The New Deal Today

Several of FDR's New Deal programs continue to help Americans today. Some of the more important programs that still exist offer the following benefits and protections.

1.             A National Pension System. The Social Security system pays out old-age pensions (and has been expanded to include aid to other groups). It is funded through taxes on employers and employees.

2.             Oversight of Labor Practices. Created by the Wagner Act, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversees labor unions. It also investigates disputes between management and labor.

3.             Agricultural Price Supports. This program pays farmers to raise crops for domestic use rather than export. To receive payments, farmers must agree to limit the space they devote to certain crops.

4.             Protection for Savings. After the bank holiday of 1933, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was created. The FDIC insures bank deposits up to $100,000. It replaces the deposits of individuals if banks close.

5.             Regulation of the Stock Market. A federal agency called the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) watches the stock market. It makes sure companies and investors follow fair and legal practices for trading stocks.

An Ongoing Political Debate

    The issues that came out of the New Deal continue to shape American politics. For example, Democrats and Republicans still argue about whether federal or local government should be responsible for various programs. In addition, Democrats are more likely to be liberal and Republicans are more likely to be conservative in their political beliefs. A liberal in politics favors government action to bring about social and economic reform. A conservative favors fewer government controls and more individual freedom in economic matters.

    Despite these lingering disagreements, some New Deal programs are still so popular that everyone supports them. For example, neither party wants to end Social Security, even though the system is in trouble. The amounts that people pay in through payroll taxes today do not completely pay for pensions. The system may run out of money sometime in the future.

    In early 1999, President Bill Clinton announced a plan to save Social Security by using extra money from the federal budget. The Republicans accepted his plan. They knew that saving Social Security is a priority for Americans and that voters might grow angry if they made a political fight of the issue.

    FDR probably would have approved. "The great public," Roosevelt said, "is interested more in government than in politics." Roosevelt felt that party labels mattered little as long as politicians "did the big job that their times demanded to be done."