THE SECOND NEW DEAL
Many wealthy members of American society were appalled by the actions that Roosevelt took during his first year in office; he was called a traitor to his class, a communist, and far worse. Other elements of Roosevelt’s brain trust (as well as his wife Eleanor) were advising Roosevelt to do even more to help the unemployed of America. As a result, the Second New Deal, beginning in 1935, included another flurry of legislation.
It was obvious that even more dramatic measures were needed to help farmers; many farms were still being foreclosed on because farmers could not make necessary payments on their land. The Resettlement Administration. established in May of 1935, offered loans to small farmers who faced foreclosure. In addition, migrant farmers had not been affected by previous New Deal measures dealing with agriculture; funds to help them find work were included under the Resettlement Administration.
One of the outstanding achievements of the Second New Deal was the creation of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA took people that were on relief and employed them for 30 or 35 hours a week. On average, 2 million people per month were employed by the WPA; by 1941 well over 8 million people had worked for the WPA. WPA workers were usually engaged in construction projects, building schools, hospitals, and roads across the country. In addition, unemployed musicians, artists, and actors were all employed by the WPA. WPA artists painted many of the murals found in public buildings, concerts were given for both urban and rural audiences, and plays were performed for audiences who had never seen one before.
Another important piece of legislation from this period was the Wagner Act, which reaffirmed the right of workers to organize and to utilize collective bargaining. These rights had been guaranteed by provision 7a of the NIRA guidelines, but when the NIRA was declared to be unconstitutional, additional legislation protecting workers was needed. The Wagner Act also listed unfair labor practices that were outlawed and established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enforce its provisions.
The most important legislation passed during the Second New Deal was the 1935 Social Security Act. The critical provision of this act was the creation of a retirement plan for workers over 65 years old. Both workers and employers paid into this retirement fund; the first payments were scheduled to be made in January 1942. It should he noted that the initial social security legislation did not cover agricultural and domestic workers.
Other provisions of this act established a program that provided unemployment insurance for workers who had lost their jobs; this was paid for by a payroll tax that was imposed on all employers with more than eight workers. The federal government also provided financial support to programs at the state level that provided unemployment insurance. The federal government also gave money to the states to provide aid programs for dependent children, for the blind, and for the physically handicapped.
As stated previously, some Americans were exempt from the provisions of the Social Security Act. Nevertheless, this act fundamentally changed the relationship of the federal government to American citizens. At the root of the Social Security Act was the concept that it was the job of the federal government to take care of those who couldn’t take care of themselves. This was a fundamentally new role for the federal government to have, and it justified the worst fears of many opponents of the Roosevelt administration.