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The End of the Great Depression
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By 1942, when the United States had entered the war, unemployment was essentially zero.
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The End of the Great Depression
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Hi, I'm Frank Couvares for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about the end of the Great Depression.By 1937, after Franklin Roosevelt's big victory in 1936, and after New Deal policies that had about four years to begin to work, FDR could claim to have made a real dent in unemployment. It had gone from over 25 percent in 1933-1934 to under 14 percent in early 1937. Things looked like they were heading in the right direction.But FDR had never given up entirely on the promise he had made in the 1932 presidential campaign to eventually balance the budget. And so in 1937, after his big victory, and after it looked like the economy was heading upward, he decided to cut the budget, reduce spending on some of those big New Deal programs.
The immediate result of the budget cuts was a decline once again in spending, in production, and a revival of the terrible cycle of unemployment. Roosevelt was forced into a very difficult choice - to go back on his budget-cutting plan and to ask Congress for more stimulative spending, or to continue with his budget-cutting plans and to see the economy slide further and further into recession.In normal circumstances, perhaps, FDR might have been able to pivot - go back to higher spending, re-stimulate the economy. But 1937, was a turning point year for him. It was not only the recession, but his court-packing scheme, which had alienated not only Republicans but many Democrats; and also, the spate of sit-down strikes in the auto and rubber industry that went from late 1936 to early 1937.
The result of this cluster of bad news was that a new conservative coalition emerged in Congress, and essentially, the New Deal was over. Very little legislation of any consequence got passed after 1938.So what did end the Great Depression? It was essentially wartime production. Even before Pearl Harbor, before the United States entered the war, the Lend-Lease Program meant we were financing the British economy, and therefore allowing the British to buy all sorts of goods from the United States. That put people back to work so that by 1940, unemployment was in the single digits. By 1942, when the United States had entered the war, unemployment was essentially zero. So as FDR himself noted, by 1942, it was no longer Doctor New Deal, but Doctor Win the War that was in charge of the American economy.
Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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