The New Deal to the Carter Administration - Vol. 3

By Philip H. Burch Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

The New Deal

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933, America was in the throes of the greatest depression in the nation's history. More than 15 million workers had lost their jobs, and in some cities in the Northeast well over half the labor force was unemployed. The national income had fallen by at least 40 percent, and the purchasing power of farmers had been reduced by fully 50 percent. Thousands of farmers lost their land for want of sufficient funds to pay their taxes or mortgage bills. In the cities many people were forced to live in shantytowns (or "Hoovervilles") and wait in long breadlines for a meager handout from hard-pressed private charities and local governmental units. Indeed, a majority of those in need received no assistance at all. 1 In addition, 5,000 banks had collapsed, wiping out the savings of nearly 9 million persons. As one commentator put it, "never in modem times... had there been so widespread unemployment and such moving distress from sheer hunger and cold." 2

The Depression also did much to undermine America's weak labor movement, which was represented primarily by the highly conservative, craft-dominated American Federation of Labor (AFL). Thanks in no small part to an aggressive anti-union drive led mainly by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in the postwar years, organized labor had suffered a severe drop in membership, from roughly 5 million workers in 1920 to about 3.6 million members by the end of the decade. As Irving Bernstein has observed, these were lean years for the labor movement. 3 With the advent of the Depression this downward trend worsened, so that by 1933 there were well under 3 million union members in the entire country. And the rolls of the AFL had plummeted to only a little over 2.1 million members, in contrast to its early postwar total of more than 4 million. Thus by the time Roosevelt took office, the labor movement was in a sorely troubled state.

The Depression also had a marked impact on most of the nation's leading industrial concerns, though not nearly to the same extent as it had on middle‐ and low-income groups. Some of America's largest manufacturing firms suffered a significant reduction in their overall assets, while many others

-13-

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The New Deal to the Carter Administration - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Elites in American History - The New Deal to the Carter Administration *
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - The New Deal 13
  • Chapter 3 - The World War II and Truman Years 69
  • Chapter 4 - The Eisenhower Administration 123
  • Chapter 5 - The Kennedy-Johnson Years 169
  • Chapter 6 - The Nixon-Ford Regime 231
  • Chapter 7 - The Carter Administration 307
  • Chapter 8 - Conclusion 359
  • Appendix A 399
  • Appendix B 519
  • Index 535
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