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And a Time for Hope: Americans in the Great Depression

By James R. McGovern | Go to book overview

3

The New Deal

Despite a sharp yearlong reversal in 1937-1938, Americans of the New Deal era generally fared better in the middle and late 1930s than in the early years of that decade. They also seemed more positive about their lives and their futures. The long breadlines and numerous Hoovervilles now virtually disappeared in the cities with the salutary effects of the New Deal relief, work‐ relief, and other social programs providing numerous Americans with unprecedented security. The great fear of economic collapse also subsided, with concerns now centering more on how best to facilitate recovery. Walter Lippman detected that this fundamental shift occurred by the end of Roosevelt's first year. He wrote:

Today there are still grave problems. But there is no overwhelming dangerous crisis. The mass of the people have recovered their courage and their hope. They are no longer hysterically anxious about the immediate present. They have recovered not only some small part of their standard of life but also their self-possession. 1

Gross National Product (GNP) in the United States spurted to 90 billion in 1937 and 1939, a significant improvement over the 65 billion of 1934, though still well below the 103 billion figure for 1929. 2 Personal consumption of goods and services improved to 67 billion in both 1937 and 1939, considerably above the low year of 1933 when 46 billion was spent, but still well below the 77 billion goods and services consumed in the last year of the 1920s. 3 Personal income also made an impressive, near-50% recovery between the period 1933-1934 and 1939, but again was still 13% below figures for 1929. 4 Similar patterns held for the numbers of used and new cars on the roads yet actual expenditures for gasoline and miles traveled

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