Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The New Deal and Malaria

(CWA workers on a malaria control project in Arkansas, circa 1933-1934. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

New Deal programs were instrumental in the virtual elimination of malaria from the United States. For example, Dr. Carl Kitchens writes: "Malaria was effectively eradicated in the United States by 1950" and "The magnitude of the observed drop in malaria mortality attributable to the WPA is very large" ("The Effects of the Works Progress Administration's Anti-Malaria Programs to Control Malaria: Georgia 1932-1947," Explorations in Economic History 50(4), pp 567-581, 2013).

Indeed, New Deal programs were so effective in helping to eliminate malaria from the United States that (I would bet) most Americans don't even know that malaria was ever a problem here. Isn't that amazing? New Deal programs assisted in the eradication of a deadly disease, but then we completely forgot about this achievement because it was so successful that it erased the problem from our minds. And now, right-wing politicians, pundits, authors, and Internet comment-makers all across the country tell us that the New Deal was a failure, that WPA workers were lazy good-for-nothings, that New Deal projects were boondoggles, and that all the great things about America actually came from the holy "job creators," not from Darth Vader's evil "big government!!" And millions of Americans believe this garbage, and vote accordingly. Wow, what a slap in the face to the thousands of public workers who helped eliminate a deadly disease for us, thereby saving the lives of many Americans. What a great case study in national memory loss (or national ingratitude, take your pick).

According to the World Health Organization, "there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012...and an estimated 627,000 deaths...Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria." WPA workers--and workers in other New Deal programs--played a vital role in keeping this type of tragedy from happening to us. Maybe we should show some respect. Maybe we should applaud this, and other accomplishments of the WPA, as both Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan did. And maybe America, and the world, should implement a new and even stronger New Deal, instead of relying on the holy "job creators" who sip champagne and tell us, for example, "it's fantastic" that the 85 richest people on the planet have as much wealth as the three and a half billion poorest--among whom include those children who are dying every minute from malaria.

(WPA workers on a malaria control project in Georgia, 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

(The caption for this 1942 photograph reads: "Wilson Dam, Alabama (Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)). Testing insecticide for malaria-carrying mosquito at malaria control laboratory. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

(A headline from the Baltimore Sun newspaper, December 17, 1933. The Civilian Conservation Corps engaged in many mosquito control projects across the United States.)

Considering some of the mosquito problems in the United States today (see, e.g., "Mosquitoes are worse this summer in parts of USA" and "CDC issues warning about painful virus from mosquitoes") wouldn't it be nice if our Congress stopped coddling the holy "job creators," and started offering real job opportunities for America's long-term unemployed workers, in programs similar to the WPA and CCC?

No comments:

Post a Comment