Monday, June 24, 2013

WPA Ditch-Digging

(WPA workers installing a water mainImage courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.) 

WPA workers were often insulted during the Great Depression. They were labeled "shovel-leaners," "lazy good-for-nothings," and "ditch-diggers." As unemployed men & women they were insulted, and when they took jobs in the WPA they were insulted. The insults--like the insults directed at the poor & unemployed today--never stopped. 

 (WPA workers opening the ground for new water linesImage courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

Of course, the people calling the WPA workers "ditch-diggers" failed to mention the fact that the ditches were filled with new water mains and sewer lines. And they enjoyed the luxury of clean water and modern sewage--that the WPA workers provided to them--while insulting those very same WPA workers.

  (WPA workers lowering a sewer line. Image courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)  

Across America, the WPA installed 16,117 miles of new water lines and 24,271 miles of new storm & sewer drains. The "ditch-diggers" modernized American infrastructure. And that infrastructure allowed businesses to expand and new communities to develop.  


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  2. Why did you write about these? In Oklahoma, we are now feeling with the deterioration of these ditches. City says they are not their responsibility even though through lack of upkeep they aid in downtown flooding. I am just beginning research of how to get these repaired. On another note, as a child they were great places to play. Thanks

    1. Yes, our infrastructure is falling apart. And with the federal government becoming uninterested in infrastructure improvement, the burden will fall on the middle-class and poor, in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates at the state & local level. It's already happened, and will continue to happen, as long as the wealthy control our policy-makers. They pay politicians (campaign contributions) to keep their taxes low, and you and I end up with a larger bill to pay.