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.