Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The recollections, and the wise & spirited words of Harry Hopkins - part 9: Two Hundred Thousand CWA Projects

(A CWA construction project in Wicomico County, Maryland, ca. 1933-1934. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

New Deal administrator Harry Hopkins (FERA, CWA, WPA) wrote the following in his book Spending to Save:
"Long after the workers of CWA are dead and gone and these hard times forgotten, their effort will be remembered by permanent useful works in every county of every state. People will ride over bridges they made, travel on their highways, attend schools they built, navigate waterways they improved, do their public business in courthouses and state capitols which workers from CWA rescued from disrepair. Constantly expanded and diversified to offer use for the special skills and training of different types of workers, the CWA program finally extended its scope to almost every kind of community activity. We had two hundred thousand CWA projects." (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1936, p. 120)
Hopkins was correct to highlight the value of CWA projects, but he was mistaken that people would remember.
Today, many Americans are unaware of the CWA's two-hundred thousand work projects, and are also unaware of the hundreds of thousands of other work projects completed by the WPA, CCC, PWA, NYA, and FERA. Many other Americans simply don't care. This, despite the fact that we still use many thousands of New Deal projects today, over three-quarters of a century later (and well past their intended lifespan). And this is one of the primary reasons why so many people are ignoring our crumbling infrastructure (which kills thousands of our fellow citizens every year) and are more interested in devoting more and more money (most of it borrowed) to middle-eastern affairs. (See, "Iraq War To Remain A Significant U.S. Debt-Driver For Years To Come," Huffington Post, March 19, 2013)
Voters, unaware or uninterested in the possible, settle for what they've become accustomed to - which is, perpetual & consequence-free war (there are consequences for the combatants of course, but the larger public is protected from a draft, protected from the bullets & bombs (for the most part, anyway), and "protected" from higher taxes on their holy "JOB CREATORS"). Of course, there are other reasons why there is more public interest in the middle-east than our own infrastructure - for example, fear & anger sells much better than road repairs.

In any event, Harry Hopkins and his fellow New Deal policymakers understood something that many of us do not understand today: Infrastructure is extremely important for a healthy economy and culture.

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