The New Deal 2 — страница 2

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it was thought, was for a major force to co-ordinate the efforts of the states and drive the nation back in the right direction. The Tennessee Valley Authority was one such example of co-ordination. Categorical grants to the states ensured that funds were used as the federal government wished. From now on, people would no longer look to the state capitol for solutions to their problems, but to Capitol Hill; or more precisely, to the White House. Indeed, the very notion that people could look to any government, federal or state, to solve their problems was novel. The 1930s provided a framework for the scope of governmental action that remains intact today. The Federal government began to wield its muscle in the economy; in the banking and finance industries; in farming prices; in

the relations between management and workers; in the support of the vulnerable and needy. The Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 were representative of a momentous shift in the attitude of government: the state as protector of the weak. A. Badger has calculated that 35% of the population received direct assistance from the New Deal. As would be expected, this redefinition aroused great opposition. The New Deal period saw the rebirth of issues politics, with the ideological divide between the Democratic and Republican parties wider than in a long time. Roosevelt had mentioned in 1932 that he would transform the Democratic party into the progressive party. Despite his failure in 1938 to purge the party of conservatives, increasingly its appeal was

class-based – insofar as America can be said to have classes. The poor, the newly arrived, the Catholics and the Jews became overwhelmingly Democrat. The situation of Blacks in society did not improve a great deal in the period, but they were looked on with more sympathy by the Democratic party, and they too have tended to vote Democrat ever since the 30s. So the New Deal period did change the course of American politics and government in several significant ways. And furthermore, as has been shown throughout, the role that FDR played in bringing about these changes cannot be ignored. It was thanks to his great ability and personal qualities that he was able to take advantage of circumstances and transfer power to himself and to his administration, in order to apply his remedy

to the Great Depression. His remedy was not a resounding success – by 1939 unemployment stood at 10 million, and America regained prosperity only as a result of the new economic climate prompted by the Second World War. Nonetheless, it was a concerted attempt at change for the better, not just economically but also socially and politically. Critics have regarded the social and political change as largely accidental. It is argued that, upon discovering that the recession was deeper and more stubborn than anticipated, Roosevelt embarked on ever bolder rescue plans that involved such ground-breaking measures as Social Security, of which he did not foresee the full implications for society or for government; and the resistance of other political forces – notably the Supreme Court

– despite his popular mandate, led him to favour changes to constitutional conventions and in the balance of power which he had not originally planned for and which had a far greater impact than he anticipated. But Roosevelt?s commitment to greater social justice and a bigger role for government cannot be dismissed as merely a by-product of his attempts to solve his economic frustrations. Certainly there was a shift towards more radical action as the 30s progressed, with the growing realisation that America?s malaise extended deeper than had been thought at first. Nonetheless from the start the New Deal was meant to be exactly that: a new deal for citizens, with all the connotations of increased social fairness and structural reorganisation that the phrase carries. FDR was not

an economist (indeed Keynes was shocked when he met him at his lack of economic sophistication); he saw his duty as far more than just restoring prosperity. One reason why the New Deal has been accused of lacking a clear vision and focus is the sheer number of new initiatives that were launched, many of which overlapped or were abandoned. The resultant alphabet soup – WPA, CCC, WPC and the rest – might seem to betray a lack of a coherent programme. In one of his early fireside chats Roosevelt defended these measures as ?not just a collection of haphazard schemes, but rather the orderly component parts of a connected and logical whole.? He may have been overstating his case: a year earlier, in 1932, he had talked of the need for ?bold, persistent experimentation?, intimating