Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Deal

Was the New Deal successful? In many ways FDR’s plans helped pull the country out of the Depression but in other aspects it was not nearly so successful.
From a purely economic standpoint it appears that the New Deal worked brilliantly. The Gross National Product rose from $55 billion in 1933, the year FDR was elected, to $85 billion in 1939. In 1933 $45 billion worth of consumer goods were purchased and 1939 saw an increase to $65 billion. Lastly the private investment in industry rose from $2 billion to $10 billion in this time frame. While these numbers did not reach the levels they were in 1928, when the  Gross National Product was $100 billion, $80 billion were spent on consumer goods and $15 billion dollars were privately invested in industry, it would have been nearly impossible to so quickly raise the economy back to its peak after such a large crash. The New Deal also preserved a free market economy and created policies to prevent another economic crash in the future.
The New Deal also attempted to create jobs for the millions of unemployed people in America. Although many government jobs were created, most of these consisted of unskilled labor and were not long term. Despite the dissatisfaction with the type of jobs, for those who were hired by government organizations, any work was better than nothing. These organizations couldn’t find work for everyone though and the unemployment rate was at 19% even in 1939. These rates only dropped due to America’s involvement in WWII.
Civil Rights and racism was another multifaceted issue during the New Deal. Many of FDR’s New Deal projects employed African Americans and put in place quotas to ensure a diversity in hiring. Black artists and musicians also benefited from New Deal programs. Additionally FDR’s administration hired three times the amount of African American federal employees as in the past. However most of the hiring for the New Deal programs was done locally and white workers were often chosen over all others. Furthermore many of the organizations were fraught with systemic racism, the effects of which can still be seen today. The Federal Housing Agency (FHA) and other groups that dealt with creating and sustaining affordable housing sectioned off areas with black residents as risky, marking them in read and thus coining the term “redlining”. White neighborhoods were given better benefits and soon these areas prospered while the black neighborhoods only became poorer due to the lack of housing benefits. Education became more difficult for these poor neighborhoods because the school systems tended to be worse than in richer areas and parents could not afford to send their children to college. Today the difference between the red-lined districts and those areas which were given the most attention during the New Deal is stark. Even without a map showing the old breakdown of districts by the New Deal housing programs, it would not be difficult to guess which areas were red-lined even now, 80 years later.