During the Great Depression (as opposed to the Bush-Cheney Depression of today) President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw almost 25% of the labor force in this country were unemployed, and he created a major federal jobs program to help those people. Of course we have nothing like that today.
Unemployment today is considered a personal and private issue, somewhat shameful, something that the individual must solve on their own, as if their circumstances were the result of their own short-comings rather than being the institutional result of corporate theft and looting in our country.
FDR knew that America's working men and women did not cause the depression, and he resolved to use the resources of the nation to help those people.
To help American working people, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the WPA. The WPA put Americans back to work. They were put to work building public structures, repairing and restoring roads and bridges and tunnels, buildings, creating art, creating theater and music. Anybody who needed a job qualified for the program. There also was an education, training and retraining process to help Americans get the new skills to qualify for new jobs being created in manufacturing.
The WPA added much to our infrastructure and our country. It saved the lives of many Americans. It created a strong sense of community for those who participated and those who received the benefits of having a WPA project come to their communities. It's a shame that our government does not have the decency to help today's unemployed Americans by creating a real jobs program like that of the WPA.
Among the lasting effects of the WPA are the art and murals painted by artists employed by the WPA. These are found in buildings around the country, and are treasures in their communities.
Congress passed Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA program 75 years ago today. The WPA created 8.5 million jobs for Americans. It helped to eliminate the deadly poverty that had taken over so many communities, and created a sense of real hope for the people of this nation. The main projects of the WPA were the repair, renovation, and construction of infrastructure which would remain a part of the community, for the public use and benefit, for decades to come.
The WPA built thousands of buildings in communities around the country, including libraries, public hospitals, other public buildings, zoos, local markets, schools, airports, tennis courts, dams, and golf courses.
(Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, S.C., built in the 1850s but renovated by the WPA).
(WPA project, building a library in New Orleans)
Parks were built around the country to improve the lives of the citizens and give them an outdoors area for recreation. The program also paid artists of all types to go around the country and create art and murals, to have theatre and other performances for the citizens, and to raise the spirits of the people while providing employment to creative Americans. There was also a literacy program which provided work for teachers and helped Americans learn to read and write.
There was also an element of the WPA that provided direct aid to the poor by distributing food and clothing, and arranging for housing for the homeless.
The wages paid by the WPA were based on the prevailing wages in the area where the project was being built. Each WPA project included a training component to help the workers developed new skills, or improve the ones they already had.
This is exactly the kind of Jobs bill we should have in this country today. Instead of squandering our money on wars of aggression fought to help U.S. corporations steal resources from poor countries, we should end those wars, bring our troops home, and use our money to rebuild our country and our economy, to provide jobs to all unemployed or underemployed Americans, to provide education, and to provide training or re-training for those who need it.
It's so obvious what we should do, invest in our own country, help our own people, rebuild our economy. Instead, our politicians continue waging wars, while our country is left to rot. Let's put our own people back to work. Let's wage peace and create community.
(Note: the program was originally called the Work Progress Administration, but was renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration).