Below are several graphs from various distinguished economists that I think make very apparent the value of FDR’s New Deal programs. But first, here’s a quick chronology to keep in mind:
Real Gross Domestic Product
Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman shows that US production grew as a result of New Deal programs. Note the brief downturn in 1937-38 when FDR tries to balance the budget.
This shows total employment over a longer period.
Economist Brad DeLong shows that private domestic investment increased under the New Deal. DeLong offers as further reading: Sumner H. Slichter (1938), “The Downturn of 1937,” Review of Economics and Statistics 20:3 (August), pp. 97-110.
EconoSpeak explains that Net Investment remained positive throughout the New Deal.
Notice how the graphs correspond to the time line. Obviously FDR’s New Deal did not make the Great Depression worse.
I’d just also add that the arguments for and against government spending derive from profound ideological tensions that run to the heart of our society. In modern times, this tension is perhaps best represented by John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman.