The role and responsibilities of the federal government changed drastically during the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Rapid changes after the Civil War brought on a need for economic, social and political reforms. Before the Progressive Era and the New Deal, the federal government took a very hands-off approach and had little involvement in, and little care for the welfare of the American people. With the Progressive Era and the New Deal, the federal government became more involved and responsive to the public and implemented many revisions and reforms.
The Progressive Era was a time of political and economic transformation. The role and responsibilities of the federal government evolved. Reform was necessary because of the changes that occurred during the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution brought on many changes, an important one being growth in the number and scope of work in factories. Factories and mechanization caused a need for less skilled workers, which in turn resulted in lower labor costs, lower wages, longer hours and appalling working conditions.
Labor Unions were formed as a result of these conditions in order to protect the working class and put pressure on employers. During the Progressive Era, the federal government created labor laws, trade regulations and instituted other various measures in order to protect the public. The federal government also protected the rights of laborers to organize unions and became involved in the mediation of labor disputes in order to prevent riots from occurring. The regulation of utilities and railroads was used to protect the public welfare from the abuses of large corporations.
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The federal government also began to regulate large businesses and monopolies. It accepted large-scale corporations as an essential part of the economy but also embraced the need to regulate them. Trusts were also of great concern to the federal government. The Federal Trade Commission was instituted in order to protect the public from additional abuses of large corporations. The federal government also promoted the public’s support of the war. Through voluntary and collaborative means, the federal government rallied businesses and the public in support of the war effort.
The federal government made political changes on a national level with the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. The Sixteenth Amendment imposed an income tax. The Seventeenth Amendment allowed for the direct election of U. S. Senators. The Eighteenth Amendment established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages and the Nineteenth Amendment prohibited any U. S. citizen from being denied the right to vote based on sex. During the Progressive Era, social reform and cultural changes also occurred. Consumerism was at an all time high.
It became a time of economic prosperity. With the introduction of electricity came household appliances. Movies, automobiles, radios, telephones, magazines, and advertising were in the forefront. While consumption prompted the economy in a forward direction, other economic issues arose throughout the country. Agriculture and mining were not prospering. The steel and textile industries were standing idly. The nation also relied too heavily on credit in order to maintain product demand and economic expansion. Lastly, consumer onfidence led to over-speculation in stocks. This inevitably led to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which in turn marked the beginning of the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office in 1933 during the depth of the Great Depression. He launched the New Deal as a solution for bringing the United States out of the Great Depression. The New Deal changed the role of the government by expanding its involvement in social and economic affairs. The goal of the New Deal was to provide the “3 R’s”: relief, recovery and reform.
The federal government worked to provide relief for the masses of unemployed, recovery of the depressed economy and reform of the financial system. Reforms were highlighted in a variety of acts that were passed. During the first 100 days of Roosevelt’s administration, more legislation was passed than under any previous president. The Federal Emergency Relief Act established funding and programs for relief and provided grants to the states to help people with food and shelter. The Civilian Conservation Corps Act granted the government the ability to pay young men to build bridges, roads and dams and plant 17 million dollars in new forests.
The Agricultural Adjustment Act paid farmers not to plant crops so that the surpluses would not drive down prices. The National Industrial Recovery Act created the first minimum wage and marked the first time that the government intervened in business. The Works Projects Administration allowed the government to create over 250,000 projects and paid people to complete them. The Social Security Act created a pension for people over 65 years of age. All of these reform programs provided employment and direct payments to individuals and improved the economy.
The federal government worked diligently to bring the United States out of the Great Depression during the New Deal and in doing so, the relationship between the government and the people changed significantly. The government took on a greater role in the everyday lives of people. As you can see, the role and responsibilities of the federal government changed considerably during the Progressive Era and the New Deal. The new hands-on approach of the government allowed for political, social and economic reforms during the 20th century.
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