Works Progress Administration and New Deal: Analytical Essay
In the 1930’s, the Great Depression wrecked havoc throughout the United States. Millions of people were unemployed and struggling to find work. Jobs were scarce and people were struggling. In the election of 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. He promised the people of the U.S. that he’d help fix the economy and get the U.S. out of the depression. To fulfill his promises, he created the New Deal, a series of programs to bolster the economy, reduce unemployment, and instill confidence in the government’s ability to protect its citizens (Kenton). One of the successful programs of the New Deal, was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which brought back jobs to Americans and helped create new infrastructure
The WPA was created in 1935 to combat the rising unemployment rate, which at the time was up to 20% of the population (History.com). Ran by Harry Hopkins, the WPA employed about 8.5 million people in total (Encyclopaedia Britannica), to work on public infrastructure. It helped create new roads, schools, airports, bridges, etc. It also commissioned projects to struggling artists, who according to Hopkins, “had to eat too”. Decisions of where projects would take place were decided at the local and state levels. They would assess their needs and unemployment rates before sending their requests to Washington D.C., and then the president. People in the program had a monthly wage of $15-$90 dollars a month, which was enough to provide for the needs of their families.
The largest project of the WPA was the Tennessee Valley Authority, which provided the impoverished Tennessee Valley with dams and waterworks to create an infrastructure for electrical power (Wikipedia). It provided 9,000 jobs and built 16 hydroelectric dams for people in Tennessee. People gained electricity from this, which made life easier during the Depression. The Federal Project Number One was another large project under the WPA. It was split up into the Federal Art, Music, Theater, and Writer’s Projects. Those projects combined, employed 40,000 artists, musicians, and actors to work on different pieces of art. (Background on the WPA). The Federal Project Number One was heavily criticised, because it didn’t provide any real economic benefits, but new art and music was created due to this program.
The WPA had a profound impact for American people during the Great Depression. In the first year alone, 3 million people were put back into work. That’s 3 million people able to provide food, housing, and other needs for their families. The lucky people employed in the program had a generous monthly wage of $15-$90 dollars a month, which was enough to fulfill their needs, and take the worry about where their next meals will come from away.
The agency’s construction projects also produced more than 650,000 miles (1,046,000 km) of roads; 125,000 public buildings; 75,000 bridges; and 8,000 parks (Encyclopaedia Britannica). These public infrastructures benefited Americans by making it easier to travel, and giving them nicer public places, like parks and schools. In addition, 2,566 murals, more than 100,000 easel paintings, about 17,700 sculptures, nearly 300,000 fine prints, and about 22,000 plates were created. (Federal Art Project) These gave a small glimmer of happiness to Americans, by seeing these artworks throughout their community.
Most importantly, the WPA boosted the spirit of the american people. Rather than just providing relief, the WPA gave Americans the opportunity to work for their wages. As Harry Hopkins is quoted as saying “Give a man a dole, and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit”. The opportunity to go to work gave people the hope that the depression will someday end. Their broken spirits could be fixed with a job providing a living wage for their families.
The WPA was an unquestionably effective program in the New Deal. Rather than just providing food or housing for struggling Americans, it gave jobs so that people were working for their money. 8.5 million out of the 11 million unemployed population were hired by the WPA. That’s a vast majority of people getting back to work because of a single program. Everyone in America also benefited from the WPA because public roads and buildings were created.
WIth the many people hired, the WPA was a successful program under the New Deal. With jobs and public infrastructure, It impacted everyone throughout the U.S. in a positive way. Americans were provided much needed relief and recovery from this program, during a dark period of time.
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