A New Approach to Governing America

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second visit. Hall County, Georgia, historical photograph collection, Hall County Library System.

Prior to the 1930s, the US government had, in general, taken a hands-off approach to public infrastructure, corporate practices, and occupational safety and health. Instead, private industry was left to build roads and rail, oversee the working conditions of their employees, and self-govern economic practices. Roosevelt, with the help of Congress, created many "'alphabet agencies' -- so-called because they were known by their abbreviations" – that, as never before, took control of the construction of public utility infrastructure and put into place social, economic, and employment safety nets, some of which remain today.

To be sure, not all of the programs were successful or lasting, but many had immediate impacts on impoverished individuals and the failing banking system. The TVA created employment from Kentucky to North Carolina, the AAA attempted to stabilize farm prices, and FERA “provided funds for state welfare programs." In fact, the creation of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) restored confidence in the banks during the Great Depression and played a continuing role in ensuring banking stability during the Great Recession of the early 2000s.

Arnesen, Eric, "A new deal for Americans," Cobblestone, Vol 26, Issue 4 (2005): 6-9.