Relief Measures
The nation's economic system was almost at a standstill when Roosevelt became President on March 4, 1933. Nearly every state government had declared a banking holiday, or moratorium, to prevent depositors from withdrawing all their funds and ruining the banks. Roosevelt declared a four-day national banking holiday. He then obtained, in one day, legislation from Congress that permitted reopening of most banks under certification by the federal government that they were sound. Later banking reforms included insuring of deposits through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The New Deal provided large sums of federal money for direct payments to needy citizens through grants (rather than loans) to the states. It also established various new agencies to provide government-sponsored work for the unemployed. Through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) special projects were devised to provide employment for skilled and unskilled labor and for such persons as writers, artists, actors, and musicians. A vast program of public works—the construction of public buildings, highways, dams, and similar projects—was begun under the Public Works Administration (PWA). Young men were employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to work on conservation projects.
A basic goal of the New Deal was to raise both wages and prices, which had dropped lower and lower as the depression continued. The National Industrial Recovery Act called for the cooperation of labor and management in setting prices, minimum wages, and working hours within various industries. The act also gave workers the right to join unions without interference from employers.
To increase the income of farmers, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed. It included provisions for paying farmers to reduce the acreage of certain crops and to limit livestock holdings. These measures were intended to reduce surpluses, which caused low prices.
Both the National Industrial Recovery Act and the...