Monday, September 1, 2014

A New Deal Labor Day

(WPA workers constructing the Fort Hill High School football stadium in Cumberland, Maryland, 1937. WPA workers created or improved thousands of the recreational areas that Americans will use this Labor Day holiday--golf courses, tennis courts, parks, and more. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day "is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Of the WPA, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote "(The WPA) has added to the national wealth, has repaired the wastage of depression and has strengthened the country to bear the burden of war" (Final Report on the WPA Program 1935-43, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946). Even limited-government icon Ronald Reagan seconded this appraisal, writing positively about the WPA in his autobiography.

Interestingly though, during this Labor Day you are unlikely to hear much from our mass media or political "leaders" about the laborers who participated in the New Deal work & construction programs, e.g., the WPA, the National Youth Administration (NYA), or the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), despite the fact that these workers--along with private sector workers funded by the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA)--modernized our infrastructure on a scale never seen before or since.

It's hard to determine why the mass media and our political "leaders" will, for the most part, fail to mention these New Deal laborers. Is it cultural forgetfulness? Is it because Labor Day sales and "news" about Kim Kardashian's wardrobe choices will drown out the more substantive aspects of Labor Day? Is it because we have a collective disdain for the unemployed and thus don't care to mention their monumental, nation-changing achievements? (See "Matt Taibbi: America Has A 'Profound Hatred Of The Weak And The Poor'"). Is it because many on the political right would prefer to believe that Ayn Rand was responsible for the modernization of America, and not workers or "big bad government"? Is it all of the above?  

In any event, please take a moment to remember the millions of New Deal laborers who built or improved so many of the parks, bridges, roads, buildings, airports, etc., that we still enjoy & utilize today (see the Living New Deal for thousands of still-existing New Deal sites, structures, and works of art).  

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