Out of Pandemic Crisis, What Could a New New Deal Look Like?Breaking News
tags: economic history, Great Depression, New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt
The New Deal was really a series of new deals, spread out over more than six years during the Great Depression — a menu of nationally scaled projects that were one part make-work and many parts lasting impact. They delivered a broad-shouldered expression of presidential authority whose overall benefits were both economic and psychological.
Not all of them worked. Some failed badly. But it was a try-anything moment by Franklin D. Roosevelt at a time of national despair. And it remade the role of the federal government in American life.
Men were hired to plant trees in Oklahoma after the Dust Bowl and to build roads, bridges and schools. Writers and artists were dispatched to chronicle the hardship, employing authors like Saul Bellow and Ralph Ellison. In most every state, you can still see murals or read local histories or walk into enduring projects like LaGuardia Airport and Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
These programs were designed to provide get-by wages in exchange for work. But others were crafted to remake society. Social Security was instituted to save the elderly from poverty, federal insurance on banks to renew trust in the financial system, minimum wage and labor rights to redistribute the balance of power between employer and employee.
Now, nearly 90 years later, the United States is fighting a disease that presents the country with wrenching life-and-death challenges. Yet at the same time, it has served up something else as well: a rare opportunity to galvanize Americans for change.
And as the U.S. confronts its most profound financial crisis since the Depression, brought on by the most deadly pandemic in a century, there are early soundings of a larger question: What would a “new” New Deal look like?
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