Great Depression

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There were several factors that precipitated the Great Depression. One of the primary reasons that led to the Great Depression was there was an oversupply of many things in the economy and no demand for the products. The “Roaring Twenties” had created a consumer-oriented economy that by the end of the decade the average consumer was unable to keep up with. The overproduction by factories caused prices to bottom out and then increased unemployment rates due to factories closing. Farmers were also overproducing and after having to lower prices or not sell their crops, they could not afford to pay the loans for their farms and equipment. Another element of the Great Depression was the stock market crash of 1929. The stock market had ballooned in the early and mid-1920s, but at this point, the market had few regulations. On “Black Tuesday”, October 29, 1929, stocks fell rapidly; over ten billion dollars was lost on this day alone (Locke, 2019). The crash was just the beginning of a decade long period known as the “Great Depression”.

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When Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in 1932, he and his administration penned “The New Deal”. There were many critical elements in this legislation, but I believe that one of the most influential was the creation of the “Civil Works Administration”, which later became the “Works Progress Administration”. Roosevelt felt that this legislation would lead to men and women getting back to work following the Great Depression. The program allowed for individuals to work on local government projects that were funded by grants given by the Public Works Administration (Locke, 2019). This allowed for the infrastructure and cities to grow at a rapid pace by manning jobs necessary to build new roads, bridges, schools, and even the initial public housing complexes (Locke, 2019). Overall, this program was extremely successful, as the government and the population of America teamed up together to perform public services (Films, 1930). This public service however also put people back to work. Wallenfeldt (n.d.), states that this program pushed over four billion dollars back into the economy in the form of grants for local governments to better their towns by providing new schools, courthouses, healthcare facilities, and infrastructure. Small private industry contractors suffered greatly due to the Civil Works Administration. Regardless of the fact that it put millions back to work, it also cost many their livelihoods due to the fact that the federal jobs provided by the CWA often paid significantly more (Schwartz, 2014). Many of these contractors or subcontractors in the private sector were already struggling greatly prior to the creation of the Civil Works Administration, however after they were simply unable to hang on and many closed down their businesses altogether.

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References:

Films Media Group. (1930). The Wpa Film Library: Scenes from the Great Depression and the New Deal ca. 1930s. Films On Demand. https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=103647&xtid=37907.

Locke, J., Wright, B. (2019). The American Yawp: A Massively Open U.S. History Textbook. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Schwartz, Bonnie F. (2014). The Civil Works Administration, 1933-1934: The Business of Emergency Employment in the New Deal, Princeton University Press.

Wallenfeldt, Jeff. Public Works Administration. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from:https://www.britannica.com/topic/Public-Works-Administration (Links to an external site.)

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