The Great Depression DBQ Essay Sample

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The America in the 1930s was drastically different from the luxurious 1920s. The stock market had crashed to an all time low, unemployment was the highest the country had ever seen, and all American citizens were affected by it in some way or another. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal was effective in addressing the issues of The Great Depression in the sense that it provided immediate relief to US citizens by lowering unemployment, increasing trust in the banks, getting Americans out of debt, and preventing future economic crisis from taking place through reform. Despite these efforts The New Deal failed to end the depression. In order for America to get out of this economic disaster, the Federal Government rightly overstepped it’s constitutional bound to adopt the role of a “care taker” and establish a basic minimum of living for the American people. Perhaps the single most important aspect of the New Deal was the WPA, an organization which provided jobs for the unemployed working on federally funded projects such as dams, bridges, and public buildings. As William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. noted, the government was spending “immense sums for public-works projects”.

The government was attempting to pump money back into the economy in the form of wages for the unemployed. This stopped, but did not reverse the terrible effects of the Great Depression on America. As is evident in Document J, not until World War II did unemployment drop below 20%. Although the WPA, or the New Deal, for that matter, did not end the depression, it did create an entirely new role for the government. Because the WPA hired not only manual laborers but musicians, artists, and skilled craftsmen, it set the precedent that the government would be responsible for helping all people in times of trouble. The WPA also employed African-Americans, and because of that, “the government has taken on meaning and substance for the Negro masses.(Document I)” The WPA may not have ended unemployment, but it slowed the depression and created a government that was now expected by all people, both black and white, to provide relief during times of economic trouble.

The government also created its new, controversial social security program. Social security was the idea that anyone receiving a paycheck would receive “a monthly check” every month “for the rest of your life…beginning when you are 65 (Document E).” This is yet another example of the government providing insurance for those suffering economic troubles. This check guarantees an income for elderly people unable to work in many cases, and is exactly what it is named, security. The social security program further defined the

government’s new role as an insurer of the public welfare. However, it was considered so revolutionary and redefining that it sparked extreme debate. Some claimed that “the authority of the federal government may not be pushed to such an extreme (Document F).” Others claimed that the “government…has also been strengthened and renovated (Document H).” Some went as far as to say that “the Administration at Washington is accelerating it’s [sic] pace towards socialism and communism (Document B).” The controversy surrounding many of the New Deal policies helped reshape the government in such a radical manner, as today it provides us with social security and is looked to for relief when economic disaster strikes.

During Herbert Hoover’s presidency, the Depression was fueled by the administration’s hesitance to increase government spending. However, by financing many individual groups and agencies, the Roosevelt administration was able to get more money out for public use. The administration used strategies like giving out the social security checks mentioned in Document E to help redistribute much of the wealth in America to the working class. This was an important step in changing the government from a passive bystander to an active assistant that was working to help eliminate the problems of the Great Depression. This change, brought about by Roosevelt’s New Deal, was vital in asserting Roosevelt’s abilities to disable the Depression and is a good example of the effectiveness of Roosevelt’s policies.

As is apparent through the AAA, the WPA, and the social security program of the New Deal, the government under F.D.R.’s administration was able to slow the effects of the Great Depression (although not reverse them, World War II would do this), and create a nearly entirely new system of government. The bureaucracy in Washington greatly expanded with all of the New Deal administrations and departments, and the federal government was turned into an essential insurance company, obligated by its previous actions to provide relief to America when the country encountered troubled economic times. Because the U.S. government created a system of near-parity, because it created social security, and because it gave jobs to those who didn’t have any, it was expected to do this again in the future. Thus the government was transformed into an administration that was expected to provide for the entire country during times of trouble.

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