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January 3, 1936 – Opening day of the 74th Congress. The long, sometimes laborious ritual, but significant as it marked one of the first times a broadcast, live from Capitol Hill and from Congress took place. This was one of the promises of the new technology Radio was offering – to educate and inform. Radio was still relatively new and it’s increasing ability to go places and do things was really in its infancy. So as much as we take something like this for granted and rarely ever see, except for C-Span, this was a very big deal in 1936.
So what was the 74th Congress all about? Much important New Deal legislation was enacted during this tenure; among them the Social Security Act, an old-age program funded by payroll taxes. Over the ensuing decades, Social Security program contributed to a dramatic decline in poverty among the elderly, while spending on Social Security became a major part of the federal budget. The Social Security Act also established an unemployment insurance program administered by the states, as well as the Aid to Dependent Children program, which provided aid to families headed by single mothers. The law was later amended by acts such as the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which established two major healthcare programs, Medicare and Medicaid.
The Banking Act of 1935 made the FDIC ( Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) permanent, and included the following provisions:
1. All accounts would be insured up to $5,000. At this time 98.5% of all deposits were under the $5,000 limit. This was a dramatic change from the initial guidelines under the 1933 act.
2. All banks who were insured under the initial creation of the FDIC are still insured under the new permanent program. All Federal Reserve member banks are required to participate in the FDIC. Smaller state banks, national banks who were not members of the Federal Reserve System, savings and loan institutions and other similar organizations had differing requirements for participation.
3. All banks who participated in the FDIC were able to advertise and place signage in their business stating that the deposits (up to $5,000) were insured by the FDIC. These signs are still displayed at local banks.
The National Labor Relations Act – (also known as the Wagner Act) is a foundational statute of United States labor law which guarantees the right of private sector employees to organize into trade unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take collective action such as strikes. The act was written by Senator Robert F. Wagner, passed and signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The National Labor Relations Act seeks to correct the “inequality of bargaining power” between employers and employees by promoting collective bargaining between trade unions and employers. The law established the National Labor Relations Board to prosecute violations of labor law and to oversee the process by which employees decide whether to be represented by a labor organization. It also established various rules concerning collective bargaining and defined a series of banned unfair labor practices, including interference with the formation or organization of labor unions by employers. The act does not apply to certain workers, including supervisors, agricultural employees, domestic workers, government employees, and independent contractors.
And much more was accomplished during this session – to get an idea of what America was listening to in 1936 – here is a one hour excerpt from that Opening Day of the 74th Congress as it was broadcast on January 3, 1936.