Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Nation in Need of Some New Deal Vitamins!

“Overall, New Deal programs not only helped avert further economic disaster but also were statistically correlated to large and lasting public health improvements.”

--Dr. David Stuckler and Dr. Sanjay Basu, from the book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

(The WPA operated & assisted clinics that offered immunizations to children, and WPA artists created posters promoting immunizations. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

The economic recession (which never ended for people of limited means), the recent federal budget cuts, and the current Republican and Tea Party-fueled government shut down, are wreaking havoc on the physical and mental health of Americans.

Our nation is losing hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue, every year, due to corporate tax avoidance, illegal tax evasion, and historically low tax rates on the super-wealthy. And while this is happening, our federal government is focused on cutting the budget for food assistance, cutting the budget for cancer research, cutting the budget for flu shots, and cutting just about anything else that will help middle and low-income Americans…because, you know, we can’t afford it.

Have we lost our minds?

 (Instead of forcing a government shut down, because of a distaste for a new health care law that helps low-income families and children--as Republicans and Tea Partiers did a few days ago--New Dealers created programs that improved the health of low-income Americans. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Every year about 35,000 Americans kill themselves, and the Centers for Disease Control has informed us that increased rates of suicide, historically, have correlated with periods of financial and economic stress. Yet, our political “leaders” don’t appear overly concerned about it. If it’s not happening in the Middle East, it seems, then “swift and immediate action” is not required.  90-100 suicides per day, just doesn’t faze our political “leaders.” And Tea Party politicians, especially, are way too busy on their heroic mission to bar low-income Americans from food assistance and affordable health care, to be bothered with 35,000 suicides.

Folks, does this sound like a healthy culture to you?

Of course not, and it doesn’t have to be this way. We need only look at the dynamic and compassionate programs of the New Deal to see a better path.

During the New Deal, unemployed nurses were given jobs, through the WPA, to provide health care to low-income Americans. Artists in the WPA created posters that promoted various health and safety programs. The Public Works Administration funded new hospitals. The Civilian Conservation Corps gave work, food, and doctor visits to jobless and hungry young men. Health clinics, mobile health services, research studies, house keeping for the ill, dental examinations for children. All this and more the New Deal offered.

(The current government shut down is harming children with cancer. The New Deal had a different approach to cancer: Compassion and a helping hand for the victims. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)   

With respect to public health, and other issues, New Dealers did not twiddle their thumbs, or pray to a Free Market Fairy Godmother, or hide under their beds in deathly fear of the Socialism Bogeyman. They pushed aside hysteria, and acted boldly for a country in dire need of help.

And it worked.

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