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FHA - Federal Housing Administration

The Federal Housing Administration was a government agency created to combat the housing crisis of the Great Depression. The large number of unemployed workers combined with the banking crisis created a situation in which banks recalled loans. The FHA was designed to regulate mortgages and housing conditions.
During the Great Depression, the banking system failed, causing a drastic decrease in home loans and ownership. At this time, most home mortgages were short-term (three to five years), no amortization, balloon instruments at loan-to-value (LTV) ratios below fifty to sixty percent.[1] The banking crisis of the 1930’s forced all lenders to retrieve due mortgages. Refinancing was not available, and many borrowers, now unemployed, were unable to make mortgage payments. Consequently, many homes were foreclosed, causing the housing market to plummet. Banks collected the loan collateral (foreclosed homes) but the low property values resulted in a relative lack of assets. Because there was little faith in the backing of the U.S. government, few loans were issued and few new homes were purchased.

In 1934 the federal banking system was restructured. The National Housing Act of 1934 was passed and the Federal Housing Administration was created. Its intent was to regulate the rate of interest and the terms of mortgages that it insured. These new lending practices increased the number of people who could afford a down payment on a house and monthly debt service payments on a mortgage, thereby also increasing the size of the market for single-family homes.[2]

The FHA calculated appraisal value based on eight criteria and directed its agents to lend more for higher appraised projects, up to a maximum cap. The two most important were "Relative Economic Stability," which constituted 40% of appraisal value, and "Protection from adverse influences," which made up another 20%.

During World War II, the FHA financed a number of worker's housing projects including the Kensington Gardens Apartment Complex at Buffalo, New York

Federal Writers' Project
Established on July 27, 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) operated under journalist and theatrical producer Henry Alsberg, and later John D. Newsome, compiling local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books and other works. The most well-known of these publications were the 48 state guides to America (plus Alaska Territory, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.) known as the American Guide Series. The American Guide Series books were compiled by the FWP, but printed by individual states, and contained detailed histories of each state with descriptions of every city and town. The format was uniform, comprising essays on the state's history and culture, descriptions of its major cities, automobile tours of important attractions, and a portfolio of photographs. The Federal Writers Project was funded and put to work, as a Public Works in and around the west coast, through Washington, Oregon and California..

FWP was charged with employing writers, editors, historians, researchers, art critics, archaeologists, geologists and cartographers. Some 6,600 individuals were employed by the FWP. In each state a Writer's Project non-relief staff of editors was formed, along with a much larger group of field workers drawn from local unemployment rolls. Many of these had never graduated high school, but most had formerly held white collar jobs of some sort. Most of the Writer's Project employees were relatively young in age, and many came from working-class backgrounds.

Some FWP writers supported the labor movement and left-wing social and political themes.[citation needed] The rise of fascism and the emerging opposition to Roosevelt administration policies by conservative critics led many WPA artists to voice a political position. Most Writers' Project works were apolitical by their nature, but some histories and ethnographies were not. Some projects were strongly opposed by some state legislatures, particularly the American Guide Series books, and in a few states Guide printings were kept to a minimal number of copies. Projects included interviews which led to slave narratives based on the experiences of former slaves[1] with the work culminating in over 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves.[2]

Some of the work was "a socially-conscious art" in the sense that "these were not attempts to sugar-coat the lives of the authentic 'folk' in the realm of culture. Such projects were designed to effect an increased political awareness of the plight of sharecroppers, migrants, and the American proletariat" yet were nevertheless part of a "documentary trend" infused with "intense regionalism and celebration of the working class" with a turn away from European style, seeing "stylistic experimentation and a cosmopolitan imagination as socially-irresponsible indulgences not to be entertained in such times of national crisis" and embracing socially relevant facts and "national realism," noted Mark Krasovic writing for the New Deal Network, a project of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in collaboration with Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Marist College, and IBM,[3] adding,

"The times had provided a human drama of immense proportions; there was no need to invent circumstances. Thus, many fiction writers turned toward 'documenting' the common people, those who suffered most brutally the effects of the Depression. The results were such books as Jack Conroy's The Disinherited and John Steinbeck's enduring classic The Grapes of Wrath."

Thousands worked on the project, including several well-known authors. Blakey (2005) estimates that at any one time the Indiana office had no fewer than 150 men and women on the payroll. Fieldworkers made about $80 a month, working 20 to 30 hours a week. A majority were women. Very few African Americans worked for the state projects, with the notable exception of the Illinois Writers' Project. One of the few racially integrated Project sites, the Chicago project employed Arna Bontemps, an established voice of the Harlem Renaisaance, and helped to launch the literary careers of Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Katherine Dunham, and Frank Yerby (Mangione 1972).

The overriding goal of the FWP was employment, but the project produced useful work in the many oral histories collected from residents throughout the United States, many from regions that had previously gone unexplored and unrecorded.

Federal sponsorship for the Federal Writers' Project came to an end in 1939, though the program was permitted to continue under state sponsorship until 1943. The program is nonexistent now.


The NLRA, as enacted in 1935, defined and prohibited five unfair labor practices. These prohibitions still exist, while others have been added under later legislation. The original employer unfair labor practices consisted of:

  • Interfering with, restraining or coercing employees in their rights under Section 7. These rights include freedom of association, mutual aid or protection, self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other protected concerted activities with or without a union. Section 8(a)(1)

  • "Dominating" or interfering with the formation or administration of any labor organization . Section 8(a)(2)

  • Discriminating against employees to encourage or discourage acts of support for a labor organization. 8(a)(3)

  • Discriminating against employees who file charges or testify. 8(a)(4)

  • Refusing to bargain collectively with the representative of the employer's employees. 8(a)(5)

The key principles of the NLRA are embodied in its concluding paragraph of section 1 including:

encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.

The key principles also include:

  • Protecting a wide range of activities, whether a union is involved or not, in order to promote organization and collective bargaining.

  • Protecting employees as a class and expressly not on the basis of a relationship with an employer.

  • There can be only one exclusive bargaining representative for a unit of employees.

  • Promotion of the practice and procedure of collective bargaining.

  • Employers have a duty to bargain with the representative of its employees.

Public Works Administration

The Public Works Administration (PWA) was a New Deal agency in the United States headed by Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes. It was created by the National Industrial Recovery Act in June 1933 in response to the Great Depression. It concentrated on the construction of large-scale public works such as dams and bridges, with the goal of providing employment, stabilizing purchasing power, and contributing to a revival of American industry. Most of the spending came in two waves in 1933-35, and again in 1938. The PWA was closed down in 1939.

The PWA spent over $6 billion, and, its defenders claim, helped to push industry back toward pre-Depression levels. It lowered unemployment and created an infrastructure that generated local pride in the 1930s and remains vital seven decades later. It was much less controversial than its rival agency the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which focused on hiring the unemployed.


PWA-funded construction site in Washington, D.C. in 1933

The PWA headquarters in Washington planned projects, which were built by private construction companies hiring workers on the open market. Unlike the WPA, it did not hire the unemployed directly.

More than any other New Deal program, the PWA epitomized the progressive notion of "priming the pump" to encourage economic recovery. Between July 1933 and March 1939 the PWA funded and administered the construction of more than 34,000 projects including airports, large electricity-generating dams, major warships for the Navy, and bridges, as well as 70% of the new schools and one-third of the hospitals built between 1933–1939.

Streets and highways were the most common PWA projects, as 11,428 road projects, or 33% of all PWA projects, accounted for over 15% of its total budget. School buildings, 7,488 in all, came in second at 14% of spending. PWA functioned chiefly by making allotments to the various Federal agencies; making loans and grants to state and other public bodies; and making loans without grants (for a brief time) to the railroads. For example it provided funds for the Indian Division of the CCC to build roads, bridges and other public works on and near Indian reservations.

Fort Peck Dam in Montana; spillway construction. One of the largest dams in the world, it continues to generate electricity; in July 1936 its construction employed 10,500 workers.

The PWA became, with its "multiplier-effect" and first two-year budget of $3.3 billion (compared to the entire GDP of $60 billion), the driving force of America’s biggest construction effort up to that date. By June 1934 the agency had distributed its entire fund to 13,266 federal projects and 2,407 non-federal projects. For every worker on a PWA project, almost two additional workers were employed indirectly. The PWA accomplished the electrification of rural America, the building of canals, tunnels, bridges, highways, streets, sewage systems, and housing areas, as well as hospitals, schools, and universities; every year it consumed roughly half of the concrete and a third of the steel of the entire nation.

Some of the most famous PWA projects are the Triborough Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state, the longest continuous sidewalk in the world along 6½ miles of Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa, Florida, and the Overseas Highway connecting Key West, Florida, to the mainland. The PWA also electrified the Pennsylvania Railroad between New York and Washington, DC. At the local level it built courthouses, schools, hospitals and other public facilities that remain in use in the 21st century.


The PWA was the centerpiece of the New Deal program for building public housing for the poor people in cities. However it did not create as much affordable housing as supporters would have hoped, building only 25,000 units of in 4½ years.


When President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved industry toward war production, the PWA was abolished and its functions were transferred to the Federal Works Agency in June 1943.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (frequently abbreviated SEC) is a federal agency[1] which holds primary responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating the securities industry, the nation's stock and options exchanges, and other electronic securities markets in the United States. In addition to the 1934 Act that created it, the SEC enforces the Securities Act of 1933, the Trust Indenture Act of 1939, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and other statutes. The SEC was created by section 4 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
The Securities Act of 1933 is also known as the "Truth in Securities Act" or the "Federal Securities Act” or just the "1933 Act." Its goal is to increase public trust in the capital markets by requiring uniform disclosure of information about public securities offerings. The primary drafters of 1933 Act were Huston Thompson, a former Federal Trade Commission chairman, and Walter Miller and Ollie Butler, two attorneys in the Commerce Department's Foreign Service Division, with input from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. For the first year of the law's enactment, the enforcement of the statute rested with the Federal Trade Commission, but this power was transferred to the SEC following its creation in 1934. (Interestingly, the first, rejected draft of the Securities Act written by Samuel Untermyer vested these powers in the U.S. Post Office, because Untermyer believed that only by vesting enforcement powers with the postal service could the constitutionality of the act be assured.[4]) The law requires that issuing companies register distributions of securities with the SEC prior to interstate sales of these securities, so that investors may have access to basic financial information about issuing companies and risks involved in investing in the securities in question. Since 1996, most registration statements (and associated materials) filed with the SEC can be accessed via the SEC’s online system, EDGAR.[5]

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 is also known as "the Exchange Act" or "the 1934 Act". This act regulates secondary trading between individuals and companies which are often unrelated to the original issuers of securities. Entities under the SEC’s authority include securities exchanges with physical trading floors such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), self-regulatory organizations such as the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), online trading platforms such as NASDAQ and ATS, and any other persons (e.g., securities brokers) engaged in transactions for the accounts of others.[6]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., father of President John F. Kennedy, to serve as the first Chairman of the SEC, along with James M. Landis (one of the architects of the 1934 Act and other New Deal legislation) and Ferdinand Pecora (Chief Counsel to the United States Senate Committee on Banking and Currency during its investigation of Wall Street banking and stock brokerage practices).

The Social Security Act

President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, at approximately 3:30 pm EST on August 14, 1935.[10] Standing with Roosevelt are Rep. Robert Doughton (D-NC); unknown person in shadow; Sen. Robert Wagner (D-NY); Rep. John Dingell (D-MI); unknown man in bowtie; the Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins; Sen. Pat Harrison (D-MS); and Rep. David Lewis (D-MD).

The Social Security Act was drafted during Roosevelt's first term by the President's Committee on Economic Security, under Frances Perkins, and passed by Congress as part of the New Deal. The act was an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers in the modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children. By signing this act on August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt became the first president to advocate federal assistance for the elderly.

Payroll taxes were first collected in 1937, also the year in which the first benefits were paid, namely the lump-sum death benefit paid to 53,236 beneficiaries.[citation needed]

The first reported Social Security payment was to Ernest Ackerman, who retired only one day after Social Security began. Five cents were withheld from his pay during that period, and he received a lump-sum payout of seventeen cents from Social Security.[24]

The first monthly payment was issued on January 31, 1940 to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont. In 1937, 1938 and 1939 she paid a total of $24.75 into the Social Security System. Her first check was for $22.54. After her second check, Fuller already had received more than she contributed over the three-year period. She lived to be 100 and collected a total of $22,888.92.[25]


Social Security payroll taxes are collected under authority of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), and are sometimes referred to as "FICA taxes."

In the original 1935 law the benefit provisions were in Title II of the Act (which is why Social Security is sometimes referred to as the "Title II" program.) The taxing provisions were in a separate title, Title VIII. There is a deep reason for this, having to do with the constitutionality of the law (see discussion of the Constitutionality of the 1935 Act).

As part of the 1939 Amendments, the Title VIII taxing provisions were taken out of the Social Security Act and placed in the Internal Revenue Code and renamed the "Federal Insurance Contributions Act."

Confusion, or misrepresentation of the nature of Social Security has often muddied debate over the program. The payroll taxes collected for Social Security are neither simply "taxes" nor do they create "retirement accounts" analogous to investment accounts such as IRAs. Social Security is an insurance program funded through payroll taxes. The FICA taxes constitute insurance premiums protecting workers and covered family members against loss of income from the wage earner's retirement, loss of income from the wage earner's disability, as well as survivor benefits in the event of the wage earners death. Hence it is incorrect to compare the return on Social Security contributions with the return on private investment instruments. It is, however, legitimate to compare the return on the "risk pool of funds" garnered by this government-run insurance program with the return on the "risk pool of funds" garnered by a for-profit commercial insurance company. Like any insurance program, Social Security "spreads risk". For example, a worker who becomes disabled in their thirties or forties could receive a huge return for the relatively small amount they contributed in FICA before becoming disabled, since disability benefits can continue for life. Likewise, the surviving family of a worker who dies in mid-life may receive substantial benefits even though the worker has only contributed for a relatively short time. This is similar to any other insurance program, public or private, whether the risk is against illness, car wrecks, or house fires. Everyone in the particular insurance pool is insured against the same risks, but not everyone will benefit to the same extent.

Works Progress Administration

The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects Administration; WPA) was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western populations. Expenditures from 1936 to 1939 totaled nearly $7 billion.[1] The budget at the outset of the WPA in 1935 was 1.4 billion dollars. It provided work for three million "employables" at this time, however there were an estimated 10 million unemployed persons at this time. [2] By 1943, the total amount spent was over $11 billion.[3]

The WPA was a national program that originated its own projects (in cooperation with state and local governments) and sometimes took over state and local relief programs that had originated in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) or FERA programs. Headed by Harry Hopkins, the WPA provided jobs and income to the unemployed during the Great Depression in the United States. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs.[4] It never managed to come anywhere close to full demand for employment.[5]

Liquidated on June 30, 1943 as a result of high employment due to the industry boom of World War Two, the WPA had provided millions of Americans with jobs for 8 years.[6] Most people who needed a job were eligible for at least some of its positions.[7] Hourly wages were typically set to the prevailing wages in each area.[8] However workers could not be paid more than 30 hours a week. Before 1940, there was very little training to teach new skills, to meet the objections of the labor unions.
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