Exam preparation materials

THE LAST YEARS OF THE NEW DEAL

Franklin Roosevelt was frustrated that the United States Supreme Court had struck down several New Deal programs. In early 1937 he proposed the Justice Reorganization Bill, which would have allowed him to appoint an additional Supreme Court justice for every justice over 70 years old (nothing in the Constitution stated that there had to be only nine Supreme Court justices), Roosevelt would have been able to appoint six new judges under this scheme. Roosevelt claimed that the purpose of this plan was to help the older judges with their workload, but many Republicans and Democrats in Congress believed that Roosevelt was altering the balance of power between branches of government just to get his ideas enacted into law. Newspaper editorial writers and cartoonists compared Roosevelt to the dictators of Europe, Hitler and Mussolini. Many Southern Democrats joined with the Republicans to defeat this bill; the aftereffects seriously damaged Roosevelt’s relationship with Congress, Ironically, without the bill several justices retired in the next two years, allowing Roosevelt to appoint justices who would approve his programs anyway.

Any hopes that the New Deal was actually ending the Depression were dashed by a fairly large recession that occurred in mid-1937. Once again, factories began major layoffs. Critics of the New Deal blamed Roosevelt’s programs for this recession. Many in the administration were worried that the national debt was too high, and urged Roosevelt to cut programs. The WPA was drastically scaled back, putting some that had worked for it out of work. In addition, a part of every worker’s salary was now deducted to be put into the Social Security fund; critics charged that this money would have been better utilized if it was actually being spent on goods and services. By 1940 the administration restored some of the cutbacks made to government programs, slightly improving the economy again.

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