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Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR): Second New Deal

Although FDR had forged a broad, progressive coalition during his 1932 campaign, by 1935 it seemed to be fraying at the seams. The most progressive members (like the outspoken Senator Huey Long) argued that the New Deal didn't go far enough, while wealthier business interests were opposed to what they saw as a government takeover of the economy.31 The lowest point came in May of 1935, when the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, a key piece of New Deal legislation.

Instead of admitting defeat, Roosevelt once again moved quickly and aggressively. Soon after the court decision, he enacted what became known as the Second New Deal, proposing several pieces of legislation that included:

  • Social Security: Passed as the Social Security Act, it provided benefits (money) for the elderly and the unemployed. Social Security is still a central part of our public assistance program today.
  • National Labor Relations Act: Originally known as the Wagner Act (after Robert Wagner, the senator who introduced the bill), gave organized labor rights to bargain collectively with businesses and forced employers to allow unionization of their employees.32
  • Works Progress Administration: Passed in April 1935, the WPA put unemployed people to work in public works projects across the country. It contained a much wider variety of programs than earlier agencies: theatrical productions (the Federal Theatre Project) and writing projects (the Federal Writers' Project), as well as the construction of schools, playgrounds, and other public facilities.33

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