Friday, January 3, 2014

A new Civilian Conservation Corps would save lives

(CCC boys splitting wood in California, 1933. Image courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.) 

A recent report from the United Kingdom highlights the effect of joblessness on young adults, for example, suicidal thoughts and feelings of despair & worthlessness.  

Here in the states, the Centers for Disease Control has shown that the rate of suicide increases during periods of economic and financial stress. And in December of 2012, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that "Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither in school nor in the workforce, veering toward chronic underemployment as adults..."

And yet, as a nation, we don't seem too concerned. We keep voting in political "leaders" who don't seem to mind unemployment and don't seem to mind that we have the largest prison-industrial complex in the world. Maybe this is because Corporate America profits from unemployment (excess labor = suppressed wages = higher bonuses for CEOs & larger investment returns), and also profits from increased incarceration (many Americans are seeing nice returns by investing in private prisons, thereby fueling the desire for more incarceration). And when legislation was formulated to create a new CCC-type program for unemployed veterans, Senate Republicans blocked it. I'm sure they thought, "Um, how would this benefit the rich??"

(CCC boys in California, 1933. The CCC developed the bodies, minds, and confidence of young men, through work, education, and recreation. When we tried to do something similar for unemployed veterans in 2012, Senate Republicans prevented it. Image courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)   

If we created a new Civilian Conservation Corps for our youth (and a new WPA for other unemployed Americans) it would save lives, because people would feel wanted, not worthless. But we're not going to create a new CCC (or WPA), are we? Because the people who are controlling our politicians through campaign contribution puppet strings have no use for such programs. Many would rather see unemployed youth in prison, where profits can be realized, than in CCC-type programs, where a 2 to 3% increase in taxes might be required.

When presented with the statement, "The federal government should provide jobs for everyone able and willing to work who cannot find a job in private employment," only 8% of wealthy Americans agreed. Yet, 53% of the general public agreed (from "Democracy and the Policy Preferences of the Wealthy," by Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright, in Perspective in Politics, March 2013, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 57). 

Given rising income inequality in America, and the increasing role of political campaign contributions by the wealthy, and the refusal of Congress to act on behalf of average Americans, can there be any question as to what's going on here? The only real question is: When are we going to demand true democracy? 

(A CCC boy planting a tree. During the course of its history--1933 to 1942--CCC boys planted 3 billion trees and created or developed 800 parks across the United States. Today, there is no CCC, but we do have the largest prison system in the world, where we can invest and profit off misery, via private prison corporations. From this, we can sadly deduce that many Americans would rather see our youth in prison than planting trees, improving parks, restoring historic sites, building roads & trails, learning skills, having a future, and so on. Image courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.) 

Make no mistake about it: A new Civilian Conservation Corps (and a new WPA) would save lives. It would also improve our deteriorating infrastructure. But our political "leaders" have decided that it's better to appease the Fortune 400 than to give hope & opportunity to millions of struggling Americans. This is what plutocracy does. It eats a culture from the inside out, like an acid. Morals, compassion, hope, opportunities for ordinary Americans.....all these things are burned away, so that a few can live in opulence.

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