Although the New Deal was established about thirty years before the Great Society was, they both embodied similar characteristics. The origins of these two parts of history clearly resemble each other. Also, the goals of the Great Society largely compare to those of the New Deal. Finally, the New Deal and the Great Society prove to be alike through their lasting legacies. The Great Society resembles the New Deal in its origins, goals, and social and political legacies.
The origins of the Great Society reflects that of the New Deal in various ways. One common origin of these two programs is their basis in Progressive ideas. Although the period after World War I was very conservative, many Progressive reforms were brought to the table and, through the New Deal, could now be used to help the economic crisis (Lawson 41).
One Progressive reform from the New Deal was the creation of the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which helped labor, industry, and the unemployed all at the same time (Kennedy, Cohen, and Bailey, “New Deal” 781). A Great Society Progressive reform is the increased funding for the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), which helped to restore the tattered Appalachian region (Kennedy, Cohen, and Bailey, “Stormy Sixties” 922). Both of these reforms were based on using government intervention to provide for the working and middle class, which is a Progressive tactic.
The New Deal and Great Society also had another mutual origin in their necessity because of an economic hardship. Before the New Deal was established, the Great Depression hit America in 1929 (“New Deal” 1). Franklin D. Roosevelt commented, “… trade and commerce had declined to dangerously low levels; prices for basic commodities were such as to destroy the value of the assets of national institutions such as banks, savings banks, insurance companies, and others” (“Outlining” 1). The root of the Great Society was in the lack of economic progression after World War II (“Domestic Policy” 1). John F. Kennedy promised “…‘to get America moving again,’ primarily by stimulating economic growth” (“Domestic Policy” 1). These statements reveal that the economic suffering endured before these programs were enacted is a definite origin of said programs.
There are countless ways the Great Society resembles the New Deal in its goals. The reduction or elimination of poverty was clearly a universal goal for both the New Deal and the Great Society. The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) from the New Deal was passed in 1933 to reform industry by inspiring employers to cooperate in an effort to reduce unemployment and increase the wages of their employees (Catapano 2-3). The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was passed in the beginning of the Great Society to create various programs, such as the Head Start program and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) (“Great Society” 148). These two acts both aim to aid low- or no-income citizens to help reduce poverty rates.
The New Deal and the Great Society had the common goal to preserve America’s natural beauty. The New Deal program established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was a youth program that worked to enhance the environment by doing jobs like clearing swamps, planting trees, and other conservation efforts (Catapano 1). The Great Society’s Highway Beautification Act was signed in 1965 to fund projects that helped to clean the nation’s highways and clear damage and litter (“Great Society” 149). These legislations both made an effort to preserve the American environment and all of its beauty.
The legacy of the Great Society reflects that of the New Deal in numerous ways. The New Deal and the Great Society share the social legacy of making civil rights an important issue in America. During the New Deal, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was passed, which recognized a minimum wage, a forty-hour work week, and abolished child labor (Lawson 44). The Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) not only gave funding for scholarships, student loans, libraries, and a teacher corps, but also allowed the government to stop funding segregated schools (“Domestic Policy” 5). Both of these policies provided much needed aid in the civil rights effort that was going on in its time.
The expansion of the powers of the government is an obvious political legacy of both the New Deal and the Great Society. The Administration Reorganization Act of the New Deal expanded the powers of the executive branch giving the president authority over various government agencies (Lawson 44). The Great Society expanded the government’s responsibility over healthcare through the Medicare program, which gave the elderly health insurance that was funded by Social Security taxes, which were established during the New Deal, as well as the Medicaid program, which provided health insurance for poor people under the age of sixty-five (Johnson 234). All of these programs enabled the government to make controversial extensions of its powers.
The New Deal and the Great Society can relate to each other in several different ways. The Great Society reflects the New Deal, first, in its origins. Next, the goals of the New Deal are unmistakably mirrored by those of the Great Society. Lastly, the Great Society’s legacies imitate the legacies of the New Deal. Therefore, The Great Society resembles the New Deal in its origins, goals, and social and political legacies.