Once in office, FDR set to work immediately. His "New Deal," it turned out, involved regulation and reform of the banking system, massive government spending to "prime the pump" by restarting the economy and putting people back to work, and the creation of a social services network to support those who had fallen on hard times.
Between 8 March and 16 June, in what later became known as the "First Hundred Days," Congress followed Roosevelt's lead by passing an incredible fifteen separate bills which, together, formed the basis of the New Deal. Several of the programs created during those three and a half months are still around in the federal government today. Some of Roosevelt's most notable actions during the Hundred Days were:
- A national bank holiday: The day after his inauguration, FDR declared a "bank holiday," closing all banks in the country to prevent a collapse of the banking system. With the banks closed, Roosevelt took measures to restore the public's confidence in the financial systems; when the banks reopened a week later, the panic was over.22
- Ending the gold standard: To avoid deflation, FDR quickly suspended the gold standard.23 This meant that U.S. dollars no longer had to be backed up by gold reserves, which also meant that the government could print—and spend—more money to "prime the pump" of the economy.
- Glass-Steagall Act: The Glass-Steagall Act imposed regulations on the banking industry that guided it for over fifty years, until it was repealed in 1999.24 The law separated commercial from investment banking, forced banks to get out of the business of financial investment, banned the use of bank deposits in speculation.25 It also created the FDIC[link to "FDIC" passage below]. The effect of the law was to give greater stability to the banking system.
- FDIC: The Federal Deposit Insurance Commission backed all bank deposits up to $2500, meaning that most bank customers no longer had to worry that a bank failure would wipe out their life savings.26 The agency continues to insure American deposits today.
- Federal Securities Act: This act regulated the stock markets and preceded the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934, which continues to regulate U.S. stock markets to this day.
- Agricultural Adjustment Act: The AAA provided relief to farmers by paying them to reduce production; this also helped to reduce crop surpluses and increase prices for crops.27
- Civilian Conservation Corps: To reduce unemployment, put 250,000 young men to work in rural conservation projects, mostly in national parks and forests.28
- Tennessee Valley Authority: The TVA provided electrification and other basic improvements the impoverished interior of the South.
- National Industrial Recovery Act: One of FDR's more controversial measures, it created new agencies and regulations that tightened the relationship between government and business. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935.
- Public Works Administration: Funded the construction of public works projects across the country, including schools, hospitals, airports, dams, and ports, as well as ships for the Navy and airports for the Army Air Corps.29
- Federal Emergency Relief Act: Provided direct relief, training and work for unemployed Americans. It was abolished in 1935 and its programs folded into other agencies.30