Alphabet Soup Agencies
Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal platform created an incredible number of different federal agencies to carry out new policies and regulations. Almost all of these agencies had an acronym like the CCC, TVA, or HOLC. Therefore, these collectively came to be known as FDR's “Alphabet Soup Agencies” or just “Alphabet Agencies.”
Here are some of the more well-known New Deal Alphabet Agencies:
Civil Conservation Corps (CCC): The CCC was established on April 5, 1933, as a way to alleviate the rising unemployment numbers in the US while also promoting environmental goals. Unemployed, unmarried male citizens from ages 18 to 25 were offered employment on environmental projects, such as fighting forest fires and planting trees. The CCC was considered to be successful -- employing 3 million men over the lifetime of the program.
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA): The TVA was signed into law on May 18, 1933. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson had built a hydroelectric dam, called the Wilson Dam, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which was a small town south of the Tennessee River. The dam was never finished. The TVA was created to finish the project and also enhance the development of irrigation and energy production in the area. Today, the TVA continues to provide electricity to 10 million people in the southeastern region of the US.
Works Progress Administration (WPA): The WPA was created by FDR’s executive order on May 6, 1935, during a time when the unemployment rate had reached 20%. The WPA provided building and infrastructure jobs to unemployed and unskilled men. The program was successful in massively expanding the infrastructure in the US. For instance, by the time the program ended in 1943, the administration had overseen the building of 130 new hospitals, more than 4,000 schools, and 29,000 bridges.
Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA): The AAA was signed in May of 1933 in direct response to the overproduction of agricultural goods. The Act subsidized farmers who cut their production of goods, which alleviated the agricultural surplus and led to higher prices. This provided relief for farmers, many of whom were also suffering from the effects of the Dust Bowl.
Social Security Administration (SSA): FDR signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935. FDR’s conception of social security had been inspired by European models, in which people paid for their own future economic security by contributing a portion of their income. The Act provided economic assistance to retirees, who were especially vulnerable during the Great Depression. In addition to assistance for older people, the Act also created a pension program, unemployment insurance, health insurance, and economic assistance for widows with children and disabled individuals. Though amended countless times, the SSA continues to provide benefits for people today.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC): The FDIC was established by the Banking Act of 1933, which regulated both investment and commercial banks. When the stock market crashed in 1929, people panicked and began pulling their money from banks. Because many banks had invested money in the stock market, many banks ran out of money and became bankrupt. In addition to providing oversight for banks, the FDIC basically insured deposits in commercial banks. Initially, the FDIC insured deposits of up to $2,500, and today, it insures up to $250,000 per person. The FDIC is considered very successful in increasing people’s confidence about their deposits in banks.
Home Owners Loan Corp (HOLC): In 1933, Congress passed the Homeowners Loan Act, which created the HOLC, which transformed the way mortgages worked. The main goal of the agency was to refinance home mortgages that were in default (meaning when a loan is not being paid back) or at risk of foreclosure (meaning when a bank sells the mortgaged property to recover the loan amount). Before the HOLC, mortgage loans had terms that were only 5 to 10 years, meaning the homeowner had to come up with a lot of money in a short period of time. The HOLC offered refinancing for these strict loans and in turn, offered up to 25 years for repayment. These changes, among many others, contributed to the rise in homeownership by the mid-1990s.