Friday, August 30, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: Discourage Science

(WPA poster promoting science, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

During the New Deal era, the federal government promoted science, research, and education in a number of ways. For example, WPA artists created promotional posters, unemployed Americans were hired to assist in various research efforts, and free science classes were offered. 

(WPA poster advertising free classes for adults, including science. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Today, unfortunately, the story is quite different. Thanks to federal budget cuts, scientists are spending more time writing grant applications but receiving less funding. Many are even contemplating moving overseas, where their research will be better appreciated (see "Nearly 20 percent of scientists contemplate moving overseas due in  part to sequestration").

(A building at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, built by the WPA during the 1930s. Decades of research at Patuxent Research Refuge have led to important discoveries such as the effect of stray lead shot on waterfowl and the effect of the pesticide DDT on bird eggs. It is not a stretch to say that New Deal funding helped facilitate the rescue of our national symbol, the Bald Eagle. Photo by Brent McKee.)    

Today, our federal political system has become so dysfunctional, and we've become so obsessed with coddling the super-rich (in the hopes that they will trickle their prosperity down upon us) that we're even cutting funding for cancer research. Meanwhile, banks are reporting record profits, the 1% are the only ones benefiting from increased economic productivity, and tax evasion & tax avoidance are running rampant. We've finally reached the point where the fortunes of the few are more important than life itself--even the lives of those fortunate few, who may benefit from cancer research themselves. What an amazing phenomenon to watch. 

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: Where selfishness, greed, and profit push aside knowledge, discovery, and national health.

(A WPA poster promoting cancer awareness, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Letting our forests burn to the ground, out of fear of the Bogeyman

(Image of the Yosemite / Rim Fire in California, August 23, 2013, from NASA's Terra satellite. The fire is even larger now. Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team.)

The "Rim Fire" in California has now burned over 300 square miles of forest & natural areas, and destroyed over 100 structures (see "Rim fire containment expected by Sept. 10"). The fire has "threatened water supplies, hydroelectric power and giant sequoias" and has caused areas of Nevada to issue alerts to stay indoors due to dangerous air quality (see "Yosemite fire haze sets off air quality warnings in Nevada"). 

During the New Deal, strong efforts were made towards fighting and, more importantly, preventing forest fires. In addition to directly fighting fires, formerly unemployed men, now working in the WPA & CCC, built thousands of miles of firebreaks, constructed access roads to remote areas, erected fire lookout towers, cleared out dry wood & vegetation, and more. A forester with the U.S. Forest Service, in 1942, noted: "Largely through the fire control improvements and facilities constructed by the CCC it has been possible for the state foresters in the southern region to provide fire control for millions of acres of privately owned timber lands that otherwise would have continued to suffer severe damage annually" (Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, by Perry H. Merrill, 1981).

("Here Comes the Bogeyman," a painting by Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)  

So, why don't we have a CCC today, to help fight these record-setting wildfires? Millions of young adults are looking for work. And why don't we have a WPA today? There are about 26 million Americans who would like a full-time job but can't find one (see 

Well, one reason is that Senate Republicans, in September of 2012, blocked a bill that would have created a new CCC-type program for unemployed veterans. Another reason is that few members of Congress supported the late Senator Frank Lautenberg's legislation to create a new WPA (the bill died in committee, see here). But the overarching reason, I believe, is that we're so scared of Bogeyman Socialism, that we've simply become too afraid to help ourselves. We'd rather allow massive damage to our environment, and the complete financial destruction of our unemployed fellow citizens, than work together to solve problems through government programs like a new CCC & WPA, because, you know, that would be "godless communism." Even with our existing fire prevention and firefighting programs, like the U.S. Forest Service, we've cut their budgets, and thereby made them less effective to handle evermore damaging wildfire seasons.

The Socialism Bogeyman, that evil spectre who is out to take our guns, deprive us of freedom, and devour our children, is actually doing a great job of frightening us into passivity and helplessness. So, as we're quivering under our beds at night, waiting for the Bogeyman to come get us, hundreds of square miles of our forests burn.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The WPA: 3,000 New Playgrounds

(Image courtesy of

Did you know that the WPA created 3,085 new playgrounds, and repaired or improved 9,688 existing playgrounds? 

According to KaBOOM, a national non-profit that works towards more play & playgrounds for children, outdoor activities help children stay physically fit, improves their social development, and "is a factor in improving attention, attitudes, creativity, imagination, memory, and so many other skills critical for learning."

Monday, August 26, 2013

The New Deal offered Americans an affordable way to enjoy music

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The WPA's Federal Music Project performed concerts all across America. The concerts gave lower-income groups an opportunity to enjoy music at an affordable price. For example, 25 cents in 1938 (the price shown on the poster above) would be about $4 today.

The concerts also gave unemployed musicians an opportunity to ply their trade. Like so many of the New Deal programs, it was a win-win situation. Additionally, some WPA orchestra's continued (in some manner or another) even after the WPA was closed down in 1943 (click here, and download "History" pdf for an example). 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What do wild pigs and wildfires have in common? Both could be handled more effectively with a new WPA and a new CCC.

Above: Millions of wild pigs are roaming the United States, causing all sorts of havoc. These pigs "devour crops, uproot pastures, destroy wildlife habitats, spread disease to humans and animals, kill trees and even knock over cemetery stones." Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Above: A news report on the fire threatening Yosemite National Park. The fire is causing problems for businesses near Yosemite that rely on vacation & tourism dollars. The fire has also caused California Governor Jerry Brown to declare a "state of emergency for San Francisco 150 miles away because of the threat to the city's utilities." Original link to video:

With respect to the wild pig problem, it has been noted that "Trapping and shooting are the primary means of eliminating wild pigs..." and "They are here to stay and its going to take a huge concerted effort to get the numbers under control" (see "U.S. Wild Pig Problem Irks State Officials").

Interestingly, the WPA and CCC engaged in various types of pest control and, right now, there are about 26 million Americans who wish they had a full-time job but can't find one (see

With respect to the Yosemite fire, part of the problem is that the fire is difficult to get to (see, e.g., here), and there is a lot of dry wood and vegetation to fuel the fire (see, e.g., here).

Interestingly, the WPA and CCC engaged in all manner of fire prevention and firefighting, including the construction of access roads, the removal of dead & dry vegetation, and the building of thousands of miles of firebreaks. And, right now, there are over 4 million Americans who the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as "long-term unemployed."   

What a shame we don't have a WPA and CCC today, to help us address these large numbers of wild pigs and wildfires. Our unemployed sit on the sidelines, losing hope, and our Congress twiddles its thumbs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Do you like to go fishing? Then you might want to thank the CCC and WPA

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

All across the country, the CCC and WPA built, repaired, or improved fish hatcheries. Then, these fish hatcheries were utilized by the CCC and WPA (and many are still utilized today) to stock fish in local waterways.

In Tennessee alone, the CCC boys stocked over 1.8 million fish. (Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, by Perry H. Merrill, 1981)

In South Carolina, the WPA and CCC worked together to build the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery (click here).

So, if you like to go fishing, you might want to thank the CCC and WPA. 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: Punish Workers, Punish Children, Punish Infants

During the New Deal there was an effort to help workers, children, and infants. Today, however, the story is quite different. For example, a large budget cut to the Head Start program is closing the door to 51,000 children and 6,000 infants (see "Head Start hit with worst cuts in its history"). Head Start is a 50-year-old federal program "that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development" (see here).

In addition to children and infants being kicked away, "The cuts include a shorter school year and shorter school days, as well as laying off or reducing the pay for more than 18,000 employees nationwide...(other cuts) eliminated medical and dental screenings and bus routes" (see here).

This type of cruelty isn't the only option. For example, here are some ways that the New Deal helped workers, children, and infants: 

Above: A WPA work project in Frederick County, Maryland, 1937. Through job programs like the CWA, WPA, NYA, and CCC, well over 10 million unemployed Americans were given job opportunities. We're still using many of the schools, bridges, airports, parks, etc., that these workers created.

Above: A WPA poster promoting the health benefits of breast feeding. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Above: A WPA poster promoting better & cleaner housing as a way reduce infant mortality. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Above: A WPA art class for children, in Baltimore, Maryland. The WPA hired unemployed teachers to instruct children in various courses. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Above: A WPA poster promoting child vaccination. The WPA offered health & dental clinics for children, administered vaccinations, and hired unemployed nurses & pharmacists to help low-income families. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  

Considering that income inequality in America is worse than any other developed country, and that the U.S. has lost over $3 trillion in revenue to illegal tax evasion since 2001, and that multi-national corporations are using tax havens to avoid taxes, and that taxes on the super-wealthy are historically low, why are we balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it?

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal, where our corporate-bought federal government punishes workers, children, and infants. Meanwhile, the top 1% keeps raking in the dough but only creates low-paying, short-lasting, stingy-benefit McJobs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WPA Town Halls & Community Buildings

Click on the images below to get a closer look at some impressive stonework. 

All across America, the WPA built town halls and community buildings, and they used local stone and building materials wherever possible (thus giving a boost to local businesses). Above we see a town hall and a community building in Williamsport, Maryland. (Photos by Brent McKee)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vacations, courtesy of the New Deal

(Photo by Brent McKee. Click on the picture to enlarge.)

In the photo above, taken in July of 2013, vacationers are enjoying the lake, beach, and concession building at Herrington Manor State Park in western Maryland, all made possible by the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (see The Civilian Conservation Corps: Roosevelt's Tree Army in Maryland). Visitors to the park can also stay in CCC-built cabins. 

For three-quarters of a century, Americans have enjoyed the thousands of parks created or improved by the CCC, the WPA, and other New Deal programs. Some people say that the New Deal didn't work. They should tell that to the millions of people who enjoy these areas every year. As vacationers roast marshmallows, hike through forests, and fish in these parks, New Deal Deniers should yell out to them, "Hey, it didn't work!"    

Monday, August 19, 2013

Half-a-Billion WPA Sewing Items

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

Did you know that WPA sewing room projects created over 500 million items, including clothes for adults, children, and infants? 

For the war effort, WPA workers made items like canteen covers and military blankets. It was a win, win, and win situation: Jobless Americans were given work, low-income Americans received some new clothes, and our soldiers were better supplied. 

Unfortunately, this type of problem-solving is impossible today, as our congressional "leaders" are too focused on bickering with each other, and too focused on soliciting corporate funding for their next election campaign, to worry about jobless and low-income Americans.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The New Deal vs. Prisons


(WPA image courtesy of the National Archives. Prison bars image courtesy of

In a recent op-ed, radio show host Thom Hartmann observes:

"FDR and the Democrats believed that the Republican’s benign indifference (to surplus labor) was the completely wrong approach. Instead, FDR said that it’s the responsibility of government to put people back to work during times of high unemployment. He enacted his New Deal. He put Americans back to work planting trees and forests, building schools, and improving the nation’s infrastructure. Twelve million Americans who’d been unemployed for years went back to work, and capitalism was rebooted in America."

(See "Corporate America's New Profit Center: Put as Many People in Jail as Possible")

Hartmann's op-ed highlights the fact that today, instead of a New Deal, we have the largest prison-industrial complex in human history, where profit-seeking entities utilize cheap labor. And private prison corporations, beholden to their shareholders, want more and more Americans behind bars. More prisoners means more profit. See, e.g., "CCA Letters Reveal Private Prison Industry's Tactics." The whole system is now fraught with perverse incentives. For another example, read how two judges received kickbacks for sending children to private facilities for petty offenses.

Is this what we want? A system that promotes more and more incarceration, so shareholders can make a nice profit? Or do we want a new New Deal, so that all Americans can live decent lives?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The New Deal taught trades and technical skills

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

(A National Youth Administration student learning how to operate machinery. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

In this age of high unemployment and low wages--an age where the American Dream has been decimated for so many millions of Americans--wouldn't it be nice to have another New Deal? Of course, our political "leaders" aren't about to create another New Deal. They have, however, built the largest prison-industrial complex in human history for us.   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thousands of wildfires burn California to the ground, as Congressional Republicans focus on taking food assistance away from low-income Americans

(Video of a wildfire in southern California. Original video link

As of August 10, 2013, California has fought 4,300 wildfires. The yearly average from 2008 through 2012 was 3,000. A spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection stated: "We have seen a significant increase in our fire activity and much earlier than normal. We're not even yet into the time period where we see the largest number of damaging fires."

(See "Calif. faces longer, tough wildfire season," Associated Press, August 10, 2013)

During the New Deal era, California had almost one hundred Civilian Conservation Corps camps, with thousands of previously-unemployed CCC men fighting fires, building firebreaks, and removing dead trees and vegetation (wildfire fuel).

Today, we have millions of unemployed young adults, and we have millions of Americans categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the long-term unemployed. But, unlike the New Deal era, we cannot effectively address the problems of joblessness and wildfires. Why? Because Congress is too busy trying to cut low-income families off food assistance programs to be bothered with our country burning to a crisp (see, e.g., here, here, and here).

Adding salt to the wound, Senate Republicans, in September of 2012, blocked a bill that would have created a CCC-type program for unemployed veterans. Also, the federal government, as a whole--through its hare-brained "sequester" scheme--has cut funding for wildfire prevention.

Americans are being ripped-off by a cheap, incompetent, corporate-bought government, that couldn't solve the problem of untied shoelaces, let alone record-setting wildfires.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The New Deal Promoted Workplace Safety

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)  

The New Deal was a momentous time in labor history. Numerous laws, policies, and programs promoted workplace safety.

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938 prohibited the employment of children in dangerous jobs (this was only one part of the legislation). The Wagner Act (1935) protected the rights of workers to unionize and bargain for, among other things, safer working conditions.

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

"There was an intensive safety program in the CCCs. We were taught how to carry and use tools safely in all phases of our work. The forester in charge of our safety program did an excellent job in making us safety conscious in the way we worked and lived. This safety training has never left me. This was over 45 years ago when most businesses had not recognized the value of safety programs."

--Manuel Gomez, CCC alumni, in the book Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, by Perry H. Merrill, 1981.  

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: A Culture of Insult

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

In the January 2012 edition of The Nation magazine, Dr. Frances Fox Piven wrote that, within America, there is a "culture of insult." She asserted that low-income people do not fight back against public policies that harm them, in part, because they have been humiliated into submission. This seems like an accurate observation. The unemployed, the homeless, the poor, and others are routinely categorized & labeled as "parasites," "lazy," and "worthless." So, if someone says, "Don't cut my food stamp benefits, I need all the help I can get," there will likely be an array of ice-cold responses, along the lines of "Get a job, you taker!!" (even though the person may already have a job, as many food stamp recipients do).

Dr. Piven also wrote: "The politics of the past forty years has deeply aggravated the insult of poverty."

This also seems very accurate, as (mainly) right-wing politicians & pundits have scolded the less-fortunate for decades now. Whether it's Mitt Romney's feeling that 47% of Americans do not want to practice personal responsibility, or Herman Cain's declaration that the unemployed should blame themselves, or Ben Stein's opinion that "The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities," there is a strong effort to cast the less-fortunate & unlucky as undeserving & worthless.

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The culture of insult is so strong in America that it can categorize whole sections of our country as sub-human or, perhaps, not human at all. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Ca) apparently exchanged messages with a fellow Twitter user, where the two fretted over social programs for "white trash." 

"White trash" and "trailer park trash" are, of course, insults directed at low-income whites, intended to marginalize them and cast them as less-than-human (trash, after all, is not human). Throughout history, different groups of people have been cast as subhuman and persecuted. The same is happening today, to groups like the unemployed, food stamp recipients, and low-wage workers. The goal, it appears, is to cast these Americans as not-quite-human, thereby justifying the reduction, or complete elimination of programs designed to help them.  

President Franklin Roosevelt declared: "We are going to make a country in which no one is left out" (The Roosevelt I Knew, Frances Perkins, 1946). And, indeed, the New Deal was designed to lift people up, not to humiliate them into submission.

Americans need to decide whether they want a new New Deal, i.e., "a country in which no one is left out," or a Reverse New Deal, i.e., a culture of insult and humiliation. Considering the right-wing rhetoric & insults coming out of our national politics and punditry (and the fact that these people are constantly re-elected and listened to), and considering the fact that workers are often called "communists" if they want a minimum-wage increase or "takers" if they're on a food assistance program, I fear that we've chosen the path of insult & humiliation--a Reverse New Deal. And that's a shame because...

....our children are watching us, listening to us, and learning from us.

Is it any wonder that youth bullying is a problem when many of our national leaders and opinion-makers are bullying their fellow citizens, calling them "parasites" and "trash"? 

(A bas relief, "Promote the General Welfare," created under a New Deal art program and showing Americans working together.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Boondoggles Were Always Somewhere Else

(Harry Hopkins, head of the WPA. Image courtesy of the Social Security Administration and the National Archives.)

Critics of job programs like the CWA and WPA often complained (whined) about the projects being too expensive, poorly done, or unneeded. Addressing these types of complaints, Harry Hopkins wrote:

"There is a curious thing about these operations which have been dotting the landscape of the United States for the past three years. Although they are attacked constantly in the newspapers, people who visit them report that workers, public officials and citizens alike exhibit strong pride in them. Derision is reserved for projects elsewhere that they have never seen."  

--From the book Spending to Save: The Complete Story of Relief, 1936. 

Indeed, New Deal work & construction projects have been vindicated by their continued usage over the past three quarters of a century. Visit the Living New Deal map to see thousands of New Deal creations that we are still utilizing and enjoying today. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WPA Theater

(WPA poster, promoting a WPA-Federal Theater production in California. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

The WPA's Federal Theater program gave unemployed actors and stagehands a chance to earn a living. In the process, more Americans were exposed to plays and theater, via low ticket prices. Like so many of the WPA programs, it was a win-win situation.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Bible, the Government, and Food Assistance

(A WPA poster, promoting a good diet. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.) 

The Food Stamp program (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or "SNAP") had its origins in the New Deal & the Great Depression, when people were unemployed, broke, & hungry, and charity couldn't handle the demand.

In May of 2013, there was a Bible debate in Congress about SNAP.

Representative Juan Vargas (D-Ca) highlighted the book of Matthew in support of SNAP, but Representative Mike Conaway (R-Tex) disputed the notion that government has a duty to help feed its citizens: "I read this chapter of Matthew 25 to speak to me as an individual. I don't read it to speak to the United States government. And so I would take a little bit of umbrage with you on that. Clearly, you and I are charged that we do those kinds of things but [our government is not] charged with that."

Representative Stephen Lee Fincher (R-Tenn), who has received massive government farm subsidies, echoed the individual-not-government argument: "Jesus made it very clear we have a duty and obligation as Christians and as citizens of this country to take care of each other...But I think a fundamental argument we're having today is what's the duty of the federal government. We're all here on this committee making decisions about other people's money."

Representative Doug LeMalfa (R-Ca) chimed in too: "That's all someone else's money. We should be doing this as individuals, helping the poor."

(The WPA served over 1.2 billion school lunches to children, and set many of the standards used in subsequent school lunch programs. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)  

A few points:

1. The U.S. government is supposed to be "We the People." As a famous Republican once said, American government is "of the people, by the people, for the people." Therefore, when the federal government creates a food assistance program, it is We the People helping We the People. It is individuals helping individuals, through the government that we created for ourselves.

2. Even the conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, understood the role of government in helping people: "I was never able to convince Tip (O'Neill) that I did not want to deprive the truly needy of the assistance the rest of us owed them; I just wanted to make government programs more efficient..." (from Reagan's autobiography, Ronald Reagan: An American Life, emphasis added).

3. The Founding Fathers stated that one of their reasons for writing the U.S. Constitution was to "promote the general welfare" (preamble). The Constitution also charges Congress with providing for the general welfare (Article 1, Section 8).

4. Food banks are already overwhelmed with demand, and will be further overwhelmed if the SNAP program is cut back. (See, e.g., here, here, and here).

(A WPA poster promoting the benefits of milk. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

New Deal policies attempted--quite successfully--to feed the hungry during the Great Depression. By way of surplus commodity programs, CCC camps, WPA school lunches, and more, Americans had food assistance through those destitute times. Today, this New Deal morality lives on in the SNAP program. But many of our political "leaders" want to drastically reduce, or eliminate it, even as food banks are overwhelmed. And, as usual, they often paint those in need as "lazy" and "worthless," bringing into question their desire to help them, even through charity.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

No New Deal, But Plenty of Suicides

(Public domain image, courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.Net.)

A recent, interesting article highlights how conservative governments and policies increase the frequency of suicide: "The Corporate Right-Wing Agenda is Driving Thousands of Americans to Attempt Suicide."

The Centers for Disease Control has recently reported a spike in suicides, and linked such spikes to financial stress (see, e.g., here). Interestingly, Republicans in Congress recently, and unanimously, voted against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, a raise that would have mitigated the financial stress that low-income workers face. A subsequent poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, showed that the great majority of Americans support a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour.

On the opposite end from austerity is government investment in its citizenry, for example, the New Deal. Oxford University researcher Dr. David Stuckler and Stanford University epidemiologist Dr. Sanjay Basu recently noted: "Comparing historical data across states, we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people" (see "How Austerity Kills," New York Times, May 12, 2013).

So, if we know that our fellow citizens are killing themselves more frequently, and there is a clear correlation between suicide, financial distress, and right-wing policies, why are we continuing down this path? Perhaps the reason is "stupidity," or perhaps the reason is much darker. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Minimum Wage: Another New Deal Protection for Americans

(Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor.)

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, ...tell you...that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry" (quote here). And with that sentiment, Roosevelt signed the minimum wage into law (part of broader legislation).

According to David Woolner, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, "The National Association of Manufacturers insisted that the law was but the first step in taking the country down the road to 'communism, bolshevism, fascism and Nazism'" (see here).

Of course, the hysteria proved to be nonsense. After World War II (with New Deal policies like the minimum wage firmly in place) the American middle-class and economy thrived.

(The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor was created in 1938 and, among other functions, handles minimum wage complaints. Image is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

According to a recent public opinion poll conducted by Hart Research Associates, "The vast majority of Americans support increasing the national minimum wage" to $10.10 per hour. But, in March 2013, House Republicans voted (unanimously) against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Indeed, it is well-known that many conservative politicians want to abolish or reduce the minimum wage (see here, here, and here).

(In 2012, Congressman Bill Young (R-FL) is asked why he won't support a minimum wage increase. His response is "get a job." After the questioner responds that he has a job, Young tells him to "get a job" again. Original YouTube link here.)    

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The WPA: Still Teaching Us Today

(A drawing of a Colugo, from the WPA book "Who's Who In the Zoo.") 

The WPA was very focused on education. The WPA taught art to children, offered a variety of free courses to adults, trained young men & women in the National Youth Administration, wrote a variety of books, and more.

The WPA book, "Who's Who In The Zoo," which enjoyed at least six printings through 1965, still has interesting information. For example, I learned about an animal that I had never heard of before: Flying Lemurs (also called Colugos, Cobegos, Taguans, and Kagwangs). Flying Lemurs are not actually lemurs, but apparently more closely related to bats. In any event, the WPA is still teaching us today. Just open one of their books and you're bound to learn something new.

(2-minute video of a Colugo, from a BBC documentary. Original YouTube link here.)