Social Security Enacted

The threat of old-age unemployment and dependency, long a subject of public discussion, led to passage of the Social Security Act of 1935, assuring modest retirement allowances at the age of 65 to many kinds of workers. An insurance fund for this purpose was built up by contributions from workers and employers. The states, with funds provided by a compulsory federal payroll tax, were to administer unemployment compensation for active workers of all ages. By 1938, every state had some form of unemployment insurance.

Recurrent droughts in the 1930s led to the enactment of an Omnibus Flood Control Bill, which provided for a series of large reservoirs and power dams and thousands of smaller dams. To combat soil erosion, particularly on the plains of the midwest resulting from misuse of the nation's abundant natural resources, a gigantic program of soil conservation was undertaken, including the planting of trees. Other important work involved the elimination of stream pollution; the creation of fish, game, and bird sanctuaries; the conservation of coal, petroleum, shale, gas, sodium, and helium deposits; the closure of certain grazing lands to homestead entries; and a vast increase in national forests.

Of all these undertakings, the one of greatest future importance was perhaps the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which became a comprehensive laboratory for social and economic experimentation. In addition to major dams in three states along the Tennessee River, a number of tributary dams were constructed. These were used not only for improving navigation, flood control, and nitrate production, but also for generating electric power. The government constructed some 8,000 kilometers of transmission lines and sold power to nearby communities at rates sufficiently low to permit widespread consumption. Rural electrification was financed by a TVA subsidiary. The TVA also withdrew marginal lands from cultivation, helped farmers find new farmland, conducted agricultural experiments, particularly in the use of phosphate fertilizer, and promoted public health and recreational facilities.