The Fair Deal was the term given to an ambitious set of proposals put forward by United States President Harry S. Truman to the United States Congress in his January 1949 State of the Union address. The term, however, has also been used to describe the domestic reform agenda of the Truman Administration,[1] which governed the United States from 1945 to 1953. It marked a new stage in the history of Modern liberalism in the United States, but with the Conservative Coalition dominant in Congress, very little became law.


A liberal Democrat of the urban Midwest, Truman was determined to both continue the legacy of the New Deal and make his own mark.[2]

Hamby argues that the Fair Deal reflected the "vital center" approach to liberalism which rejected totalitarianism, was suspicious of excessive concentrations of government power, and honored the New Deal as an effort to achieve a progressive capitalist system. Solidly based upon the New Deal tradition in its advocacy of wide-ranging social legislation, the Fair Deal differed enough to claim a separate identity. The depression did not return after the war and the Fair Deal had to content with prosperity and an optimistic future. The Fair Dealers thought in terms of abundance rather than depression scarcity. Economist Leon Keyserling argued that the liberal task was to spread the benefits of abundance throughout society by stimulating economic growth. Agriculture Secretary Charles F. Brannan wanted to unleash the benefits of agricultural abundance and to encourage the development of an urban-rural Democratic coalition. However the Brannan Plan was defeated by strong conservative opposition in Congress and by his unrealistic confidence in the possibility uniting urban labor and farm owners who distrusted rural insurgency. The Korean War made military spending the nation's priority and killed almost the whole Fair Deal but did encourage the pursuit of economic growth.[3]

21 points

In September 1945, Truman addressed Congress and presented a 21 point program of domestic legislation outlining a series of proposed actions in the fields of economic development and social welfare.[4] The measures that Truman proposed to Congress included:

  1. Major improvements in the coverage and adequacy of the unemployment compensation system.[5].
  2. Substantial increases in the minimum wage, together with broader coverage.[5]
  3. The maintenance and extension of price controls to keep down the cost of living in the transition to a peacetime economy.[5]
  4. A pragmatic approach towards drafting legislation eliminating wartime agencies and wartime controls, taking legal difficulties into account.[5]
  5. Legislation to ensure full employment.[5]
  6. Legislation to make the Fair Employment Practice Committee permanent.[5]
  7. The maintenance of sound industrial relations.[5]
  8. The extension of the United States Employment Service to provide jobs for demobilized military personnel.[5]
  9. Increased aid to farmers.[5]
  10. The removal of the restrictions on eligibility for voluntary enlistment and allowing the armed forces to enlist a greater number of volunteers.[5]
  11. The enactment of broad and comprehensive housing legislation.[5]
  12. The establishment of a single Federal research agency.[5]
  13. A major revision of the taxation system.[5]
  14. The encouragement of surplus-property disposal.[5]
  15. Greater levels of assistance to small businesses.[5]
  16. Improvements in federal aid to war veterans.[5]
  17. A major expansion of public works, conserving and building up natural resources.[5]
  18. The encouragement of post-war reconstruction and settling the obligations of the Lend-Lease Act.[5]
  19. The introduction of a decent pay scale for all Federal Government employees--executive, legislative, and judicial.[5]
  20. The promotion of the sale of ships to remove the uncertainty regarding the disposal of America’s large surplus tonnage following the end of hostilities.[5]
  21. Legislation to bring about the acquisition and retention of stock piles of materials necessary for meeting the defense needs of the nation.[5]

Many of these proposed reforms, however, were never realized due the opposition of the conservative majority in Congress. Despite these setbacks, Truman's proposals to Congress became more and more abundant over the course of his presidency, and by 1948 a legislative program that was more comprehensive came to be known as the Fair Deal.[6] In his 1949 State of the Union address to Congress on January 5, 1949, Truman stated that "Every segment of our population, and every individual, has a right to expect from his government a fair deal." Amongst the proposed measures included federal aid to education,[7] a large tax cut for low-income earners,[8] the abolition of poll taxes, an anti-lynching law, a permanent FEPC, a farm aid program, increased public housing, an immigration bill, new TVA-style public works projects, the establishment of a new Department of Welfare, the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, an increase in the minimum wage from 40 to 75 cents an hour, national health insurance, expanded Social Security coverage, and a $4 billion tax increase to reduce the national debt and finance these programs.[9]

Despite a mixed record of legislative success, the Fair Deal remains significant in establishing the call for universal health care as a rallying cry for the Democratic Party. Lyndon B. Johnson credited Truman's unfulfilled program as influencing Great Society measures such as Medicare that Johnson successfully enacted during the 1960s.[10] The Fair Deal faced much opposition from the many conservative politicians who wanted a reduced role of the federal government. The series of domestic reforms was a major push to transform the United States from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy.[11] In a context of postwar reconstruction and entering the era of the Cold war, the Fair Deal sought to preserve and extend the liberal tradition of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.[4] During this post-WWII time, people were growing more conservative as they were ready to enjoy the prosperity not seen since before The Great Depression.[12] The Fair Deal faced opposition by a coalition of conservative Republicans and predominantly southern conservative Democrats. However, despite strong opposition, there were elements of Truman’s agenda that did win congressional approval.[13]

Although Truman was unable to implement the entirety of his Fair Deal reform program, a great deal of social and economic progress took place under his administration. A Census report confirmed that gains in housing, education, living standards, and income under the Truman administration were unparalleled in American history. By 1953, 62 million Americans had jobs, a gain of 11 million in seven years, while unemployment had all but vanished. Farm income, dividends, and corporate income were at all-time highs, and there had not been a failure of an insured bank in nearly nine years. The minimum wage had also been increased while Social Security benefits had been doubled, and 8 million veterans had attended college by the end of the Truman administration as a result of the G.I. Bill,[14] which subsidized the businesses, training, education, and housing of millions of returning veterans.[15]

Millions of homes had been constructed through government financing, and progress had been made in slum clearance.[16] Poverty was also significantly reduced, with one estimate suggesting that the percentage of Americans living in poverty had fallen from 33% of the population in 1949 to 28% by 1952.[17] Incomes had risen faster than prices, which meant that real living standards were considerably higher than seven years earlier. Progress had also been made in civil rights, with the desegregation of both the federal civil Service and the armed forces and the creation of the Commission on Civil Rights. In fact, according to one historian, Truman had “done more than any President since Lincoln to awaken American conscience to the issues of civil rights".[14]

Legislation and programs

Note: This listing contains reforms drawn up by the Truman Administration together with reforms drawn up by individual Congressmen. The latter have been included because it is arguable that the progressive nature of these reforms (such as the Water Pollution Law, which was partly a Republican initiative[18]) was compatible with the liberalism of the Fair Deal.

Civil Rights Movement

As Senator, Truman had not supported the nascent Civil Rights Movement. As President, he did put forward many civil rights programs but most were met with a lot of resistance by conservative southern Democrats. Most proposals were ultimately blocked.[13] However, he successfully integrated the armed forces, denied government contracts to firms with racially discriminatory practices and named African Americans to federal posts.[13] In a 1947 speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which marked the first time a sitting President had ever addressed the group, Truman said "Every man should have the right to a decent home, the right to an education, the right to adequate medical care, the right to a worthwhile job, the right to an equal share in the making of public decisions through the ballot, and the right to a fair trial in a fair court."[19]








Federal power projects

See also


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  1. ^
  2. ^ Mark S. Byrnes, The Truman Years 1945-1953
  3. ^ Alonzo L. Hamby, "The Vital Center, the Fair Deal, and the Quest for a Liberal Political Economy," American Historical Review, June 1972, Vol. 77 Issue 3, pp 653-78 online at JSTOR
  4. ^ a b Hamby, Alonzo L. Harry S. Truman and the Fair Deal, page vii. D.C Heath and company, Lexington, Mass. 1974
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u
  6. ^ Hamby, Alonzo L. Harry S. Truman and the Fair Deal, page 15. D.C Heath and company, Lexington, Mass. 1974
  7. ^
  8. ^ Truman to Carter: A post-War History of the United States of America by Peter J. Mooney and Colin Brown
  9. ^ The Truman Years 1945-1953 by Mark S. Byrnes
  10. ^ Hamby 1995
  11. ^ “The Fair Deal.” United States History. 30 Mar. 2008 <>.
  12. ^ De Luna, Phyllis Komarek. Public Versus Private Power During the Truman Administration : a Study of Fair Deal Liberalism. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. 35-36.
  13. ^ a b c Boyer, Paul S. Promises to Keep: The United States since World war II, page 78. Second ed. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999
  14. ^ a b Truman by David McCullough
  15. ^ The Truman Years 1945-1953 by Mark S. Byrnes
  16. ^ ibid
  17. ^ The Welfare State Reader, edited by Christopher Pierson and Francis G. Castles
  18. ^ The presidency, Congress, and divided government: a postwar assessment by Richard Steven Conley
  19. ^ President Truman (1947). President Truman's Address to the NAACP, June 28, 1947. ((cite conference)): Unknown parameter |book title= ignored (help)
  20. ^ a b c d e
  21. ^ Healthcare reform in America: a reference handbook by Jennie J. Kronenfeld and Michael R. Kronenfeld
  22. ^
  23. ^ The food safety information handbook by Cynthia A. Roberts
  24. ^ The U.S. healthcare certificate of need sourcebook by Robert James Cimasi
  25. ^ The new public health: an introduction for the 21st century by Theodore H. Tulchinsky and Elena Varavikova
  26. ^ The changing federal role in U.S. health care policy by Jennie J. Kronenfeld
  27. ^ a b c d
  28. ^ The changing federal role in U.S. health care policy by Jennie J. Kronenfeld
  29. ^ Government and public health in America by Ronald Hamowy
  30. ^ Government and public health in America by Ronald Hamowy
  31. ^ a b c d e
  32. ^ A new deal for social security By Peter J. Ferrara and Michael Tanner
  33. ^ a b c d
  34. ^
  35. ^ Statistical handbook on the social safety net by Fernando Francisco Padró
  36. ^ a b America's wealth: the economic history of an open society by Peter d'Alroy Jones
  37. ^ ibid
  38. ^
  39. ^ ibid
  40. ^ ibid
  41. ^ ibid
  42. ^ ibid
  43. ^ ibid
  44. ^ ibid
  45. ^ ibid
  46. ^ ibid
  47. ^ ibid
  48. ^ Blame welfare, ignore poverty and inequality by Joel F. Handler and Yeheskel Hasenfeld
  49. ^ Boyer, Paul S. Promises to Keep: The United States since World war II, page 79. Second ed. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999
  50. ^ Beyond the liberal consensus: a political history of the United States since 1965 by Iwan W. Morgan
  51. ^ The Truman Years 1945-1953 by Mark S. Byrnes
  52. ^ ibid
  53. ^ ibid
  54. ^ ibid
  55. ^ ibid
  56. ^ From Prairie Farmer to Entrepreneur: The Transformation of Midwestern Agriculture by Dennis Sven Nordin and Roy Vernon Scott
  57. ^ Education and learning in America by Catherine Reef
  58. ^ Funding the Modern American State, 1941-1995: The Rise and Fall of the Era of Easy Finance by W. Elliot Brownlee
  59. ^ Robert Ball and the Politics of Social Security by Edward D. Berkowitz
  60. ^
  61. ^ The New International Year Book by Frank Moore Colby, Allen Leon Churchill, Herbert Treadwell Wade, 1947
  62. ^
  63. ^ Boosting paychecks: the politics of supporting America's working poor by Daniel P. Gitterman
  64. ^ a b
  65. ^
  66. ^ Harry S. Truman: A Life by Robert H. Ferrell
  67. ^
  68. ^ Depression to Cold War: A History of America from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan by Joseph M. Siracusa, David G. Coleman
  69. ^ Citizenship and participation in the information age by Manjunath Pendakur and Roma M. Harris
  70. ^
  71. ^ Encyclopaedia of the American presidency by Michael A. Genovese
  72. ^ Digest of Education Statistics, 2008 by Thomas D. Snyder, Sally A. Dillow
  73. ^ Children and Youth in America: A Documentary History, Volume III, 1933-1973, Parts 5-7, edited by Robert H. Bremner
  74. ^ Yerkes Observatory, 1892-1950: the birth, near death, and resurrection of a scientific research institution by Donald E. Osterbrock
  75. ^ Encyclopaedia of the American presidency by Michael A. Genovese
  76. ^ Promises Kept: John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier by Irving Bernstein
  77. ^ When federalism works by Paul E. Peterson, Barry George Rabe, and Kenneth K. Wong
  78. ^ Universal Healthcare By Victoria Sherrow
  79. ^ Selling the Lower East Side: culture, real estate, and resistance in New York City by Christopher Mele
  80. ^
  81. ^ A more perfect union: advancing new American rights by Jesse Jackson and Frank E. Watkins
  82. ^ America: A Narrative History by George Brian Tindall and David Emory Shi
  83. ^ American city planning since 1890 by Mel Scott
  84. ^ Dictionary of American history by Michael Rheta Martin, Leonard Gelber, and Leo Lieberman
  85. ^ American city planning since 1890 by Mel Scott
  86. ^ a b c d America in the twentieth century: a study of the United States since 1917 by David Keith Adams
  87. ^ The Truman Years 1945-1953 by Mark S. Byrnes
  88. ^ Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960 by Gary A. Donaldson
  89. ^ Housing and society by Glenn H. Beyer
  90. ^ ibid
  91. ^ ibid
  92. ^ The Truman Years 1945-1953 by Mark S. Byrnes
  93. ^ Control And Sensing Of Environmental Quality edited by R. Swarup, S. N. Mishra, and V. P. Jauhari
  94. ^ From Prairie Farmer to Entrepreneur: The Transformation of Midwestern Agriculture by Dennis Sven Nordin and Roy Vernon Scott
  95. ^
  96. ^ The economics of crop insurance and disaster aid by Barry K. Goodwin and Vincent H. Smith
  97. ^
  98. ^ A Brief History of the United States since 1945 by Robert D. Marcus
  99. ^ A dictionary of American history by Thomas L. Purvis
  100. ^ ibid
  101. ^ Depression to Cold War: A History of America from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan by Joseph M. Siracusa, David G. Coleman
  102. ^ The Truman Years 1945-1953 by Mark S. Byrnes
  103. ^ Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960 by Gary A. Donaldson

Further reading