Depression Decade: From New Era through New Deal, 1929-1941

By Broadus Mitchell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
Public Works

UNEMPLOYMENT, with resulting dependency, remained the country's reproach throughout the depression; indeed, after the depression, by many accepted signs, had been overcome, heavy unemployment continued. Unlike other problems, it was not susceptible to specific treatment. Unemployment had to be reached indirectly through economic revival, for unemployment was the depression. Some of the human suffering and some of the injury to the economy could be lessened through public assistance of several kinds. Beginning with 1932 there was an awkward progress from federal direct relief to indirect relief through works projects and on to measures attempting rehabilitation. The causes of unemployment and destitution in the midst of plenty were not corrected. The chief institution, new in America, to come out of the efforts was social insurance. This, while partially remedial, is in the main ameliorative, and at best a compromise with a problem held by some to be insoluble.

Direct governmental relief, in money or in kind, need not detain the narrative. It has been seen that the Hoover administration, after too long insistence that the "dole" would be degrading to recipients, finally acknowledged its necessity. While the New Deal deserved credit for promptly acknowledging this responsibility and hugely expanding appropriations, the Roosevelt administration, after two years, sought to end the practice, not because it was disgracing millions of individuals, but because this form of relief was

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