What Was The New Deal?

The New Deal was the set of federal programs launched by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after taking office in 1933, in response to the calamity of the Great Depression.

It had four major goals and achievements:

Economic Recovery: The New Deal stabilized the banks and cleaned up the financial mess left over from the Stock Market crash of 1929.  It stabilized prices for industry and agriculture, and it aided bankrupt state and local governments.  And it injected a huge amount of federal spending to bolster aggregate incomes and demand.

Angell St. WPA Plaque

Job Creation: One in four Americans was out of work by 1933.  The New Deal created a number of special agencies that provided jobs for millions of workers and wages that saved millions more in their desperate families. It also recognized the rights of workers to organize in unions.

Investment in Public Works:  The New Deal built hundreds of thousands of highways, bridges, hospitals, schools, theaters, libraries, city halls, homes, post offices, airports, and parks across America—most of which are still in use today.

Civic Uplift:  The New Deal touched every state, city, and town, improving the lives of ordinary people and reshaping the public sphere.  New Dealers and the men and women who worked on New Deal programs believed they were not only serving their families and communities, but building the foundation for a great and caring society.

Iron Truss Bridge, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio TXIn less than a decade, the New Deal changed the face of America and laid the foundation for success in World War II and the prosperity of the postwar era – the greatest and fairest epoch in American history.

The New Deal, 1933-1943, inspired a civic, cultural, and economic renaissance. But the New Deal is fading from collective memory—a casualty of time, neglect, and politics.  The Living New Deal is making visible that enduring legacy.

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For an introduction to the New Deal, see the New Deal in Brief by R. Walker (2011).

For a more complete overview, see R. Walker & G. Brechin, The Living New Deal: the Unsung Benefits of the New Deal for the United States and California (2010)

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