The Great Depression & The New Deal

1929-1939 // Part 2

Opponents of the New Deal

  • Some people who disliked the new deal included socialists and extreme liberals, who claimed that the deals focused on businesses and ignored the working class, mostly ethnic minorities, women, and the elderly.
  • More people were on the right who opposed the New Deal. Critics labeled his actions as socialism or even communism, while businesses were alarmed by it altogether. Some conservative democrats, including former opponent Alfred Smith, joined leading republicans in 1934 to form an anti-New Deal organization labeled "American Liberty League".
  • Demagogues also had issues with Roosevelt. Father Charles E. Coughlin became so outspoken on the matter in an anti-Semitic and even fascist way that the church ordered him to cease broadcasting. Dr. Francis. E. Townshend proposed an act that would later push Roosevelt to create the Social Security act. One of the most dangerous to Roosevelt was Louisiana Senator Huey Long, who proposed a "Share Your Wealth" policy that taxed the rich in order to pay Americans an annual income of 5000$ every year. While he challenged FDR for leadership of the of the Democratic Party, everything ended when he was suddenly assassinated.
The Assassination of Huey Long

Rise of Unions

  • While unions were increasing, the conflicts between them increased as well. The unions that made up the American Federation of Labor were comprised mainly of white male skilled workers. A group of unions wanted to extend their reach to others regardless of their sex, race, or work experience. Come 1935, the industrial unions worked to create the Committee of Industrial Organizations. The president of the C.I.O. was John F. Lewis, who was president of the United Mine Workers. In 1936, however, the A.F. of L. decided to suspend them. After renaming themselves the Congress of Industrial Organizations, this industrious group broke away and became the chief rival of the A.F. of L.
  • Strikes increased during this time as well. One successful strike was seen at the huge General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan, where workers had a (literal) sit-down strike. They refused to work because they insisted on their right to join unions, and after some time, the company yielded and therefore recognized the United Auto Workers union. Some others were not as lucky, however, as seen in the strike at Republic Steel in Chicago. 4 peopled died in this strike due to smaller companies in the steel industry not recognizing the C.I.O. By 1941, they all accepted to deal with the C.I.O.
  • During this time, the last major reform of the New Deal was observed in 1938 when Congress put forth the Fair Labor Standards Act. This established a minimum wage (which started at 40 cents an hour), a maximum 40 hours work week, and child labor restrictions for those under 16 years old.
American Automobile Workers: "From Dawn to Sunset" 1937 Chevrolet Division, General Motors
Keynesian Theory in 5 min

Last Phase of the New Deal

  • This last phase start with the recession that furthered the economic problems of the Great Depression. Roosevelt in his first term had done well to improve the economy out of its nosedive. However, in 1937, a new recession started where they had improved. The government was partially to blame, since the Social Security Act had reduced spending due to the tax it had. Roosevelt, in this stead, found out that he had a misconception in his choices. This was explained in the Keynesian theory, where deficit spending was acceptable because in difficult times the government needed to spend well above its tax revenues in order to start economic growth.
  • What truly ended the New Deal were the 1938 elections, in which the Democrats no longer overpowered Congress. A coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats blocked out any further additions to the New Deal's legislations.
6 Minorities during the Depression

Life During the Depression

  • Many people suffered throughout this time of poverty. The areas hit harder than any else were those of minorities, as in, any one not white or male. This time permanently impressed into some of them a "depression mentality" that would keep in them for the rest of their lives.
  • During the Depression, women were especially hit hard. There was added stress to the necessity of being at home, and any woman who did work was accused of being negligent and also stealing jobs from men. Even with Eleanor Roosevelt helping with equality, New Deal programs allowed the inequality of salary between sexes. During this time, women focused mainly on keeping their children safe and maintaining what little household they had.
  • Farmers, who had already faced issues before the depression even began, suffered tremendously in this time. A severe drought that labeled the midwest the "Dust Bowl" kept farmers from producing nearly anything, as dust storms endangered their lives. Many people moved due to the worthlessness of the land, and the famous novel The Grapes of Wrath was written because of this time.
  • One of the most hardest areas his was that of the African American's. While they'd been freed long ago, they were still facing discrimination even before the depression hit. They were the last to be hired and the first to be fired in these times. While the New Deal did provide relief and recovery for them (even if segregation was a part of it), Eleanor Roosevelt also supported them. The "Fair Employment Practices Committee" became an executive order in 1941 which set up to assist minorities in gaining jobs.
  • Native Americans were, too, among those who faced hardships during the depression. While people like John Collier attempted to gain Native Americans involvement in practices of the WPA and other New Deal programs, the deal itself seemed to take power from them even more. However, an act called the Indian Reorganization Act came into effect in 1934, which gave them back some of the lands of their reservations and their culture.
  • Mexican Americans also suffered with the minorities in this era. While they had dominated in the west, the drought of the dust bowl had driven white workers to their territory, which pushed many out of jobs. This and discrimination in the New Deal programs forced many of them to flee the competition and return to Mexico.