The Second New Deal was a continuation and expansion of the original New Deal program enacted by US President Roosevelt during the Great Depression. By 1933, Roosevelt’s New Deal was being criticized, because many felt it did not offer enough relief and that very little had improved in terms of job growth and economic stability. The Second New Deal went much further in terms of direct government involvement and aid. Some of those programs are still in action, such as the Social Security Act and the Federal Housing Authority.
During the height of the Great Depression, many senior citizens and retired workers were living in poverty, with only about 3% drawing pensions of any kind. The Social Security Act was created to help these unemployed retirees become self-sufficient. The program is generally viewed as a retirement insurance policy, which is funded by workers and their employers. The amount a retiree can earn from Social Security is based on her previous contributions.
Another important program that was developed during the Second New Deal was the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). This mortgage insurance program was designed to help secure home loans for low-income families. Due to the creation of the FHA, many Americans who previously had no hope of purchasing a home were now able to get the necessary financing. The dramatic increase in home sales as a direct result of FHA financing helped contribute to improvements in the general economy.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was developed in 1935, was perhaps the most effective project undertaken during the Second New Deal. Over the course of an eight-year period, approximately 9 million people were employed constructing airports, roads, and government parks. The jobs were intended for the neediest Americans and were first open only to the unemployed.
In 1935, President Roosevelt was able to get Congress to pass the National Labor Relations Act. It was considered the first sweeping legislation aimed at regulating the labor unions. Also known as the Wagner Act, it gave unions the protected right to organize and bargain with their respective employers. Before this act, unions were considered disorganized and dishonest. This act required the unions to hold certified elections and established a government body to oversee and address any allegations of wrongdoing within their ranks.
President Roosevelt won what was considered a landslide victory in his re-election campaign in 1936. Low-income and minority Americans who generally did not vote turned out in huge numbers in a show of support for his job creation programs. It was during this election that African-Americans switched their traditional Republican vote to the Democratic Party.