Public Works and Work Relief

March 5, 1935

Report Outline
Changing Function of the Public Works Program
Roosevelt and International Public Works Plans
Results of the American Public Works Program
Proposed Coordination of Public Works and Relief
Special Focus

Changing Function of the Public Works Program

President Roosevelt's determination, voiced in his annual message to Congress, to “quit this business of relief” and provide employment on federally-financed projects for all unemployed persons capable of working signified not only a new approach to the relief problem but a changed attitude toward the function of public works in the general recovery program. The original plan of spending large sums on public works was conceived, not primarily as a means of affording direct employment, but as a method of stimulating industrial recovery. The public works program was to supplement efforts of another sort, toward the same end, put forth by the National Recovery Administration. Provisions for establishment of N. R. A. and P. W. A. were thus embodied in separate sections of the same law, and the two agencies and their functions were regarded as complementary.

In the spring of 1933, before the National Industrial Recovery Act had been passed, the President, in conversations with foreign statesmen preliminary to the World Monetary and Economic Conference, sought to promote an internationally coordinated public works program intended to give world-wide stimulus to industrial recovery. Plans for such an undertaking failing to make any headway at the London conference, the administration proceeded with its own domestic program on a purely national basis. While a certain amount of employment has thereby been provided, the program after two years can scarcely be considered to have fulfilled its major purpose of advancing general recovery.

Recognition of this fact appeared to underlie the President's request for an additional $4,000,000,000 to supply work to those on the relief rolls. The intention is to finance new public works out of this fund, but the appropriation was requested as a relief measure. The plan, in other words, is to use an expanded public works program as a vehicle for transfering the able-bodied unemployed from direct relief to work relief. If this proposal is carried out, the public works program will lose its original character. Although the administration doubtless hopes that additional public works will stimulate business, the emphasis now falls on relief rather than recovery. Tacit recognition of the altered viewpoint toward public works was given by Senator Robinson (D., Ark.), majority when he said in a public statement on February 23 that “the work-relief program was devised to tide the country over the period while business is being revived and enterprises are being resuscitated.” He thus represented the new program as a transitional measure, not as a vital element in the process of reviving business and resuscitating enterprises.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
New Deal, Great Depression, and Economic Recovery
Feb. 20, 2009  Public-Works Projects
Jul. 25, 1986  New Deal for the Family
Apr. 04, 1973  Future of Social Programs
Nov. 18, 1944  Postwar Public Works
Apr. 12, 1941  Public Works in the Post-Emergency Period
Mar. 08, 1940  Integration of Utility Systems
Feb. 26, 1938  The Permanent Problem of Relief
Jun. 08, 1937  Experiments in Price Control
Jan. 05, 1937  Credit Policy and Control of Recovery
Nov. 27, 1936  New Deal Aims and the Constitution
Oct. 16, 1936  Father Coughlin vs. the Federal Reserve System
Sep. 25, 1936  Roosevelt Policies in Practice
Feb. 11, 1936  Conditional Grants to the States
Dec. 11, 1935  Capital Goods Industries and Recovery
Sep. 25, 1935  Unemployment Relief Under Roosevelt
Jul. 17, 1935  The R.F.C. Under Hoover and Roosevelt
Jul. 03, 1935  Six Months of the Second New Deal Congress
Jun. 04, 1935  The Supreme Court and the New Deal
Mar. 05, 1935  Public Works and Work Relief
Feb. 16, 1935  Organized Labor and the New Deal
Dec. 04, 1934  Rural Electrification and Power Rates
Oct. 26, 1934  Federal Relief Programs and Policies
Jul. 25, 1934  Distribution of Federal Emergency Expenditures
Jul. 17, 1934  Debt, Credit, and Recovery
May 25, 1934  The New Deal in the Courts
Mar. 27, 1934  Construction and Economic Recovery
Mar. 19, 1934  Price Controls Under N.R.A.
Feb. 15, 1934  Federal Promotion of State Unemployment Insurance
Jan. 10, 1934  Government and Business After the Depression
Jan. 02, 1934  The Adjustment of Municipal Debts
Dec. 12, 1933  The Machine and the Recovery Program
Dec. 05, 1933  Winter Relief, 1933–1934
Nov. 11, 1933  Power Policies of the Roosevelt Administration
Oct. 28, 1933  Buying Power under the Recovery Program
Oct. 19, 1933  Land Settlement for the Unemployed
Sep. 20, 1933  The Capital Market and the Securities Act
Jul. 18, 1933  Public Works and National Recovery
Jul. 01, 1933  The Plan for National Industrial Control
May 03, 1933  Economic Readjustments Essential to Prosperity
Apr. 26, 1933  Government Subsidies to Private Industry
Mar. 25, 1933  Rehabilitation of the Unemployed
Feb. 17, 1933  Federal Cooperation in Unemployment Relief
Nov. 16, 1932  Systems of Unemployment Compensation
Nov. 09, 1932  Policies of the New Administration
Aug. 18, 1932  Emergency Relief Construction and Self-Liquidating Projects
Dec. 28, 1931  Relief of Unemployment
Aug. 01, 1931  National Economic Planning
Jul. 20, 1931  Dividends and Wages in Periods of Depression
Feb. 19, 1931  Insurance Against Unemployment
Jan. 19, 1931  Business Failures and Bankruptcy Administration
Jan. 01, 1931  Federal Subsidies to the States
Dec. 08, 1930  Federal Relief of Economic Distress
Sep. 25, 1930  The Extent of Unemployment
May 16, 1930  Politics and Depressions
Dec. 20, 1929  The Federal Public Works Program
Jun. 08, 1929  The Federal Reserve System and Stock Speculation
Apr. 14, 1928  The Federal Reserve System and Price Stabilization
Feb. 25, 1928  The Federal Reserve System and Brokers' Loans
Economic Crises
Unemployment and Employment Programs