Monday, August 31, 2015

New Deal Postage Stamps: Power

Above: The Grand Coulee Dam was built between 1933 and 1942 with funding from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA). It still operates today, and for three-quarters of a century it has produced electric power for millions of Americans in the Northwest. Note: The dates on the stamp--1902 to 1952--refer to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that still exists today. Image from personal collection

Above: Since its creation by New Deal policymakers in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has produced electric power for millions of Americans in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Originally opposed by conservatives, as an intrusion on the "free market," it is now protected by conservatives because it has been so successful (see, e.g., "Obama Proposal To Sell TVA Blasted By Republicans," Associated Press, Huffington Post, April 16, 2013).

Above: The New Deal's Rural Electrification Administration (REA) helped bring power to millions of Americans living in rural areas of the nation. In fact, when REA was created in 1935 only about 10% of rural America enjoyed electric service. By 1953, 90% had electric service. The next time someone tells you that the New Deal didn't work, tell them that. Image from personal collection

Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Deal Postage Stamps: Conservation

Above: When President Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936 (which amended an earlier conservation act) he said: "The United now emerging from its youthful stage of heedless exploitation and is beginning to realize the supreme importance of treating the soil well." Image from personal collection.

Above: From 1933 to 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) protected our soil from erosion, our parks from neglect, and our forests from disease, fire, and pests. Considering our environmental challenges today, wouldn't it be great to have another CCC? Image from personal collection.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

New Deal Postage Stamps: Frances Perkins

Above: Frances Perkins (1880-1965) was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945. Perkins helped create our modern social safety net, for example, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and the minimum wage. Perkins once wrote: "What was the New Deal anyhow? Was it a political plot? Was it just a name for a period in history? Was it a revolution? To all of these questions I answer 'No.' It was something quite different... It was, I think, basically an attitude. An attitude that found voice in expressions like 'the people are what matter to government,' and 'a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.'" Image above from personal collection.

For more information about Perkins, visit the website of the Frances Perkins Center.

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Deal Art: "Filling the Ice House"

Above: "Filling the Ice House," an oil painting by Harry Gottlieb (1895-1992), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Before refrigeration became widely available, many homes and businesses relied on ice delivery. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How the New Deal electrified the nation

("Electric Production and Direction," an oil painting by William Karp, created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

With all the political books, articles, and claims about how the New Deal didn't work (see, e.g., "McConnell vs. the New Deal," Politico, February 6, 2009, complete with misleading unemployment statistics), it's unsurprising that America has largely forgotten, disregarded, and ignored how the New Deal electrified the nation. But consider the following:

Works Progress Administration (WPA):

WPA workers (often called "lazy good-for-nothings" by their fellow citizens) put up 3,358 miles of new electric power lines - enough power line to extend from Baltimore, Maryland to Fairbanks, Alaska. They also participated in 237 projects to build, repair, or improve electric power plants. (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 132) 

The Public Works Administration (PWA): 

The PWA helped fund large hydro-electric power projects like the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams, and also helped fund somewhat smaller electric generation plants all across the country. PWA funds also electrified railroads between New York and Washington, DC, thereby reducing travel time. (America Builds: A Record of PWA, 1939, pp. 118-124 and 189)

(The description for this photo reads, "Diesel engines drive generators in the Culpepper, Virginia Municipal Power Plant. This plant was constructed by PWA." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.) 

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA):

For three-quarters of a century, TVA has provided affordable electric power for millions of Americans in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The New Deal's TVA has been so successful and popular that even Republicans have protected it from privatization (see, e.g., "Obama's Proposal to Sell TVA Blasted by Republicans," Associated Press, Huffington Post, April 16, 2013). 

Rural Electrification Administration (REA):

Beginning in the 1930s, the REA provided low-interest loans to rural Americans--usually through locally formed "co-ops"--to create electric power plants, to erect power lines, and to purchase household items like electric ovens, washing machines, and farm equipment. The Riverland Energy Cooperative in Wisconsin, created by the merger of the 1930s-era Buffalo Electric Cooperative and Trempealeau Electric Cooperative, explains the benefit of the New Deal's REA:

"As late as the mid-1930s, nine out of 10 rural homes were without electric service. The farmer milked his cows by hand in the dim light of a kerosene lantern. His wife was a slave to the wood range and washboard...For many years, power companies ignored the rural areas of the nation. The idea of providing federal assistance to accomplish rural electrification gained ground rapidly when President Roosevelt took office in 1933...the Rural Electrification Act was passed, and the lending program that became the REA got underway...Within four years following the close of the war, the number of rural electric systems in operation doubled, the number of consumers connected more than tripled, and the miles of energized line grew more than five-fold. By 1953, more than 90 percent of U.S. farms had electricity. Today about 99 percent of the nation’s farms have electric service. Most rural electrification is the product of locally owned rural electric cooperatives that got their start by borrowing funds from REA to build lines and provide service on a not-for-profit basis" ("Our History," Riverland Energy Cooperative).

(With funding from the REA, the Trempealeau Electric Cooperative brought electric power to Wisconsin farmers. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.)

If anyone tells you that the New Deal didn't work...walk away from them and learn the historical facts instead. Go to your library, go to your state archives, find reliable sources on the Internet, whatever. Turn away from the deception & misinformation and examine the historical record with your own eyes. What you find will enlighten & amaze you. What your relatives and ancestors did has never been paralleled.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

FDR, the minimum wage, and "calamity-howling" executives

(President Roosevelt and his son Elliot in France, 1931. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)
Discussing the soon-to-be minimum wage during a Fireside Chat on June 24, 1938, President Roosevelt told Americans: "Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company's undistributed reserves, tell you--using his stockholders' money to pay the postage for his personal opinions--that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Deal Art: "The End of the Horse--Or New Deal"

Above: "The End of the Horse--Or New Deal," and oil painting by Misha Reznikoff (1905-1971), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Deal Art: "The Clipper"

Above: "The Clipper," an oil painting by Cedric W. Windas, created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wildfires creating an "unprecedented cataclysm." Why didn't we create a new Civilian Conservation Corps?

(A CCC crew fights a wildfire. Photo courtesy of Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives.)
Wildfires are currently ravaging the western United States - 13 people have died, hundreds of thousands of acres have burned to the ground, buildings have been destroyed, homes have been lost, Native American land has been damaged, evacuations have been ordered, vacations have been cut short, vehicles have caught on fire on highways, U.S. soldiers have been deployed, firefighters haven flown in from New Zealand and Australia, and, all told, "Nearly 29,000 firefighters...are battling some 100 large blazes across the drought-and heat-stricken West...more firefighters on the ground this season than ever before" ("Wildfires explode in size as high winds blast region," Associated Press, KOMO News, August 21, 2015).
Could this level of destruction have been prevented? Yes. Unequivocally...Yes. We could have created a new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to reduce wildfire risks, for example, building more firebreaks, building or improving service roads to reach hard-to-access areas, and removing wildfire fuel (dead trees, dry vegetation). All these things, and more, the CCC did from 1933 to 1942 (as did other New Deal work programs, for example, the WPA).   
Let's look at Washington, for example, where Governor Jay Inslee has described the fires burning in his state as an "unprecedented cataclysm," and where President Obama has just declared a state of emergency, and where, "For the first time in state history, Washington’s department of natural resources (DNR) is accepting volunteers to assist with fighting fires and to donate equipment" ("State of Emergency Declared As Wildfires Create 'Unprecedented Cataclysm' in Washington," Common Dreams, August 21, 2015). In Washington, the CCC engaged in many fire prevention and firefighting activities. Consider the following assessment:

"There are usually many factors that contribute to the total acreage lost to fire each year, but it is interesting to note that on the state and private forest land in the state of Washington, the average acreage burned over each year during the CCC program was 65,000 acres or just half the annual acreage loss during the preceding ten year period." (Don Lee Fraser, environmental consultant, in Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, by Perry H. Merrill, 1981, p. 188)
So, if the CCC was so effective, why didn't we create a new CCC several years ago, especially in view of the fact that unemployment was so high and wildfires have been causing higher-than-normal problems for many years? (Note: Unemployment is still high - much higher than the main official number that is reported every month. See, e.g., here, here, and here.) 
Well, there are several reasons: First, most Americans don't understand (or even know about) the history of the New Deal, so they don't know that there are alternatives to the status quo. Second, most wealthy Americans are opposed to the creation of public job programs for the unemployed, actually preferring that the jobless remain unemployed if they can't find a private sector job. Third, most of our political "leaders" are way too busy seeking out bribery campaign money from the wealthy to be bothered with wildfire problems. Fourth, conservative politicians have been securing tax breaks for the rich, excusing corporate tax avoidance, and protecting illegal tax evasion, for decades, thereby depriving the nation of much needed revenue - revenue that could fund fire prevention activities. Fifth, the corporate-controlled mass media rarely mentions the vast fire prevention and firefighting activities of the CCC - thereby keeping Americans uninformed about effective government programs. And sixth, when new CCC-type programs have been promoted, they've been routinely blocked, ignored, or ridiculed by Republicans, Tea Partiers, and conservative Democrats (see, e.g., "Senate GOP Blocks Veterans Jobs Bill," CBS News, September 20, 2012).

Unfortunately, unless there is a political revolution, wildfires will probably get worse. And a political revolution seems very unlikely since American voters continue to support corporate-bought Democrats and tax-breaks-for-the-wealthy Republicans, i.e., politicians who have zero interest in reviving beneficial and proven programs like the CCC. These politicians, scratching their heads, ask: "I don't would a new CCC benefit my Wall Street donors??" 

Friday, August 21, 2015

New Deal Art: "Work Relief." A different view of the unemployed.

Above: "Work Relief," a woodcut by artist Charles Turzak (1899-1986), created while he participated in the WPA-sponsored Federal Art Project, ca. 1935. The woodcut shows men hard at work, and the central figure is a man of strength and determination. New Deal policymakers like President Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins felt that unemployed men & women--of all ages and races--deserved opportunities instead of insults, and that jobs were better than constant charity or government cash relief. Roosevelt once said, "I should say this, that the object of work relief as distinguished from the dole is to give wages for work instead of just enough money to keep body and soul together without work." Compare that sentiment, and the depiction of the men above, to the insults that the unemployed have been pummeled with these past six years by politicians, pundits, radio show hosts, and Internet commenters, e.g., "lazy," "parasites," moochers," and "takers." And when policymakers have made efforts to create work programs for the unemployed in recent years, those efforts have been blocked by conservative politicians who call it "wasteful spending" (see, e.g., "Senate GOP Blocks Veterans Jobs Bill," CBS News, September 20, 2012). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New Deal Art: "Tenement Flats." The timeless story of income & wealth inequality.

Above: "Tenement Flats," an oil painting by artist Millard Sheets (1907-1989), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-34. The painting is described in the following way: "In Tenement Flats, Millard Sheets showed the urban poor of his native California, structuring the painting to suggest that working Americans provided the foundation for the lives enjoyed by the rich. The large houses looming on the hills above the tenements are reminders of the gulf between the classes during the 1930s. Sheets's sympathies are clear. He set up a poignant contrast between the silent, dark mansions and the sociable neighborhood of the tenements, where housewives sustain family and community against all odds" (emphasis added).  In the upper left-hand corner of the painting, note the woman, "perhaps a housekeeper," trudging up to the dark mansions of the rich.
The message of this painting is relevant to our situation today, where many (not all) super-wealthy Americans live & prey on the poverty and financial insecurity of others: paying them pathetic wages, putting their retirement security at risk, crushing them with debt, enjoying (and sustaining) a bail system that they can afford but the poor cannot, engaging in illegal tax evasion and sketchy tax avoidance (thereby shifting the revenue burden onto the struggling poor and the shrinking middle-class), engaging in all manner of civil & criminal wrongdoing that transfers more and more wealth to them, and so on. Yes, this painting and its message are very relevant to 21st century America. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New Deal Art: "Black Panther"

Above: "Black Panther," an oil painting by artist Alice Dinneen (1908-1963), created while she participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Dinneen also painted the mural in the Warrenton, North Carolina post office building - see photos here and here. Image above courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New Deal Art: "Golden Gate Bridge"

Above: "Golden Gate Bridge," an oil painting by Ray Strong (1905-2006), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-34. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Deal Art: "Aircraft # 5"

Above: "Aircraft # 5," an oil painting by George A. Danchuk, created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project in Ohio. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Deal Art: "Filly and Colt"

Above: "Filly and Colt," an oil painting by Frank Stamato (1897-1939), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-34. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Water shortages in Puerto Rico are made worse by crumbling infrastructure

(A new water line is installed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, funded by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), ca. 1933-35. Photo by FERA.)

Puerto Rico is suffering from water shortages, and crumbling infrastructure is making the problem even worse: "The fiscal crisis and the drought are intertwined...for decades Puerto Rico has put off spending money on fixing and strengthening its infrastructure, including water reservoirs and aqueducts, so much of the little water left is being lost due to cracks and leaks" ("Water Rationing in Puerto Rico Hits the Poor, Leaves Resorts Untouched," ThinkProgress, August 10, 2015).

Of course, the problem of crumbling infrastructure and lack of investment is hardly unique to Puerto Rico. In San Bruno, California, for example, a pipe installed in 1927 broke on July 27 and 15 million gallons of clean water ended up in the San Francisco Bay. Indeed, every year in America there are a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks, causing a loss of about 2 trillion gallons of water. Again, that's every year. And this is happening while there are droughts and water shortages in many states, and even more water shortages on the horizon.

So, are America's political "leaders" concerned? Well, some are...but Republican politicians most definitely are not. During the two recent presidential debates not one question and not one comment pertained to America's crumbling infrastructure - infrastructure that garnered a "D+" letter grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2013.

(Another photo from the San Juan waterline project. New Deal policymakers felt that when unemployment was high--it's currently around 12.6% in Puerto Rico--and infrastructure needed repair or improvement, why not put the two together? So, they did - and Puerto Rico, as well as the rest of America, has benefited from those infrastructure investments ever since. Photo by FERA.)
During the New Deal, things were much different. For example, let's look at the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in Puerto Rico. Between 1933 and 1935, there were waterwork projects (water lines, aqueducts, reservoirs, etc.) in San Juan, Guaynabo, Isabela, Barrio Planas, Coamo, Gurabo, Yabucoa, Humacao, Rio Pedras, Barceloneta, Cayey, and "improvements and repairs in 22 other towns and cities" (Report of the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration and Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1939, pp. 28-30).
There were many other public works projects in Puerto Rico during the New Deal era, conducted through the funding & efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Public Works Administration (PWA), the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA). With respect to the PRRA, a scholar from the City University of New York came to the conclusion (in research for a dissertation) that the infrastructure work performed by these Puerto Rican engineers and laborers "made lasting contributions to local social and economic life..."
 (WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

So, why aren't we investing heavily in infrastructure today? First, many (perhaps most) Americans are unaware of this history - so they don't know what they're missing, and thus don't know what to fight for. Second, our Republican-led Congress is more interested in tax breaks for the wealthy (some of whom use Puerto Rico as a tax haven) and more interested in increasing war spending (to feed the military-industrial complex - an industry that no doubt contributes mightily to Republican political campaigns). Sadly, to most Republican politicians, infrastructure spending & improvement is a "nonstarter."

(Also see, "The Stunning Collapse of Infrastructure Spending in One Chart," ThinkProgress, November 1, 2013, and "Top GOP Senator Blames His Party For Lack Of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Two 90-year old water mains broke in Silver Spring, Maryland, creating havoc. Where are Republicans?

Above: A WPA road project in Frederick County, Maryland. New Deal programs like the WPA, PWA, CWA, CCC, and FERA built up America's infrastructure in ways that Americans can't even comprehend today. WPA workers alone participated in 124,000 bridge projects, 40,000 school projects, and 8000 park projects. They installed 16,000 miles of new water lines, 24,000 miles of new storm & sewer lines, and built, repaired, or improved 650,000 miles of road, enough roadwork to go around the Earth 26 times. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Yesterday, two 90-year old water mains broke in Silver Spring, Maryland, flooding businesses and causing traffic congestion. These breaks were just two of the quarter-of-a-million breaks that will occur in the United States this year. A utility spokesman in Silver Spring said: "Its an illustration of the aging infrastructure we have in the system." He also noted that many similarly-aged pipes in his service area will not be replaced for 10-20 years. Actually, compared to the rest of the country, that's not a bad time frame. 

Because of America's dropping infrastructure investment, Americans will have to get used to (if they aren't already) the many problems that broken water mains cause: Flood businesses, flooded homes (causing higher home insurance premiums by the way), sinkholes, road damage, traffic congestion, water contamination, water shut offs, wasted water, higher utility rates, and more.

So, where are Republican politicians on this issue? After all, they're always blathering on about their love of small business, and their love of a strong America. Well, during the recent Republican presidential debates, nothing was mentioned--not one word--about America's crumbling infrastructure. The right-wing moderators and the right-wing candidates just didn't feel it was important enough to talk about - probably because their super-wealthy funders don't care about infrastructure either. After all, they can always truck in fresh water to fill their gold bathtubs.

And this is in keeping with the overall neglect of our infrastructure that Republicans have shown these past many years. Let's take a stroll down memory lane...


Republicans oppose Obama's "$50 billion 'roads, rails, and runways' proposal" (Time). 


"Senate GOP Blocks $60B Obama Infrastructure Plan" (USA Today).


The Congressional Budget Office concludes that a "House GOP highway bill would bankrupt [the] trust fund" (The Hill). Commenting on the bill, former Republican Congressman, and then-Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, said: "It’s the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service" (Politico). 


In March, "The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) announced...that the U.S. earned a grade of D+ in its 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure" (CBS News). A few months later, Republicans announced that they would block infrastructure improvements proposed by President Obama (U.S. News & World Report).


House Republicans pass a budget with "deep cuts to...infrastructure spending" (Reuters). 


"$478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked By Senate GOP" (The Fiscal Times).

(Also see, "The Stunning Collapse of Infrastructure Spending in One Chart," ThinkProgress, November 1, 2013, and "Top GOP Senator Blames His Party For Lack Of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015)

Dear America: Do you like clean & reliable drinking water? If your answer is "yes," don't vote for "conservative" politicians. Otherwise, you'll be boiling your drinking water in the very near future (note: many Americans already are).

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Here are the number of times that America's record-setting wildfires and crumbling infrastructure were mentioned in the recent Republican debates: 0

(The Civilian Conservation Corps fights a wildfire. New Deal policymakers hired millions of young men to plant trees, fight fires, remove dead trees & vegetation (wildfire fuel), and much more. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

California Governor Jerry Brown recently discussed global warming, wildfires, and his state's drought, and asked Republicans: "What the hell are you going to do about it?"

Well, judging by the first round of Republican presidential debates--the pre-school debate that aired first, and the kindergarten debate that aired second--the answer is: "Not much."

Instead of addressing America's record-setting wildfires and crumbling infrastructure, the Republican carnival barkers presidential candidates focused on fear and anger. For example, with respect to border and national defense issues:

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham: "If I have to monitor a mosque, I'll monitor a mosque."

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: "immigration without assimilation is an invasion." (Isn't that a line from Star Trek? The episode with the Borg?)

Wealthy Businessman Donald Trump: "...we build a wall, we need to keep illegals out."

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio: "we need a fence...need an e-verify system and you need an entry-exit tracking system and all sorts of other things..." (What other sorts of things, Mr. Rubio? Maybe GPS collars for every person to wear??)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: "The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military, and I put out a really specific plan: no less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go." (Hell yeah, let's do even more! Let's build 5,000 aircraft carriers!... and 50,000 jets!!... and FIVE MILLION tanks!!!... Go team! Oh...wait a minute, America already spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on national defense, and operates about "662 overseas bases in 38 foreign countries." But, apparently, that's not enough for Governor Christie and his fellow hawks. They want more. And they'll get it by blowing up the national debt, just like Reagan and Bush Jr. did.)

 (New Deal workers built strong and architecturally beautiful bridges all across the country, like the WPA-built bridge above. Today? Neh, not so much. We'd rather scold workers and insult the unemployed than pay them to build strong and beautiful things. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

The Republican Party Fox News moderators weren't any better, asking questions like, "Senator Cruz...Any word from God?" And moderator Martha MacCallum tried desperately to get one of the candidates to agree with her that poor Americans are lazy s.o.b.'s who don't want to work. She asked Lindsey Graham: "There is an increasing willingness in this country to accept assistance. How do you get Americans who are able to take the job instead of a handout?" Graham didn't take the bait in his response, so MacCallum next turned to Rick Santorum: "Do you believe that we need to change the culture in this country in terms of whether or not we should be encouraging people to get off of [public assistance] and take the job when it's available? Some are able and not doing that." Santorum took the bait a little, but not too much, which probably left MacCallum very frustrated, "Dammit! Won't someone agree with me that low-income Americans are lazy good-for-nothings??" (Of course, the Republicans on stage certainly did agree with her but, in the national spotlight, they were toning things down a bit.

In both Republican debates, not a word was mentioned about our nation's record-setting wildfires (see, e.g., here) or our crumbling infrastructure. Not a word about the quarter-of-a-million water main breaks that occur in America, every single year, not a word about the $11 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks, and not a word about the fact that "32% of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing U.S. motorists who are traveling on deficient pavement $67 billion a year."

(This is frequently how we do infrastructure today - patches... then patches on top of the patches. A new bridge deck? A new bridge?? What, are you kidding? We've got way too many tax breaks to give to the wealthy, and way too many military adventures to pay for. Don't be silly! Photo by Brent McKee.)

Do you know why the right-wing moderators and candidates didn't mention wildfires and infrastructure problems? Because, when your entire world revolves around fear, anger, and hatred of the "the other," as it does for Fox News, Republican politicians, and their right-wing sugar daddies, there's no time, money, or energy left for the protection of our environment or the improvement of our infrastructure. It's a shame that these people can't understand President Roosevelt's warning about fear, so long ago:

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

If a Republican becomes president, or if Republicans remain a majority in Congress, or if Republicans retain just enough numbers in Congress to block legislation, then, mark my words, our natural areas will continue to burn at a higher-than-average rate and our infrastructure will continue to crumble. There is no other possible outcome under modern Republican "leadership."

(Also see, "Top GOP Senator Blames His Party For Lack Of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

New Deal Art: "Valley Farms"

("Valley Farms," an oil painting by Ross Dickinson (1903-1978), created while he participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Reverse New Deal: Republicans want to protect illegal tax evasion by the wealthy... and then punch teachers in the face

Above: FDR at Fort Lewis, Washington, 1942. President Roosevelt was not a fan of wealthy Americans trying to evade or avoid taxes: "He thought of taxation in starkly moralistic terms," and "believed deeply that most loopholes were immoral." So, Roosevelt signed several revenue acts that raised taxes on the wealthy and closed loopholes, for example the Revenue Act of 1934 (Joseph J. Thorndike, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR, Washington, DC, Urban Institute Press, 2013, pp. 103, 142, and 199. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. 


"The time has come when we have to fight back, and the only way to fight back is to begin to name names of these very wealthy individuals who have found means of avoiding their taxes both at home and abroad." 
--FDR (Their Fair Share, p. 200)

"The question is whether we are going to have a Fascist government in this country or a government of the people, whether rich men are going to be able to defy Government and refuse to bear their burdens. Are we going to make progress in liberal government or is it going to take a revolution to finally settle the question? The rich are getting richer in this country and the poor poorer. In France they settled this problem by successive revolutions." 
--Henry Morgenthau, Jr., U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and New Deal policymaker (Their Fair Share, p. 200)


Republican Rand Paul blocks treaty to catch tax evaders:

A little over a year ago, it was reported that current Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul "has single-handedly blocked an obscure U.S.-Swiss tax treaty that lawmakers, prosecutors, diplomats and banks say makes the difference between U.S. law enforcement rooting out the names of a few hundred fat-cat tax evaders — and many thousands more." An executive at the financial institution Credit Suisse--after "admitting his institution helped Americans evade taxes"--said "Credit Suisse is ready, at this moment, to provide the additional information about Swiss accounts requested by U.S. authorities but has been unable to do so because the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified the protocol” ("Rand Paul in crosshairs of tax evasion war," Politico, March 2, 2014).

Republicans want to repeal law that catches tax evaders

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has "called for the repeal of a U.S. anti-tax-evasion law, siding with big banks...", leading one financial expert to say, "It is mind-boggling that a major political party would even consider endorsing a resolution to facilitate tax evasion. Repealing the law would cripple the U.S. and global efforts to fight offshore tax evasion." Why do Republicans want to facilitate tax evasion? One RNC official said, "It will attract American overseas donors" (see Reuters articles here and here).

Republicans want to cut funding that goes towards catching tax evaders:

For many years now, Republicans have tried (or succeeded) in cutting IRS funding. For example, just a few days ago it was reported that a "Republican-backed bill would also make deep cuts to tax evasion enforcement at the Internal Revenue Service" ("Obama Administration Rails Against GOP Bill To Deregulate Wall Street," Huffington Post, August 5, 2015).

Republicans want to punch teachers in the face - not wealthy tax evaders, but teachers:

Responding to the question, "At a national level, who deserves a punch in the face?," Republican governor of New Jersey and presidential candidate Chris Christie didn't say "wealthy Americans who engage in illegal tax evasion"... instead, he answered "the national teachers union" ("Teachers to Christie: Apologize to us over ‘punch in the face’ quip," MSNBC, August 6, 2015). This "punch in the face" comment pretty much sums up the philosophy that Republicans have towards our nation's hard-working and tax-abiding teachers.

Republicans all across the country have been bashing, blaming, and scapegoating teachers for our economic problems, attacking their salaries, their benefits, their pensions, and their ability to negotiate for better pay and working conditions. In the state of Kansas, where right-wing extremists govern, teachers have been fleeing to other states for a better life - leaving Kansas with a teacher shortage that they're filling with unlicensed teachers (see, e.g., "Why teachers can’t hotfoot it out of Kansas fast enough," Washington Post, August 2, 2015). 

So, instead of targeting millionaires & billionaires who break the law--depriving our government of trillions of dollars in tax revenue, and forcing the middle-class and poor to make up the difference (see below)--Republicans are angrily going after teachers - teachers who make average salaries ranging from about $40,000 in low cost-of-living states like South Dakota to about $75,000 in high cost-of-living states like New York. To me, that doesn't seem like an exorbitant amount of money for people tasked with educating our nation's youth and dealing with the disciplinary issues of other people's children.
Above: Every year, the U.S. loses hundreds of billions of dollars to illegal tax evasion, and hundreds of billions more (not shown in the graphic above) to corporate tax avoidance, sketchy tax havens, legal gimmicks, and more. These tactics, practiced mostly by wealthy Americans, have created a situation where middle-class and poor Americans must pay higher taxes, tolls, fees, and fines, at the state & local level, to make up the difference. For example, America now has a regressive tax structure where "Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low and middle-income families than from wealthy families." To get a flavor of the type of people that Republicans are trying to shield from law enforcement, see the IRS web page "Offshore Tax-Avoidance and IRS Compliance Efforts."

So, to end, a simple question: Why do Republicans treat tax evaders with kid gloves, but want to punch teachers in the face? And why are tens of millions of people still voting for Republicans, thereby endorsing this ideology?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

VIDEO: Harry Hopkins defends unemployed Americans and the WPA

(In the one-minute video above, Harry Hopkins defends unemployed Americans and the WPA. This short video clip is from a much longer Paramount newsreel, ca. 1935-36, and is shown here for non-commercial, educational purposes.)

The video above is poor quality but the audio is not too bad. However, if you have trouble hearing it, here is what Hopkins says:

"Three and half million men and women in America are being taken from the relief rolls and put to work.  Not a single project has been approved or disapproved or pushed forward for any partisan or political reasons. We are building thousands of schools and farm-to-market roads in rural areas of America. We are building city streets, playgrounds, parks, sewers, in the great cities of America for the thousands unemployed in those cities. The unemployed want to work, they are not chiselers. They are doing useful work. This in spite of the impression that partisan critics would attempt to create in the minds of the American people. With constructive critics I have no quarrel. But I do have a quarrel with those who knowingly misrepresent the facts and attempt to besmirch the characters of millions of unemployed citizens of the United States."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

California wildfires are burning the state to the ground. A New Deal could have prevented some of this chaos.

(In the one-minute video above, we see one of the many wildfires that are currently burning in California. Video published by USA Today on YouTube, August 4, 2015.)

Currently, about 21 wildfires are burning in California, torching over 134,000 acres. The National Guard has been deployed, more than 9,000 firefighters are battling the various blazes, and 13,000 people have been told to evacuate. The amount of acreage burned thus far in California is far beyond the state's average. (See, e.g., "California wildfires torch 134,000 acres - and counting," CNN, August 4, 2015).

Some amount of wildfire is natural and even beneficial to the environment. But the fires that are burning in the western United States right now (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska) have exceeded the beneficial stage. They're being caused by drought, excessive fuel on the ground (dead trees, dry vegetation), and a general lack of preparation.

Our Congress, which has been either blocked or led by Republicans these past many years, has addressed the wildfire problem by reducing funding for wildfire prevention. For example, this year "The GOP budgets envision cutting $1 billion from funding to fight wildfires" ("13 Reasons the Government Could Shut Down Again This Fall," Time, July 15, 2015).

That bears repeating: At a time when wildfires are increasing, our Republican "leaders" want to reduce our ability to fight (and prevent) them.

(CCC men fighting a fire in 1940. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)
Wildfires, when permitted to get out of control, as they are now, exacerbate global warming. Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide when they're healthy, but emit carbon dioxide when they're burning or dying. The Property and Environment Research Center explains: "Wildfire can turn a forest that is a carbon sink at one time into a carbon source for many years that follow. Because wildfire is a major carbon source, reducing wildfire can help to control carbon emissions from the forest." In other words, it's a double-whammy. If trees and plants burn up they can no longer absorb carbon dioxide - and when they burn up they release carbon dioxide.

Now, 9,000 firefighters and the National Guard is a lot of manpower, right? But what if, in preceding years, California had utilized 120,000 men for fire prevention, e.g., removing dead trees & vegetation and building firebreaks? And what if these men had engaged in nearly one million man-days of such work? Sound like a pipe dream? Well, it needn't be, because that's exactly what happened in California during the 1930s. FDR and his fellow New Deal policymakers created the Civilian Conservation Corps to offer young unemployed men jobs in our nation's parks & forests. And among their many jobs were fire prevention and firefighting (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, pp. 112-114). 

And what if, in addition to the 120,000 CCC men, California had had many thousands of other men available for fire prevention and firefighting, for example, some portion of the 110,000 Americans who were working in the WPA in California during the summer of 1936? Did you know that WPA workers made over 6,000 miles of firebreaks all over America between 1935 and 1943? (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, pp. 110 & 132).

Now, some people might say, "Well, it's not so much manpower as technology these days...and it would be too difficult to train people in modern firefighting techniques. We just can't replicate the 1930s experience." Baloney. If that were the case, California would not be using thousands of prisoners to fight wildfires. 

We could be doing a lot more to prevent wildfires and reduce their level of destructiveness. Unfortunately, Republican politicians are too busy trying to cut taxes for the super-wealthy, too busy trying to protect illegal tax evasion by the wealthy, too busy insulting low-income Americans, and too busy kissing the feet of the Koch brothers, in search of campaign contributions, to give a damn. Worse still, tens of millions of voters approve of this behavior - eagerly electing more and more Republicans into Congress.

Isn't that amazing?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Old water mains broke this past Monday...and Tuesday...and Wednesday...and Thursday...and Friday...and our corporate-bought, Republican-led Congress is going on vacation. How's that for leadership?

 (WPA workers building a water reservoir in Buffalo, New York, ca. 1935-43. The WPA built reservoirs and installed thousands of miles of new water lines all across America. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

On Monday, July 27, an old water main broke in Alexandria, Virginia, causing a road to flood and a shoulder lane to buckle (link to story).   

On Tuesday, July 28, a water main installed in 1927 broke in San Bruno, California. 15 million gallons of clean water--the equivalent of "20 percent of the water that serves San Francisco in a day," or enough to fill up 300,000 bathtubs--went into a creek and a storm drain, and ultimately into the San Francisco Bay. This, while California suffers through a severe drought (link to story).

On Wednesday, July 29, a 76-year-old water main broke in Silver Spring, Maryland, "flooding streets and sidewalks," closing lanes, and causing traffic congestion. Five million gallons of water were lost, and road closures will last for at least seven days (links to story here and here).

On Thursday, July 30, an old water main broke in Syracuse, New York, shutting down a city block and several businesses. The pipe broke one day after another old water main broke in the same area (link to story). 

On Friday, July 31, a half-century old water main broke in Pierre, South Dakota, shutting off water service to "12 homes and an apartment building." This was a day after another pipe broke - a pipe that was installed in the 1920s (link to story).

These are just a very few of the numerous water main breaks that occurred this past week, all across the nation. Indeed, every week in America we experience about 4,600 water main breaks. Where is our corporate-bought, Republican-led Congress on this? Well, they're about to go on their summer vacation and play golf with their billionaire campaign donors, after behaving like children over the Highway Trust Fund, and unable to figure out anything beyond a three-month funding patch - the 34th funding patch since 2009. In other words, they can't even fix our roads, let alone our water mains. U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) correctly noted, "This is a great example of the complete inability of this Republican Congress to govern and solve problems, and it's primarily because they're fighting among themselves." (Note: Even when Republicans have not led Congress in recent years, they've had enough numbers to block legislation.)

But don't take a Democrat's word for it, listen to Jim Inhofe, a senior Republican U.S. Senator from Oklahoma: "The problem with this [infrastructure funding] bill is really more Republicans than Democrats" ("Top GOP Senator Blames His Party for Lack of Highway Funding," Huffington Post, May 19, 2015).

(A water main installation project in Ocala, Florida, funded by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, 1935. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

As Republicans are fixated on cutting taxes for the wealthy, protecting illegal tax evasion, and ridiculing infrastructure proposals by President Obama and other Democrats, old water mains are breaking - buckling roads, creating sink holes, causing traffic congestion, causing businesses to lose money, flooding homes, cutting off and contaminating water service, and helping to flush away about 2 trillion gallons of clean drinking water, every single year. And much of the American public seems fine with this, consistently voting for anti-infrastructure Republicans, or not voting at all.

Isn't that amazing? Isn't that just... pull-your-hair-out-frustrating?