Reconstruction Finance Corporation

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The Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) was an independent agency of the United States government chartered during the administration of Herbert Hoover in 1932. It was modeled after the War Finance Corporation of World War I. The agency gave $2 billion in aid to state and local governments and made loans to banks, railroads, mortgage associations, and other businesses. The loans were nearly all repaid. It was continued by the New Deal and played a major role in handling the Great Depression in the United States and setting up the relief programs that were taken over by the New Deal in 1933.[1]


History 1932-1941

The Reconstruction Finance Corporation spent $1.5 billion in 1932, $1.8 billion in 1933, and $1.8 billion in 1934. Then it dropped to about $350 million a year. On the eve of World War II (August 31st, 1939) it greatly expanded to build munitions factories, disbursing $1.8 billion in 1941. The total from 1932 through 1941 was $9.465 billion.[1]

Hoover appointed Atlee Pomerene of Ohio to head the agency in July 1932. Hoover's reasons for his surprising reorganization of the RFC included: the broken health and resignations of Eugene Meyer, Paul Bestor, and Charles Gates Dawes; the failure of banks to perform their duties to their clientele or to aid American industry; the country's general lack of confidence in the current board; and Hoover's inability to find any other man who had the ability and was both nationally respected and available. (Shriver 1982)

The RFC was bogged down in bureaucracy and failed to disburse much of its funds. It failed to reverse the growth of mass unemployment before 1933. Butkiewicz (1995) shows that the RFC initially succeeded in reducing bank failures, but the publication of the names of the recipients of loans beginning in August 1932 (at the demand of Congress) significantly reduced the effectiveness of its loans to banks because it appeared that political considerations had motivated certain loans. Partisan politics thwarted the RFC's efforts, though in 1932 monetary conditions improved because the RFC slowed the decline in the money supply.

Starting in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt kept the agency, increased the funding, streamlined the bureaucracy, and used it to help restore business prosperity, especially in banking and railroads. He appointed Texas banker Jesse Jones as head, and Jones turned RFC into an empire with loans made in every state. (Olson 1988)

The RFC also had a division that gave the states loans for emergency relief needs. In a case study of Mississippi, Vogt (1985) examined two areas of RFC funding: aid to banking, which helped many Mississippi banks survive the economic crisis, and work relief, which Roosevelt used to pump money into the state's relief program by extending loans to businesses and local government projects. Although charges of political influence and racial discrimination were levied against RFC activities, the agency made positive contributions and established a federal agency in local communities which provided a reservoir of experienced personnel to implement expanding New Deal programs.

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