Universal Employment for America

Will President Obama’s second term present him with the opportunity to finally act with a boldness that has heretofore been absent from his current administration?

As a second dip in the Great Recession becomes a very real possibility (Europe is already headed down, they’ll likely drag us down with them), will President Obama take the bold step to employ the unemployed and put them to work the way FDR did?  Will he propose a new WPA?

Remember that old GOP lie that the government doesn’t create wealth?  Yeah, it’s a lie.  The government doesn’t create private wealth for individuals, but it creates massive public wealth for our nation.  The WPA is responsible for much of what we see today as public wealth.  Employing the unemployed, the WPA

shouldered the tasks that began to transform the physical face of America. They built roads and schools and bridges and dams. The Cow Palace in San Francisco, La Guardia Airport in New York City and National (now Reagan) Airport in Washington, D.C., the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, the Outer Drive Bridge on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, the River Walk in San Antonio….Its workers sewed clothes and stuffed mattresses and repaired toys; served hot lunches to schoolchildren; ministered to the sick; delivered library books to remote hamlets by horseback; rescued flood victims; painted giant murals on the walls of hospitals, high schools, courthouses, and city halls; performed plays and played music before eager audiences; and wrote guides to the forty-eight states that even today remain models for what such books should be. And when the clouds of an oncoming world loomed over the United States, it was the WPA’s workers who modernized the army and air bases and trained in vast numbers to supply the nation’s military needs.  (Taylor, N. 2008. American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work. Tantor Media p. 2)

The New Deal jobs programs employed 13 million people; the WPA was the biggest program, employing 8.5 million, lasting 8 years and spending about $10.5 billion. (Taylor p. 3) It took a broken country and in many important respects helped to not only revive it, but to bring it into the 20th century. The WPA built 650,000 miles of roads, 78,000 bridges, 125,000 civilian and military buildings, 700 miles of airport runways; it fed 900 million hot lunches to kids, operated 1500 nursery schools, gave concerts before audiences of 150 million, and created 475,000 works of art. It transformed and modernized America. (Taylor 2008 pp. 523-524)

It’s time for a new universal jobs program that will take the millions of unemployed men and women and put them to work building a new America.  Steel, concrete, wood, copper and other resources can be saved for a time when the economy gets better, but labor cannot.  Every hour lost is an hour that can never be recovered.  We are wasting billions of dollars not employing these men and women productively.



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