Reform in the Spirit of Conservation
The creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Civil Works Administration revolutionized the U.S. federal government by redefining its roles in the lives of its citizens. Prior to the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelts resulting New Deal, the federal government had taken no responsibility in the employment or welfare of U.S. citizens. People were employed by privately owned businesses and the poor, if they received any help at all, were aided by private charities. Though the federal government had never been held accountable for providing for its citizens in such areas, the devastating effects of the Great Depression and millions experiencing financial ruin made it clear that roles were in need of reassignment.
The crash of the U.S. economy necessitated a change in the old system, since unemployment rose dramatically and poverty left many families starving and in the streets. Private businesses and charities alike ran out of money and ceased to operate, leaving young bread-winning men suddenly jobless, and launching the American public into a state of potentially volatile desperation. No one knew what to expect; it was obvious that something had to happen so that Americans could afford to feed and clothe their children, but the prospects looked bleak. Socialist and Communist philosophies gained more popularity than they ever had before, and many feared or expected a coup. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an attempt to salvage Americas capitalist democracy, promised to better the situation of U.S. citizens, and called his promise the New Deal. Although it was little more than a vague promise of experimentation, the American people greeted it with enthusiasm, as any effort towards change was welcome.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federally funded program instituted under the New Deal, created jobs for unemployed men. Approximately 2.5 million men were paid to maintain and restore forests, beaches, and parks. While the work the men in the CCC did was useful, the CCC was not created due to an urgent need to beautify parks and forests. The real purpose of the program was to provide jobs for those without. Never before had the U.S. Federal government provided jobs solely for the purpose of helping U.S. citizens, and in the long run, the U.S. economy, to get back on their and its respective feet. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was another federally funded public works program designed to employ men of working age in maintaining roads, airports, and parks.
Before the Depression Era, the federal government had never involved itself in issues of its peoples welfare, but it had never needed to do so. Roosevelts federally funded public works programs like the CCC and CWA improved Americas parks and roadways, but most importantly they gave despairing men paychecks and hope for the future.