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America's History in the Making

By the People, For the People

Theme 3

The New Deal and World War II fundamentally changed the relationship between the people and the federal government.

The New Deal set forth the idea that government was responsible for the well-being of its citizens. Before the New Deal programs, Americans were subject to fluctuations in the economy; relied on financial help from families, churches, and local communities in hard times; and had no government-guaranteed pension when they could no longer work. The second New Deal (1935–36) created a system of social security for many of the elderly, established unemployment compensation, enacted a minimum wage, and provided financial assistance to women and children who had no means of support. It also regulated banks and the stock market, as well as protected the right of most workers to unionize and bargain collectively. The second New Deal aided the West more than any other region through largescale water projects. For example, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington generated large amounts of cheap electricity for the Pacific Northwest and irrigated more than a million acres of land. In the long run, New Deal housing legislation created the first, long-term, fixed-rate mortgages, which allowed more than a million people to save their homes from foreclosure. Though viewed with suspicion by some, Roosevelt's New Deal programs marked a change in people's attitudes toward receiving assistance.

Primary Sources

Artifacts

Photograph of Arvin Migratory Labor Camp

W.F. Baxter, “Migratory Labor Camps,” The Quartermaster Review (July 1937). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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