This Revision Bite will help you think about the ways in which the New Deal was a success and how it could be deemed a failure.
- Roosevelt restored confidence in the American people.
- Millions of people were given work in government projects.
- A lot of valuable work was carried out by the [Alphabet agencies: US government agencies - with shortened names such as PWA, TVA - that were founded to create jobs and provide services to help recovery from the Great Depression. ] in building schools, roads and hospitals.
- Roosevelt rescued the banking system from collapse and saved capitalism.
- There was a new recession - the 'Roosevelt recession' in 1937.
- Unemployment was not conquered by the New Deal.
- Many of the jobs created by the New Deal were only temporary.
- The New Deal was the most costly government programme in American History and some of its projects could be accused of wasting money.
FDR's New Deal Summary & Analysis
New Deal for a Depression That's Getting Old
Shortly after taking office in 1932, Roosevelt announced the "3 Rs" of the New Deal program to the American people—it was a package deal of relief, recovery, and reform. Just what the doctor ordered.
In the field of relief, the New Deal proved to be highly successful. Millions of Americans, unable to find work in an economy that was still badly broken four years into the Great Depression, might have literally starved to death if not for the government checks they earned by working for new agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration.
But in retrospect, it's kind of an obvious solution: if the private sector isn't making jobs, maybe the government should.
In terms of reform, the New Deal legacy may have been unmatched in American history. For better or worse, Roosevelt's program drastically altered the relationship between the capitalist market, the people, and their government, creating for the first time in this country's history, an activist state committed to providing individual citizens with a measure of security against the unpredictable turns of the market.
Some believe this vast enlargement of the government's role in American society helped the country's long-run prospects. Others think we should allow the free market decide who starves. In any case, it remains a question of great political controversy to this day, but there can be no denying the magnitude of change wrought by FDR's presidency.
But when it came to recovery, the New Deal's performance lagged. It was certainly successful in both short-term relief, and in implementing long-term structural reform. However, as Roosevelt's political enemies fought him, the New Deal failed to end the Great Depression. Throughout the decade of the 1930s, unemployment remained brutally high, while economic growth remained painfully slow.
Recovery only came about, at last, in Roosevelt's third term, when the heavy demands of mobilization for World War II finally restored the country to full employment, in essence by doing exactly what the New Deal had been attempting: providing government-created jobs.
Ironically, then, Adolf Hitler probably did more to end the Great Depression in America than Franklin Roosevelt did. Yikes.
Still, despite failing in its most important objective, the New Deal forever changed the country. Roosevelt built a dominant new political coalition, creating a Democratic majority that lasted for half a century. The structural stability and social security provided by the New Deal's reforms underlay a postwar economic boom that many historians and economists have described as the "golden age of American capitalism."
And Roosevelt permanently changed the American people's expectations of their presidents and their government, by actually, you know, doing stuff. Fortunately for later presidents, this expectation has since been rescinded.