describe FDR as an evil communist and blame him for many of the ills of the country today. The fact that these programs fed large portions of the South for about a five year period, or that it employed large numbers of transient males for almost a decade has been forgotten.

What is not forgotten is the building projects. The TVA, described above, gave electrical power to a large portion of the eastern half of that state, as well as western Virginia and northern Georgia. (They did not yet have it). Many of the public libraries, high school buildings and community centers in small town southern America where built by the WPA during this time period, and most of them have plaques explaining this.

In Britain, the New Deal is New Labour's main scheme for reducing unemployment figures. Perhaps more than any of their other works, it epitomises the New Labour approach: Vaguely well-intentioned, neatly packaged yet ill-defined, bureaucratic, full of buzz words and quite clearly designed to tackle the problem at the symptom level.

After six months on Jobseeker's Allowance - the Tories' replacement for the old Unemployment Benefit, designed to get people off the dole by making their life as unpleasant as possible - an unemployed person qualifies for the New Deal. This has several immediate and less immediate consequences: First of all, you will be assigned a New Deal Personal Adviser. At your first New Deal interview, they will fill in a bunch of forms for you to sign and explain roughly what the New Deal entails: An initial, mandatory two-week course to remind you what a CV is, how to write application letters and so on; a renewed pressure to visit the Job Centre every week and apply for at least two jobs there however inappropriate they may seem; a Jobs Subsidy Voucher to show to potential employers to make sure they know about the £2,310 subsidy they could get from employing someone on New Deal, if they jump through the correct hoops.

Once on New Deal, you also qualify for an extremely useful 'New Deal Travelcard', which entitles you to child-rate fares on almost all public transport in London, and some of the public transport in other parts of the country; most significantly, it also allows you to get half-price tickets on Britain's ludicrously over-priced trains. My impression is that most New Deal Advisors will fail to mention this; it is well worth pulling them up on it if so.

There are various subtly different forms of the New Deal depending on age and so on, each with advantages and disadvantages - New Deal for Young People, New Deal 25+, New Deal 50+. There are also special arrangements for parents, for the disabled, for musicians and probably various other groups of people. My personal experiences of New Deal, and therefore what I write here, obviously reflect my age at the time (24) and location (Holloway).

If you still don't have a job after ten to twelve weeks you qualify for 'New Deal Options', where your 'Options', unsurprisingly perhaps, amount to choosing between three or four things that you probably don't much want to do. Specifically, you can take an NVQ - a National Vocational Qualification - in any of various subjects; or you can enter a 'start your own business' scheme; or you can go and work nine to five in a charity shop until you find something better. I was unable to extract any further options from either my New Deal Adviser or the official New Deal web site, but apparently it is also possible to join something called the Environment Task Force; perhaps there are still other options that they prefer to keep quiet about.

The New Deal Gateway To Work Course

'You've got to get out of this idea that your life is yours to just, you know, enjoy all the time.'

If you can imagine the sort of course they would make people attend after six months on the dole to make them better job seekers, that is exactly what the initial two-week course is like: Shades of the nightmare jobseekers' course from The League of Gentlemen, but less extreme. When I attended, it became clear very quickly that the people running it didn't have anything like two weeks' worth of actual material to deliver, so the days were heavily padded out with frequent fag breaks, 'brainteasers' and 'group exercises'. On the second day, for instance, we were divided into groups and asked to rank fifteen items in terms of their importance for survival in a desert; moderately interesting, but its relevance to finding a job in Britain was not immediately obvious - something to do with team skills, I think.

'Every little step builds confidence. Doesn't it?'

The course was held mainly in an irregularly-shaped room with grubby grey-pink walls featuring inspirational posters proclaiming 'We've been successful - so can you!' with lists of people who had passed through the place and the kinds of success they'd found - junior hair stylist, admin assistant, restaurant attendant and so on. On the first day we were told firmly that we were to be there at 9.30 every day and that '9.30 does not mean 10.30. It does not even mean 9.35.' On the second day, none of the trainers turned up until quarter past ten. I wrote this while I was waiting:

It's 9:45, but the New Deal people haven't come in to start the lesson, or whatever you call it, that officially should have begun quarter of an hour ago.
   People sit doodling, or filling in crosswords, or staring blankly into space, sipping coffee because there is no tea. I'll bring my own tomorrow, if I remember.
   Many of the seats remain unoccupied, and I wonder if this means that people are just too dispirited to turn up, and will lose their benefits as a consequence.

   At five to ten a few more people have filed in. The Ethiopian former policeman has finished his crossword and flips through the sports pages, then he starts doodling too.
   A couple of people strike up conversations about smoking weed, and what we did here yesterday, and what it was like being a raddock in Ethiopia.
   One of the instructors, or whatever they are, comes in, sits down, says a few words to yesterday's lippy latecomer, leaves again.

   The feeling of boredom, remarkably, intensifies. It's not clear why we haven't started yet. Possibly this will make us better job-seekers. About half the people in the room go outside for a fag.

   At quarter past ten one of the women comes in at last, divides us into two groups, and leaves with the other group. A few of the guys left behind chat about what it was like when their women had kids, then the conversation turns to the World Trade Center and suicide bombing.

   Finally she comes in and starts talking about CVs, asks everyone if they have CVs and what they think they're for, before informing us that the purpose of a CV is to get you an interview.
   Then she asks us what we think are the most important things to put on it: Name, address, Qualifications, experience, attributes, interests. That sort of thing. References.
   She writes '
Profile' up on the board and tells us it's the most important part of a CV. She explains that she means an ad-style paragraph summing up your qualifications and so on, and recommends not writing it in the first person.

   I learn that the girl sitting next to me has been told not to do the A Levels she needs to get on a nursing degree, although they would have fallen within the sixteen hour a week limit for education on the dole, and to come here for two weeks instead.

   The impatient guy with the criminal conviction and no intention to look for work and no belief that he could find it if he did ends up leaving; he was sick of the vaguely patronising attitude of the instructor, and she was sick of him making snarky comments.

I don't want to come down too harshly on the course; in all fairness, I expected worse. The advice on CV writing and so on was certainly helpful for many of those attending, and perhaps even me; and the one-day courses on first aid and health and safety at work provided certificates and potentially useful knowledge, some of which may even stick with me. The main problem, besides the course not having enough content to fill its allocated time, is the one size fits all approach. It probably goes without saying that one course is never really going to be a very good fit for everyone when you throw twenty or so of the long-term unemployed together at random, ranging from those who can't get work because of their criminal records, to those who aren't getting work because they're training one day a week as accountants, to those with good degrees trying to break into difficult marketplaces, and so on.

'This guy's got too many interests, he's not gonna have time to work.'
All in all, I am ambivalent about the whole New Deal thing. It has certainly achieved its main aim of reducing unemployment figures, particularly amongst the young; it is hard to gauge to what extent this represents a genuine increase in gainful employment, and how much of it might be down to its effectively massaging the numbers and coercing people into jobs and training programmes which are basically inappropriate. It seems fair to expect, though, that the official figures reflect at least some degree of real improvement over the old system. On paper at least, this looks more or less like a success for New Labour - even if it might not feel like that to very many of the people actively involved with it.

Based mainly on personal experiences, with supplemental information from the New Deal web site: http://www.newdeal.gov.uk/

As I am currently (1/6/03) starting my second week of the New Deal Gateway To Work course, I have decided to offer up some information on my own experiences in the hope of helping others out.

As mentioned in another writeup, the New Deal is a scheme introduced by the Labour government of the UK to try and help the long term unemployed. It's just a shame that some of us don't need help, we just need to be left alone. The scheme seems to be aimed at those with very few, if any, qualifications who would like to be a bricklayer but who could probably do any menial, unskilled manual labour going, if only they would sober up once in a while.

One particularly troublesome aspect of the New Deal is the fact that your Jobsearch Advisor will find it much easier to force you to go for jobs that you have no interest in. For example, in a couple of days I will attend an interview for a three month office position, talking to people on the 'phone and entering data into a computer. Six years of education, an Honors Degree in Computing, £12,000 of debt and probably the same again spent simply on living, and they want me to be a data entry clerk. The day after, I'm going for a job as a network technician on twice the pay and with a company car, so obviously I'll be trying hard at the interview to become a data entry clerk. I had better new screw it up too much though, or I'll loose my benefits assuming I don't get the other job.

Another aspect of New Deal is that you are required to attend the Job Centre for an interview once a week, rather than once every two weeks as is normal. This is probably supposed to allow your advisor to nag you a bit more often, in the hopes of making you take any random job they can find and get you off the national statistics. In practice, it can be very depressing, as you seem to be making slower progress than before (due to only being able to read the weekly jobs paper once instead of twice, having less time to look etc) and by making you attend the Pit of Long Term Loosers, er... I mean Job Centre more often.

If you advisor really does start to get to you, remember that you can not only complain but also ask to see someone else.

Just in case your spirit was not already broken, it is mandatory to attend the Gateway to Work course when on New Deal. This has been detailed in another writeup for this node, however I would like to add a few things. The "stuck in a desert" game seems to be fairly universal, it's point apparently being that each item can have many uses, and therefore as a computer programmer you may like to turn your fantastic IT skills to data entry, rather than trying to justify your life so far by getting something that pays a bit more than minimum wage. Sorry, I'm a little disillusioned.

So far, the Gateway to Work course as taught me one thing: that my CV would be better if I removed the paragraph indentation. I feel this is sure to get me a job, although I'm slightly disappointed that the standard of English has fallen so far since I left school.

When people use the term "New Deal" now, they have in mind a particular set of changes brought about under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1938. But when Roosevelt was inaugurated it was far from clear exactly what he planned to do, and the things that he did end up doing were as often the product of politics and circumstance as a pre-ordained plan. The first principle of the New Deal was experimentation - political, social and economic experimentation which was unashamedly pragmatic and, in the early years especially, liable to be discarded if it didn't produce the desired results or the circumstances changed (which, as logical as it may sound, is not always the case with a lot of government policy). And the need for experimentation stemmed, of course, from the Great Depression.

However, the New Deal was not just, or even primarily, a programme for economic recovery. And if it had been, it would have been a huge failure - the U.S. economy lurched painfully through the entire 1930s, with unemployment never below 13%, and things actually reached one of their worst points in 1937, by which point everything we would later recognize as part of the New Deal had been accomplished and unemployment again touched 19%. It took World War II to finally deal the death blow to unemployment and lift the economy, although it is also the case that post-war prosperity stretched on with the New Deal largely still in place.

Just this sort of long-term realignment of economy, society and polity was exactly what FDR had been aiming for, rather than immediate recovery in the 1930s. In fact, one does not have to look very hard in their memoirs or the archives to find examples of those involved in the New Deal worrying that immediate recovery in the '30s might have closed the window for longer-term reform. A good crisis, as another similarly-minded individual told us recently, must not go to waste.

The New Deal was based on a particular understanding of what had caused the Depression. FDR and his men believed that economic expansion had ground to a halt because the economy had reached a ripe old age in which the frontier had been tamed and industrialists and farmers had saturated their markets by producing too much. Discounting the possibility of further growth through innovation or technological advancement, Roosevelt declared that someone building a new factory was as likely to be a nuisance as an asset because over-production was forcing down prices, and hence wages. By this line of thinking, the era of growth in the U.S. economy was over, and the new era should focus on sharing the wealth of the economy around more equitably rather than trying to increase the total overall quantity of wealth.1

Apart from over-production, the other main problem that the New Dealers discerned in the economy was the lack of security it provided for individuals and its volatility. Blue-collar workers had an extremely insecure existence at the start of the 1930s due to the fact they could be hired and fired on a whim and were very rarely guaranteed work all year round. Meanwhile, agricultural workers were the prisoners of capricious commodity markets. Basic farm products traded at very low prices by the early 1930s, and agricultural wages were similarly depressed. This was a perennial problem and was the origin of the movement called "Greenbackism", which called for the federal government to print large quantities of money to cause rampant inflation and push up agricultural prices. FDR briefly flirted with this movement, causing one wag to remark that the president was in favour of "sound money - and lots of it".

Indeed, FDR flirted with a lot of movements, and some of his ideas have been more enduring than others. Many of his programmes were designed to make capitalism more efficient. So, for instance, he created the Securities and Exchange Commission and required all companies with publicly-traded shares to publish detailed accounts, hence creating a modern stock market in the U.S. Prior to the SEC, stock trading was concentrated in a few large banks like J P Morgan because these were the only institutions with enough information to make reliable investment decisions. His administration also oversaw the creation of Fannie Mae, which greatly increased the availability of mortgages by creating a centralized system for trading in home loans.

There were attempts at reforming capitalism that were not quite so successful. Chief amongst these was the National Recovery Administration, which was the closest FDR ever came to a frontal assault on the principle of markets. The NRA effectively tried to create a government-sponsored process of cartelization in every industry, meaning that every, say, car company would sit around a table and agree on production quotas, standards and wages that would allow them all to make a profit while paying acceptable wages and avoiding the supposed problem of over-production which was pushing down prices, profits and wages for everyone. Being as it was a voluntary programme (albeit backed by considerable government propaganda), the NRA never really got off the ground in most industries. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935; and a good job, too.

There were other socio-economic programmes which had a longer legacy. There was the Social Security Act, designed to provide for the unemployed and the old; laws against child labour, designed with a humanitarian motive and as a means of pushing up wages by shrinking the labour pool; the Wagner Act, which forced employers in some sectors to engage in collective bargaining with unions (although not to reach agreement); laws mandating maximum hours and minimum wages; the creation of the Tenessee Valley Authority; and a system of price support for agricultural products which amounts to a naked redistribution of wealth to farmers who grow unmarketable crops. All of these acts aimed much more at long-term economic justice than temporary economic relief, and were logical given the New Dealers' view of the causes of the Great Depression and the problems of the U.S. economy

There was one final element of the New Deal that FDR considered very important and which is worth discussing. The president and those around him worried that his liberal artifice might be torn down when the economic crisis had passed and conservatives were back in government. The New Deal had involved a vast strengthening of the federal government and of its powers to intervene in the nation's economy, and this development had prompted a backlash in all parts of the political spectrum - but especially the South, the Democratic Party's electoral rock in normal times - and in the Supreme Court, which kept declaring parts of the New Deal unconstitutional.

This is what prompted FDR's notorious attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1937. The president asked Congress to give him the power to appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court for every one over the age of seventy and a half, which would neatly have allowed him to dilute the voting power of the judges known to be hostile to the New Deal. The request shocked the nation and solidified the perception that Roosevelt was seeking to concentrate far too much power in the executive branch of government. But it was precisely this strengthening of the executive branch and of the possibilities for economic governance that lay right at the heart of the New Deal and its legacy; so far as FDR was concerned, management of a modern economy was not possible if the Supreme Court persisted in declaring efforts by the federal government to intervene in the economy as unconstitutional.

In the end, the Supreme Court had a change of heart and suddenly reversed itself on the substantive issue, deciding that the federal government did have the power to intervene in the economy as the New Deal did ("the switch in time that saved nine"). So Roosevelt got his result without having to pack the court, and a new chapter was opened in the history of American constitutional law and governance. The victory for Roosevelt was pyrrhic. The reaction against his court-packing proposal was so severe that it spelled the end of his momentum and of a store of political capital that any future president could only dream of. The New Deal was over.

In retrospect, the New Deal has often appeared - especially to critics on the left - as partial, unfinished, and not radical enough. These critics wish that FDR had institutionalized far greater change, perhaps nationalizing key industries and securing more rights for workers and unions. The fact that these critics continue their harping is the measure of Roosevelt's success, because they misunderstand the New Deal's key achievement: it kept in place America's traditional system and institutions and made them smoother around the edges, keeping at bay the forces of radicalism and revolution which swept away the established order in nearly every other country in the developed world in the 1930s, culminating in mankind's bloodiest war. The republic endured. Democracy lived on. It would be churlish for any critic to refuse to toast Roosevelt for that, warts and all.

1. This idea of an economy that had reached maturity and had no more possibilities for growth within its own boundaries ran like a bright red thread through left-wing thought in the United States in this decade. In time, the same thinkers would declare that the Cold War was a ruse on the part of the U.S. to obtain export markets abroad and hence allow growth to continue despite the "fact" its limits had been reached in the continental United States.

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