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The New Deal: Success Or Failure

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For Badger, the main argument he puts forward is that the New Deal had limited impact on the rural south and that WW2 was the main reason for the transformation of the south. Arguably, the New Deal harmed millions of poor people: For example, the National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) cut production and forced wages above market levels, making it more expensive for employers to hire people – African Americans were estimated to have lost 500,000 jobs because of this programme. 

Also, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) cut back farm production, putting black tenant farmers who needed work in a difficult position. Farmers were paid to produce fewer crops leading white landowners to evict no longer needed black sharecroppers from their farms. The Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act did not cover domestic workers and farmers, two occupations in which African Americans were employed in great numbers. Badger outlines that ‘The number of black farmers fell from almost a million in 1930 to a mere six thousand in 1978’, further reinforcing that African Americans in the South remained politically and economically powerless under the New Deal. Notably ‘Economic forces during the war and after would ultimately achieve the diversification and reorganisation of southern agriculture, not government planners’. It was only following World War Two that Southern industrialisation was able to take place as government spending flowed to the South. Badger concludes that ‘the impact of the New Deal welfare revolution in the South was severely restricted by local poverty and entrenched conservative hostility’. Roosevelt’s fear to put forward the issue of race to southern congressman or convince them in itself seems to outline the difficulty of being able to create change in the lives of African Americans, reflected in the prejudice and violence in the south which even the government had limited influence over. Badger’s argument holds weight as the South remained a region of extreme poverty: It was an area of low-wages and low-skills with workers making significantly less than their national counterparts. In contrast, McMahon’s interpretation reveals Roosevelt’s slightly hostile approach towards the South, by pursuing a plan to destabilise southern politics; His priority was to remove Southern conservatives from the Democrat party as they proved to be an obstacle to his progressive and liberal policies. 

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Therefore, Badger’s perspective is that the New Deal policies failed in the South for everyone, including African Americans who were hit the hardest, which Sitkoff and McMahon do not address. 

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