Monday, October 28, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: A perpetual failure to connect the dots

(A bridge built by WPA workers in Allegany County, Maryland, 1937. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's bridges a letter grade of C+, reporting that "one in nine of the nation's bridges are rated as structurally deficient...

Currently, over 25 million Americans would like a full-time job but can't find one (, and about 6 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in school and not working (see "Idle youth: 15 percent of US young people out of school, work").

Why can't we offer job opportunities to the unemployed, to help repair & modernize our nation's infrastructure?

It seems that no amount of dysfunction is enough to motivate our political "leaders" to connect the dots. Indeed, the "Reverse New Deal"--the era that we are living in now--is an age of economic dysfunction, political bickering, social apathy, and plutocracy facilitated by campaign contributions and big-business lobbying.

It wasn't this way during the New Deal. For example, the WPA provided jobs to millions of unemployed Americans between 1935 and 1943. These workers engaged in hundreds of thousands of infrastructure projects, including 78,000 new bridges and viaducts (and thousands more repaired or improved). These bridges lasted for decades and we are still using many of them today. This fact probably prompted Ronald Reagan to write in his autobiography, "The WPA was one of the most productive elements of FDR's alphabet soup of agencies because it put people to work building roads, bridges, and other gave men and women a chance to make some money along with the satisfaction of knowing they earned it."     

(WPA workers painting and re-decking Nobles Mill Bridge in Harford County, Maryland, 1935. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

 (Nobles Mill Bridge today. Still in use, thanks in part to the WPA. Photo by Brent McKee.) 

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