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The New Deal and the ARRA

In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal sparked increasing interest in politics in general among the American people, as President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is doing today. A look at some of the New Deal programs and their corresponding ARRA-stated goals provides a clear picture of the similarities between the initiatives.

The Purposes section of the ARRA lists five goals. The first is to preserve and create jobs. Roosevelt sought to do the same with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). ARRA goal number two is to help those most affected by the recession, by providing health care, education, and energy reforms, as well as jobs. (Unfortunately, in order to pass the bill, billions of dollars related to such reforms were cut, to appease Republicans.)

The third stated purposed of the ARRA is to fund advancements in science and health care, with the goal of creating a more efficient economy. In a way, this can be compared to the New Deal's Social Security Act. Social Security's original goal was to give older workers incentive to retire and therefore open up jobs for younger workers. By improving access to health care and lowering costs, the ARRA seeks to give people an incentive to take care of their health. Healthy Americans means fewer dollars spent on health care and fewer hours lost on the job in the long run.

Goal number four of the ARRA is to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and infrastructure. Such investments also are intended to produce long-term financial savings. The New Deal sought the same goal with its Public Works, Civil Work, and Works Progress Administrations. As an added benefit, these money-saving, life-improving measures proposed in the ARRA also seek to create jobs for the unemployed.

Finally, goal five of the ARRA is to ensure that state and local government budgets are stable because, if they are not, essential public services will be threatened and additional taxes on citizens will be required. The New Deal sought to solve the same potential problems with the Federal Relief Act, which provided federal funds to states for use in helping the poor.

The Great Depression wasn't over by the end of Roosevelt's first term, but millions has gotten relief and millions had gotten jobs -- facts that certainly helped Roosevelt win re-election. The economy may not be back on track by the end of Obama's present term, but -- if the ARRA policies are carried out -- there will be many more long-term money-saving procedures in place: less expensive health care costs, more efficient methods of energy production, and cheaper and cleaner modes of transportation, to name just a few. If successful job creation also occurs, it will certainly be to Obama's benefit in 2012.

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