Friday, February 27, 2015

The FCC embraces its New Deal roots and helps the Internet move away from unrestrained greed

(Seal of the FCC, image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was created by the Communications Act of 1934 "with the blessings of President Franklin D. Roosevelt" ("Federal Communications Commission," The Museum of Broadcast Communications). However, according to Dr. Susan L. Brinson, professor of mass communication at Auburn University, it wasn't until 1939 that the agency acquired its true New Deal sea legs. During that year, Larry Fly was appointed FCC Chair. Fly was a "tenacious and devout New Dealer" who began to transform the FCC into an aggressive regulator, and aimed to "diminish the concentrated monopolistic power that controlled the broadcasting industry and simultaneously encourage competition." This new direction, of course, "startled and angered the broadcasting industry and their politically conservative defenders in Congress." (The Red Scare, Politics, and the Federal Communications Commission, 1941-1960, pp. 25-28, 2004)

The FCC has an extraordinarily complex history, but let's fast-forward to today, a time where telecommunications companies frequently have monopolistic control over markets and where Americans are paying more money for slower Internet service than residents of other developed countries. The big news, as we have all heard by now, is that the FCC has come down in favor of net neutrality, thereby wresting some power away from the telecommunications companies and giving it to consumers. Can there be any doubt, that if the FCC had not supported net neutrality, telecommunications companies would have eventually put all non-wealthy Internet customers in the slow lane and all wealthy Internet customers in the fast lane? I mean, that's what Corporate America does, that's its modus operandi. Steak & shrimp dinners for wealthy executives and investors, and bread crumbs & mush for everyone else.

(FCC Chairman Larry Fly, third from left, and other officials around a new television, in 1939. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

As their counterparts did back in the day, the telecommunications industry and their "politically conservative defenders in Congress" are whining, moaning, wringing their hands, and predicting the end of the world. The political right, more generally, has been engaging in their usual conspiracy theories for a while now--in this case, blathering on about "Obamanet," losing national sovereignty, and how net neutrality will turn us all into socialists. In other words, the usual stoking of fear in order to convince Americans that it's best to give complete decision-making power to millionaires & billionaires, democracy be damned. Fortunately, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler highlighted the obvious, "The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules" ("Net Neutrality Prevails In Historic FCC Vote," Huffington Post, February 26, 2015).

Chairman Wheeler is embracing his agency's New Deal roots--roots of courage and strength in the face of organized money. Let's hope he continues to do so, as the fight is surely not over yet.

(For a good summary of the net neutrality issue, see "What the FCC's New Neutrality Ruling Means For You," Huffington Post, February 26, 2015)  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

67+ water main breaks in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area--in only 1 week--causes residents to lose water and jeopardizes emergency services. A new WPA could help with that.


(In the video above--from Monday, February 23rd, 2015--"10 On Your Side" news reports on the never-ending water main breaks in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. Original YouTube link here).

"10 On Your Side" News, in Portsmouth, Virginia, recently reported that "Since Friday, Virginia Beach alone has fixed more than 30 water main breaks. Newport News had 10 over the weekend, Norfolk crews reported 11, and Portsmouth counts 16 breaks since this time last week." The breaks are occurring mostly on "older pipes" and the pipes are given "band-aid" repairs. Amazingly, these breaks are just a small fraction of the quarter of a million water main breaks that will occur in the United States this year.

These Hampton Roads area water main breaks have caused residents to lose water service and are jeopardizing emergency response. A water operations manager said, "Certainly, if a fire happens, you don’t want to tell the firemen that the water main broke and they can’t put out a fire."

During the New Deal era, WPA workers installed 357 miles of new water lines in Virginia. We could do the same today, and more, were it not for Republican and Tea Party politicians in Congress who are trying to starve the federal government of revenue (or, "starving the beast," as they like to describe it), thereby reducing federal assistance to the states. (See, e.g., "States Seek Alternatives For Highway, Bridge Funding," Associated Press, Huffington Post, February 21, 2015)

Monday, February 23, 2015

A New Deal for Montana

(The flag of Montana, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Seven interesting New Deal facts and figures for Montana...

1. Civil Works Administration (CWA):

In January of 1934, there were over 21,000 Montanans working in the CWA, building or repairing schools, roads, bridges, and more. 

(From the "Analysis of Civil Works Program Statistics," p. 18, 1939)

2. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): 

Between 1933 and 1942, 25,690 men in Montana worked in the CCC. "This figure included 17,687 junior and veteran enrollees, 5,069 Indians, and 2,935 non-enrolled camp officers and supervisory workers." 

(From Perry H. Merrill's book, "Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps," 1933-1942, p. 146, 1981)

3. Pubic Works Administration (PWA): 

By 1939, the PWA had contributed $20 million in funding towards 161 infrastructure projects in Montana. In today's dollars, that's about $330 million. 

(From "America Builds: The Record of PWA," p. 285, 1939).

4. National Youth Administraton (NYA):

During academic year 1939-1940, 207 schools, colleges, and universities in Montana participated in the NYA program, employing about 3,000 young men and women. 

(From the "Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943," pp. 246-247, 1944).

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

5. Public Works of Art Project (PWAP):

Between 1933 and 1934, in Region 16 of the PWAP (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana), unemployed artists were paid to produce 33 murals, 72 sculptures, 332 oil paintings, and more, to decorate public buildings and parks. 

(From Public Works of Art Project, "Report of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury to Federal Emergency Relief Administrator, December 8, 1933 - June 30, 1934," p. 8, 1934)
   
6. Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA): 

In February of 1935, 630 college students in Montana were employed in FERA's College Student Aid Program. This was a program "undertaken in order to enable young persons who would not otherwise have been able to do so to continue their education, and thereby reduce the influx of young workers into the labor market" (recall that during the Great Depression there was a large drop in the demand for labor). 

(From the "Final Statistical Report of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration," pp. 64 and 232, 1942)

7. Works Progress Administration (WPA):

Between 1935 and 1943, WPA workers in Montana produced 2.8 million articles of clothing; served 4.7 million school lunches; created or improved 10,000 miles of roads; built or improved 3,000 bridges; installed or improved 17,000 culverts; engaged in 400 projects to build, repair, or improve schools; created or improved 105 parks; installed 133 miles of water lines; constructed 88,000 linear feet of new airport & airfield runway; and more. 

(From the "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43," pp. 134-136, 1946)       
    
***Explore New Deal projects in Montana...on the Living New Deal Map!***

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Potholes and Billionaires

(Potholes and alligator cracking are plaguing our nation's roads. Photo by Brent McKee.)

About a month ago, in the Huffington Post, Stephen Seufert suggested that a new CCC-type jobs program could put unemployed young adults to work installing solar panel roads. It's a great idea, considering that (a) the technological development of solar panel roads is already well underway, (b) solar panels roads could melt snow & ice and also produce energy, (c) America's roadways are falling apart, and (d) the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that youth unemployment is still very high (for example, the unemployment rate for 20-24 year-old men is currently 11.5%).

In sum, Seufert is advising us to connect the dots, addressing several problems with one overarching policy. But he is very aware of the main hurdle that confronts his proposal. After reflecting on the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, he writes: "The Greatest Generation earned such a title because they worked together and contributed unique individual talents during unprecedented hardship. They understood individualism without valuing the common good/general welfare leads the world down a dark, destructive path. Decades later, we now have a healthy dose of individualism but are lacking in the common good."

Yep, that sounds about right.

(With super-rich Americans vacuuming up more and more of our nation's wealth--and with Republican & Tea Party politicians protecting them from increased taxation--precious little is available for our nation's infrastructure. For example, instead of replacing crumbling bridges, we just put patches on top of patches and hope for the best. Photo by Brent McKee.)   

Yesterday, an Associated Press article described the sorry state of America's road infrastructure, and the sorry state of its funding. Of course, we already know that Republicans at the national level are trying to "starve the beast" by reducing revenue--and trying to shrink the government by reducing spending--so they can give more tax breaks to their super-wealthy campaign donors, which ultimately has the effect of strangling federal infrastructure assistance to the states. Such actions also have the effect of shifting the revenue burden from super-wealthy Americans to middle-class & poor Americans. For example, a Republican politician in Missouri, echoing the wishes of his Republican colleagues all across the country, wants to raise his state's sales tax, a regressive tax that disproportionately hammers the middle-class & poor. He says, "You're seeing states all across the country that are looking to do something, because they realize you can't count on the federal government." No kidding? That's probably because your entire political party is trying to "to shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub."

The problem behind all this foolishness, of course, is political spending by right-wing millionaires & billionaires. They give gobs of money to Republican & Tea Party politicians who, in turn, cater to their anti-government fantasies. And the rest of us suffer for it. Schools, public libraries, roads, bridges, water lines, and more are underfunded and/or falling apart. And then...WE are hit with higher taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the state & local level, in an attempt to make up the revenue difference. Yes, the most wealthy are coddled, while those who are struggling with stagnant wages, rising prices, and suffocating debt are told, again and again, "Sorry, you have to pay more...and more...and more."

Make no mistake about it: Your wallet is being drained, and your car is hitting potholes, to fulfill a political desire to please billionaires--six of whom have more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American population combined. So, don't hold your breath waiting for a federal jobs program that will hire unemployed young Americans to install high-tech roadways. Instead, open your wallet. The right-wing billionaires are sending over their political marionettes to pay you a visit...and they're bringing their vacuum cleaners.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FDR's Second Bill of Rights vs. Republican Governors


(In the video above, we see FDR deliver his Second Bill of Rights speech in 1944. The original YouTube page for this video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EZ5bx9AyI4.)
 
In his Second Bill of Rights speech, President Franklin Roosevelt called for new set of rights for American citizens. Among these were the right to "adequate medical care," "protection from the economic fears of old age," and the "right to a good education." FDR and his New Deal policymakers wanted to make the lives of middle-class and low-income Americans better. For awhile, they were successful. With New Deal policies and infrastructure in place during and after World War II (for example, FDIC, Social Security, and New Deal roads, schools, and airports) the American middle-class grew like never before or since.

Today, on the other hand, Republican governors all across the country are making the lives of middle-class and low-income Americans harder, in order to grant or maintain tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy. Consider these five examples (note: some of these proposed budget cuts might now be law):

1. In Wisconsin, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Scott Walker wants to cut $300 million from higher education.

2. In Kansas, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Sam Brownback wants to cut $45 million from K-12 and higher education, and reduce pension contributions by $41 million.

3. In Louisiana, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal wants to cut funding from higher education by hundreds of millions of dollars.

4. In Arizona, with his state's budget pulverized by tax cuts, Republican Governor Doug Ducey wants to cut $75 million from higher education.

5. The new Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, doesn't want to be outdone by his fellow right-wing zealots. He wants to cut funding for higher education, kick low-income people off Medicaid, and reduce pension plans for public employees. But, with respect to his own multi-million dollar personal fortune, he hasn't proposed that it be taxed at an increased rate, not even by a tenth of a percent. The state's current income tax rate is 3.75%, a rate that Rauner no doubt thinks is too burdensome for him and his mega-wealthy buddies--yes, better to deprive low-income workers of health insurance, reduce the income of future retirees, and force a tuition increase on college students, than to create a horrible situation where the super-rich can't afford to buy more mansions and private jets.

(New Deal policymakers thought adequate health care was important for all Americans, regardless of income. Sadly, many right-wing politicians today feel just the opposite, which is why so many have fought tooth-and-nail to prevent low-income Americans from receiving Medicaid assistance. WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

All these Republican-engineered budget cuts (the five examples above are just the tip of the iceberg) place an increasing financial burden on middle and low-income Americans. But why is this happening? Answer: Because the right-wing millionaires & billionaires funding the political campaigns of these Republican governors want their personal fortunes protected while everyone else takes a hit. In Kansas, for example, Koch-funded Sam Brownback is going to divert money away from highway funds to plug a budget hole, so that multi-billionaires like the Koch brothers don't have to pay another dime in taxes. To put it another way, the majority of Kansans have to see their roadways begin to deteriorate, and their car maintenance bills increase, so that the most wealthy Kansans can hoard more money, go on more vacations, send their kids to affluent private schools, and soak & gloat in 24-karat gold bathtubs.

The craziest thing of all, of course, is that tens of millions of people keep voting for Republican & Tea Party politicians, even as their wages stagnate, their personal debt increases, their retirement is put at risk, the infrastructure they use crumbles, their state's reserve funds are burned through, their sales taxes are increased, and the funding for their children's schools is decimated.

Economic self-flagellation at the polls is an amazing thing to witness. As for me, I prefer FDR's Second Bill of Rights.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Texas parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields

(The Seal of Texas, image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

During the New Deal era, the Civilian Conservation Corps "designed and built more than 50 state parks throughout Texas" (see "The Look of Nature: Designing Texas State Parks During the Great Depression," Texas Parks and Wildlife). 

Meanwhile, the Works Progress Administration engaged in 771 projects to create or improve Texas parks, playgrounds, and athletic fields (see Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, p. 135).

New Deal policymakers thought that hiring the unemployed to work on useful public projects would have lasting benefits for the nation. History has proven them correct.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gwendolyn Bennett and the WPA

(The description for this undated photograph reads "Miss Gwendolyn Bennett, director of the Harlem Community Art Center of the N.Y.C. WPA Art Project, is shown beside an example of her work." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-1981) led an interesting life as a poet, artist, and political activist. During the communist witch hunts of the late 1930s and 1940s she was continuously harassed by Congress's paranoid (and often racist) "House Un-American Activities Committee" (H.U.A.C.). 

For more information about Bennett, see "Gwendolyn Bennett papers, 1916-1981" (New York City Public Library, Archives & Manuscripts) and "Found! A Gwendolyn Bennett Painting" (International Review of African American Art). To see a few more photos of Bennett, see "Gwendolyn Bennett Photograph Collection" (New York City Public Library, Digital Collections).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo...continued

(Trickle-down economics, brought to you by the political right.)

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post titled "Ten Ways The Political Right Is Vacuuming Money Out Of Your Wallet With Their Trickle-Down Economics. Welcome To 'The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo.'"

Since then, we've seen news stories highlighting how governors and legislators in Ohio, Maine, North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, New Jersey, and other right-wing led states are planning to (or already have) cut taxes on the wealthy while raising them on the middle-class and poor.


Even Democrat-led states have been forced to adopt or maintain tax systems that put a disproportionate burden on the middle-class & poor. This is because Republicans have fought hard to keep taxes on the wealthy historically low at the federal level, which has resulted in a federal government less willing & able to assist the states. Thus, the states have had to address this lack of assistance by placing a higher revenue burden on the non-wealthy, through a variety of increased taxes, tolls, fees, and fines.

(WPA workers building a new bridge in Harford County, Maryland, 1936. During the New Deal, the federal government gave massive assistance to the states for infrastructure projects. Today, the burden is more likely to be placed on the middle-class & poor--at the state & local level--through increases in sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, "sin" taxes, bridge tolls, DMV fees, water rates, and so on. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

In my previous blog post about this issue, I mentioned how the middle-class & poor are often a captive population because they are tied to their job locations. Thus, state policymakers target this captive population for revenue increases. Well, sure enough, in explaining his desire to place more of a revenue burden on the middle-class & poor, Maine's Governor Paul LePage said: "When you’re a millionaire in Maine, you leave. I’m trying to keep them here." The end game of this philosophy (as well as other philosophies associated with trickle-down economics), it seems, is to grant tax immunity to the wealthy (after all, we can't tax our holy "Job Creators," right?) and place the entire revenue burden on the non-wealthy.

But the craziest thing about this entire situation is that tens of millions of American voters continue to vote for Republicans who, in turn, keep increasing the revenue burden on those very same tens of millions of voters (!)--either directly with a tax increase, or indirectly by cutting taxes for millionaires & billionaires and creating a budget gap that has to be plugged with some sort of revenue stream that inevitably hits the middle-class & poor with greater ferocity. What makes me really mad, however, is that these increased taxes, tolls, fees, and fines hit me too...even though I didn't vote for the trickle-down tricksters. In other words, conservative voters are taking me for a ride on their crazy train, against my will, and vacuuming money out of my wallet...

...and the name of this crazy train is "The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

WPA Poster: "Carmen"

(WPA poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Friday, February 13, 2015

"Envy": How policymakers and pundits belittle us with language, to protect the super-wealthy and stop progress

Above: New Deal policymakers invested heavily in American infrastructure. In this 1936 photo, we see WPA workers paving a road in New Orleans--just a small part of the 650,000 miles of roadwork they completed all across the nation between 1935 and 1943. President Franklin Roosevelt understood (as did other presidents, like Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower) that to make America stronger, the wealthy would have to pay more. In advocating for higher taxes on the wealthy, Roosevelt said, "Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few" (from The New Deal: A Modern History, by Michael Hiltzik). Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum and the New Deal Network.

When Mitt Romney was running for president he criticized President Obama for discussing income inequality, saying, "I think it's about envy. I think it's about class warfare." Romney said income inequality should only be discussed in "quiet rooms."

A few weeks ago, when President Obama unveiled his plan to improve America's deteriorating infrastructure by taxing corporations that have been raking in record profits, shipping American jobs overseas, and engaging in a multitude of gimmicks to avoid paying taxes, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan called it "envy economics."

Reflecting on his recent policy advice to Hillary Clinton, economist and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said, "It’s not enough to address upward mobility without addressing inequality. The challenge, though, is to address inequality without embracing a politics of envy."

An investment professional went for "envy" gold in 2011, writing in Forbes: "Envy and hatred of the rich is the last popularly accepted prejudice in America. With the current U.S. president leading the charge, the envy shows no signs of abating anytime soon. The bigots among the 99% of people who seek to control or destroy the top 1% of U.S. income-earners and wealth-owners are targeting a minority... The viciousness of the anti-wealth bigots contributes heavily to expanding the size and scope of government and piling more tax burdens on the 1% minority."

Wow...do I hear a violin playing in the background? Those poor, poor billionaires. Life is so wretched when you only have twenty thousand million dollars of wealth to exist on. I mean, how does one bear that kind of a burden?

Above: CCC boys at work in Louisiana. Between 1933 and 1942, the federally-funded CCC created, developed, and improved state & national parks all across the country. Today, with a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog, and the political right blocking federal spending, the National Park Service has been forced to try to raise entry fees, which will disproportionately impact the middle-class and poor (entry fees are regressive). Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network. 

Whenever higher taxes on the super-wealthy are proposed, the "envy" rhetoric rolls out: "Oh, you're just jealous of the wealthy" or "Why are you trying to punish success?" This tactic is used to belittle us, and to cast us as errant and envious little children--children who are not mature enough to understand the complexities of the "adult world." Sometimes they even categorize us as "takers," too jealous of the "makers" to see straight. And now we see that even Larry Summers (who is not necessarily opposed to higher taxes on the wealthy) has adopted the "envy" rhetoric, albeit without the same sneer as a Paul Ryan-type.

But the fact of the matter is, is that the rich have been getting richer while everyone else has dealt with stagnant wages for decades. So it only makes sense, for example, that the 6 Walmart heirs, who have more wealth than the bottom 40% of the population, pay more...a lot more. It's not about envy, it's about common sense and, as Richard Kirsch of the Roosevelt Institute writes, it's about reality:

"What most Americans understand is that they are struggling financially because the wealthy have rigged the economic and political system to benefit them at the expense of the rest of us. That's not envy; it's reality...For example, wages are stagnant because corporations engaged in concerted strategies to limit the proportion of profits shared with workers, including busting unions rather than negotiating with them, shipping jobs overseas rather than paying higher wages to American workers, and aggressively using campaign contributions and lobbyists to undermine labor standards (minimum wage, overtime protection, etc.) and labor laws. Corporations spent their huge profits on stock buybacks and CEO pay rather than on better compensation for workers."

In any event, you jealous little children, don't ask multi-billionaires or Corporate America to pay one extra cent in taxes! Instead, you will agree to pay higher property tax, sales tax, state income tax, local income tax, state fuel tax, federal fuel tax, bridge tolls, traffic fines, DMV fees, national park fees, college tuition, food prices, and more...even if your wages are stagnating while corporate profits are soaring. That's how you'll display your maturity to the "adults in the room," and stop being envious.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Unearthed film footage from the New Deal: The CCC restores Fort Frederick in Washington County, Maryland

(Fort Frederick. Photo by Brent McKee.)

The construction of Fort Frederick, in Washington County, Maryland, began in 1756, "at the outset of the French and Indian War," and was mostly completed two years later.  During the war, Fort Frederick served as a "staging area and supply base for English operations further west." During the Revolutionary War, Fort Frederick was used as a prison camp, and "thousands of [British] prisoners were kept there." In its third tour of duty, during the Civil War, Fort Frederick saw a small amount of action when "Confederate troops tried to dislodge the Union soldiers [stationed there] but were unsuccessful." (See Fort Frederick State Park History, Maryland Department of Natural Resources).

After the Civil War Fort Frederick fell into disrepair. But, like in so many other historic areas across the country, the New Deal came to the rescue. The CCC boys of Camp SP-1 Company No. 1353 restored the fort's walls, built structures around the fort, and even performed some archaeological excavation (although, according to at least one author, not with the greatest methodology). Today, with the help of that CCC work, Fort Frederick is a National Historic Landmark.


(The 3-minute silent video above shows the CCC boys of Camp SP-1 Company No. 1353 at Fort Frederick, circa 1933-1939. The workers can be seen repairing the fort's walls and digging for artifacts. The video is composed of a series of clips I pulled from a longer video, the quality of which was very poor. It is my belief that this film has not been seen by the public since the 1930s, if at all. For more information about this film, see the National Archives web page at http://research.archives.gov/description/11737.)
  
A typical day for the CCC boys of Camp SP-1 Company No. 1353 looked like this (from a document at the CCC museum at Fort Frederick):

5:45am: reveille [a bugle wake-up call], washroom

6:00: exercises

6:15 beds made, inspections

6:30 mess call [breakfast]

6:45 police grounds [cleaning up trash, leaves, sticks], roll call, announcements, sick call

7:00 everyone to trucks, tools gathered, prepare to go to job site

7:15 trucks roll

7:30 work

11:45 lunch whistle

12:45 back to work

4:00 return to camp, tools returned, etc.

5:00 assembly, announcements, inspection, colors [a ceremony honoring the U. S. flag]

5:15 meal

5:45 free time

7:15 classes begin

9:30 return to barracks

10:00 lights out

(The CCC built this structure near the fort, which now serves as a CCC museum. Photo by Brent McKee.)

(A display case in the CCC museum. Photo by Brent McKee.)

(Photo by Brent McKee.)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Youth Unemployment: The world needs a new Civilian Conservation Corps, not politically-backed tax evasion.

(In addition to working for the nation, CCC boys also learned skills. These CCC enrollees are learning about auto repair in Menominie, Wisconsin. Undated photograph, provided courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

The Problem of Youth Unemployment

In a new report from the International Labor Organization, we learn that there are about 74 million unemployed teens & young adults across the world. William Reese, CEO of the International Youth Foundation, says that the 74 million figure probably doesn't even come close capturing the full amount. ("Youth Unemployment, Inequality Keeps Rising," Inter Press Service, Common Dreams, February 8, 2015)

Youth unemployment is also a problem in the United States. For example, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics information, the unemployment rate for young American men, ages 20-24, is 11.5%.

Massive Illegal Tax Evasion

In other recent news, investigative journalism has "has opened a crack of sunlight into the exclusive and highly-secretive world of Swiss banking and the manner in which the world's criminal elite hide their vast wealth, launder their profits, and avoid tax payments from governments around the globe. ("'Biggest Banking Leak in History' Details Nefarious Tactics of Global Tax-Dodgers," Common Dreams, February 9, 2015)

This isn't a new type of revelation of course. For example, we know that 22,000 wealthy Americans, with the aid of Credit Suisse Bank in Switzerland, illegally evaded taxes and "cost US taxpayers $337.3bn in potential revenue." Republican Senator John McCain called it the "the largest amount of tax revenue lost due to evasion in the world" ("Credit Suisse 'cloak-and-dagger' tactics cost US taxpayers billions – senators," The Guardian, February 25, 2014).

In another recent case, some wealthy Americans sued Swiss bank UBS because the bank helped them evade taxes. In deciding against the wealthy Americans (in an appeal) the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote, "The plaintiffs are tax cheats, and it is very odd, to say the least, for tax cheats to seek to recover their penalties ... from the source, in this case UBS, of the income concealed from the IRS. This lawsuit, including the appeal, is a travesty" ("Judge Slams UBS Clients' 'Travesty' Of A Lawsuit, Calling Them 'Tax Cheats'," Reuters, Huffington Post, February 7, 2013).

A Political Protection Racket for Tax Evasion

Senator McCain's concern about these illegal tax evasion activities is a rare concern among Republican leaders and politicians. For example, in 2014 the Republican National Committee (RNC) "called for the repeal of a U.S. anti-tax-evasion law, siding with big banks, libertarians and American expatriates that have criticized the Obama administration statute." The RNC and other critics feel that pursuing tax evaders is "unfair government overreach and invasion of financial privacy." This led one financial expert to state, "It is mind-boggling that a major political party would even consider endorsing a resolution to facilitate tax evasion" ("Republicans bash U.S. law targeting offshore tax dodgers," Reuters, January 24, 2014).

Republicans have also repeatedly sought to restrict or reduce funding for the Internal Revenue Service, thereby hampering that agency's efforts to investigate criminal activity by wealthy Americans. (See, e.g., "Policing Tax Evasion Could Save Billions, But Republicans Won't Fund Enforcement," Huffington Post, April 29, 2011.)

Why are so many Republican politicians & leaders promoting crime? Well, it's likely that even though this promotion of crime won't "resonate with average U.S. voters," it will "help the party raise campaign funds" from the very people whose tax evasion they're protecting.  

Money Lost from Illegal Tax Evasion Could Fund a New Civilian Conservation Corps 

(Instead of promoting tax evasion, political organizations, like the Republican National Committee, should be promoting opportunities for "work, play, study, and health," for the untold millions of unemployed & impoverished youth around the world. WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
  
The amount of money lost through illegal tax evasion, let alone corporate tax avoidance & sketchy tax shelters, could fund Civilian Conservation Corp-type programs around the world, putting many of these tens of millions (more likely hundreds of millions) of unemployed youth to work. And, considering the environmental challenges facing the planet today, it would be a perfect time to do so. During the New Deal, the CCC planted about three billion trees and also worked to prevent & fight wildfires. One can easily see how these types of activities could help us today.

Let's not sugarcoat things here: Many super-wealthy Americans, and many super-wealthy people around the globe, are hiding untold trillions of dollars of money in secret places and in secret accounts, to sate their bottomless greed. And these hideously selfish activities are contributing to mass youth unemployment and environmental degradation. Further, as long as we continue to vote for politicians who turn a blind eye towards tax evasion, collect campaign money from tax evasion, and even promote tax evasion, we are aiding and abetting the crime.

The world needs a new Civilian Conservation Corps, not politically-backed tax evasion.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Boil water notices, gravel roads, and robbing highway funds: Destroying our infrastructure to please right-wing millionaires & billionaires

(Many Americans have to boil their drinking water when an old water main breaks. Unfortunately, America's energy infrastructure also breaks down quite a bit so, instead of a kitchen burner to boil water, perhaps we'll have to start using a campfire--just like our great-great-great-great grandparents used to do with their drinking water. With so many of our political "leaders" ignoring infrastructure, in the race to cut taxes for their super-wealthy campaign donors, maybe we'll even have to start collecting rainwater to drink. Now, that's progress! Photo by Brent McKee.)

Boiling Water

This past Friday, citizens of Newark, Delaware were told to boil their water because of a break in a 75-year-old water main and the resulting concern about E. Coli contamination. The water main break was just one of a quarter-of-a-million breaks we can expect in our aging water infrastructure this year. Hence, Americans all across the country will have to boil their drinking water. For example, in various parts of West Virginia, there were three boil water notices on February 5th, one on February 4th, seven on February 3rd, one on February 2nd, two on January 30th, two on January 29th, three on January 28th, and so on and so on.

(Insert the voice of the Soup Nazi from "Seinfeld"): "No more paved roads for you!"

(A newly paved road in Cumberland, Maryland, 1937. Today, nearly 80 years later, some areas of the country are deciding that they'd rather pamper the wealthy than maintain paved roads. So, they're converting some paved roads to gravel roads. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

In Texas, they're beginning to convert paved roads into gravel roads. In the article, "Plan to Convert Roads to Gravel Despite Pushback" (Texas Tribune, August 19, 2013), we learn that Texas doesn't have enough money to repave certain roads. We also learn that "Efforts to increase taxes on the companies that are profiting from the energy boom to cover the road repair costs failed to gain traction" in the Republican controlled-state. A rancher who will be affected by the pavement-to-gravel conversion said, "Texas used to have the best roads...I just can't believe the Department of Transportation is going back to the dark ages." (Also see "Texas must invest in infrastructure to support oil boom," San Antonio Business Journal, August 20, 2014).

Tax breaks for the wealthy + no taxes for business = The need to sneak money away from your highway funds

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his fellow trickle-down tricksters are proposing to divert $158 million from the state's highway fund to plug budget holes caused by their massive tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy and their complete tax elimination for businesses. The diversion is causing concern across the state as needed repairs will be delayed. In response to the questioning of his policies, Brownback said, "If you've got a better idea, great. Let's hear it. Criticism, fine, but come up with your ideas" ("Kansas Gov. Brownback's Budget Hits Cherished Highway System," Associated Press, Huffington Post, February 7, 2015).

Here's an idea for you Governor Brownback: Stop pampering the super-wealthy at the expense of your infrastructure.

Infrastructure madness vs. the New Deal

America's infrastructure madness shows no sign of abating. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan recently pooh-poohed President Obama's infrastructure improvement proposal (calling it "envy economics"), the Koch brothers are planning to spend 900 million dollars to manipulate our political process (and thus keep taxes low on millionaires & billionaires), and millions of people, far from being discouraged by all this, seem to be moving further and further to the political right, just as the Kochs have paid for. It seems that no amount of budget damage, infrastructure damage, or democracy damage, can dissuade millions from having faith in the voodoo of good ol' trickle-down economics.

During the New Deal, things were very different. For example, instead of facilitating theft from highway funds, New Deal policymakers invested heavily in America's roads, streets, and highways. The WPA alone created, repaired, or improved 650,000 miles of roadway across the nation, including...are you listening Mr. Brownback?...nearly 20,000 miles of roads in Kansas.      

In any event, make sure you have several big pots handy. There's a good chance that you'll be boiling lots of water these next several years.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

WPA Exhibition of Posters

(WPA Poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FDR's Memoirs


Above: What if President Franklin Roosevelt had lived a much longer life and decided to write a memoir of the New Deal? In the book The FDR Memoirs: A Speculation on History (1973), author Bernard Asbell utilizes historical research and interviews with family members to write such a memoir, stepping into the persona of FDR. The book is well written, very interesting, and I highly recommend it. Here is one of "FDR's" many recollections: "The 'laziness' of WPA workers now became a target for New Deal opponents, as expressed by a new brand of jokes. Have you heard of the doctor who announced the discovery of a new medicine for cancer, but nobody can get any? The medicine is sweat from a WPA worker...Let me tell you what several million lazy reliefers accomplished  leaning on their shovels. By October 1937 they had built 1,634 schools and improved 16,421 others; built or improved more than twenty thousand gyms, stadiums, firehouses, hangars, courthouses, hospitals, and other public buildings...The story of WPA--of men and women in trouble who wanted to give generously for what they got--is a story of accomplishment that changed the physical face of America" (p. 220). (The image above is a scan from my personal collection).

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ten Ways The Political Right Is Vacuuming Money Out Of Your Wallet With Their Trickle-Down Economics. Welcome To "The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo."

(While promoting higher taxes on the wealthy, via the Revenue Act of 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "Our revenue laws have operated in many ways to the unfair advantage of the few." From The New Deal: A Modern History, p. 338, by Michael Hiltzik, 2011.)
  
According to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, "Americans largely think that the current tax system favors the wealthy..." And, a few weeks ago--while discussing the plight of American workers, their families, and the economy--U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said, "Many feel that the game is rigged against them, and they are right. The game is rigged against them."

Hmmm, let's take a closer look at this issue, and see if the American people and Senator Warren have it right (hint: they do).

Trickle-Down Economics, Pampering the Super-Wealthy, and the Resulting Revenue Switcheroo:

Over the past few years, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has been "experimenting" on his citizens by lowering taxes on the wealthy and raising taxes on the non-wealthy (see analysis here). The experiment has been a failure, of course, and now he's looking to plug enormous budget holes by raising taxes on the middle-class & poor, again, by increasing, among other things, taxes on cigarettes from "79 cents to $2.29" per pack, and also by trying to sneak money away from highways, schools, and future retirees. This is on top of previous budget cuts that, for example, closed a homeless shelter. It seems that Brownback and his allies will do anything to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy.

Brownback's trickle-down experiment is, ultimately, just a doubling-down on the national trickle-down experiment that President Reagan began back in 1981 (and that George W. Bush continued in the early 2000s). You all know the general idea: Give colossal tax breaks to the wealthy, and both revenue and middle-class jobs will multiply faster than you can say "lie." (Trickle-down economics was not invented by Reagan of course, but he's the godfather of the modern trickle-down economics movement, overseeing, for example, a cut in the federal top marginal income tax rate from 70% to 28%--a whopping 60% decrease in tax responsibility for the wealthy.)

The failure of trickle-down economics should be obvious to any non-wealthy person: We have the largest prison industrial complex in the world, a large national debt, historically low federal revenue (when measured as a percentage of GDP), the middle-class is shrinking, wages are stagnant, the number of homeless children has reached a record high, our infrastructure is falling apart, and, my God, where is that river of middle-class jobs we were promised?--not the $8-per-hour jobs that have been increasing in recent months, mind you, but the well-paying ones. Where are they?


(In the video above--created on Thursday, January 29, 2015--U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders explains the failure of trickle-down economics, by showing how the wealthiest 10% of Americans have--over time--hoarded more and more of the economic gains in America. Things have gotten so bad that, today, the wealthy are the only ones benefiting from economic growth. Sanders' full discussion on income & wealth inequality--as well as other economic problems--can be found here.)

Our pampering of the super-wealthy, and the gargantuan reductions in the amount of taxes they have to pay, has resulted in a federal government less willing & able to assist the states. This has direct, negative consequences for your wallet.

(***See "Senate GOP blocks $60B Obama infrastructure plan," Associated Press, USA Today, November 3, 2011, "The Stunning Collapse of Infrastructure Spending in One Chart," ThinkProgress, November 1, 2013, and "Will America's Roads and Highways Ever Get Fixed," CBS News, January 27, 2015***)

You see, now that the trickle-down crap has finally hit the revenue fan--and as the federal government twiddles its thumbs, whistles softly, and stares at the ceiling--guess who's being asked to make up the revenue difference? Not the rich, no siree Bob! You are--with a bevy of increased taxes, tolls, fees, and fines at the state & local level. Oh yeah, and your water rates--they need to go up too, because you've got water mains dating back to the Civil War breaking and leaking all over the place.

Yep, that's right! You, the struggling American worker, must step up to the plate and pay higher taxes, tolls, fees, and fines to subsidize historically low tax rates for the super-wealthy, and also to subsidize their tax loopholes, tax avoidance, and illegal offshore tax evasion. How do you like them apples? And, to pour salt into the wound (sulfuric acid, really) the super-wealthy are using their ever-growing wealth to purchase Congress, state legislatures, and governors' mansions, thereby making sure that this hideous trend continues indefinitely.

Are you shaking your head and saying, "No, no, no, this can't possibly be true!" Well, check out these 10 items & stories regarding, what I'm calling, The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo.

1. The states are saying: "The lower your income, the more income taxes you must pay!"

A recent study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy found that "in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent" ("Study Finds Local Taxes Hit Lower Wage Earners Harder," New York Times, January 13, 2015).

Why would this be? Well, in addition to the fact that the federal government is now less willing & able to help the states, many super-rich folks, we are told, will leave a state if the taxes are not to their liking. On the other hand, workers, who don't make their living by moving numbers around in the stock market, are less able to make that threat since they are tied to their job locations. So, state governments, realizing they have a captive population in the middle-class and poor, put a disproportionate share of the revenue burden on them.

2. As their colleagues in Congress work to minimize federal assistance to the states, Republicans in the states must make up the difference with various tax hikes on the middle-class & poor. 

It was recently reported that "Republican governors across the nation are proposing tax increases...There are proposals for raising the sales tax in Michigan, a tax on e-cigarettes in Utah, and gas taxes in South Carolina and South Dakota, to name a few" ("Republican Governors Buck Party Lines On Raising Taxes," New York Times, January 24, 2015). What do all these taxes have in common? They're regressive--meaning, the less you earn the higher percentage of your income is taken. For example, if you and Bill Gates each buy the same television, a higher percentage of your income will be taken by the state to satisfy the sales tax.

3. In Washington, D.C., the cost of infrastructure is all on the "rate payers."

When an old water main broke in Washington, D.C., a spokesman for DC Water said, "Replacing the infrastructure really falls to the rate payers. It’s not something that the city pays for. It’s not something that the federal government assists with" ("Hidden, aging infrastructure strikes D.C. commuters," WTOP, December 16, 2014). Indeed, all across the country, utility rates are being raised to pay for the repair and replacement of aging infrastructure (if you want examples, just Google search key words like "water rate increase" along with "aging infrastructure"). Raising utility rates to pay for infrastructure improvements is another regressive strategy. The lower your income the higher your burden will be--just the way right-wing politicians like it.

4. Sorry Los Angeles citizens, you need to subsidize tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy by paying more sales tax!

In Los Angeles, with the federal government nowhere to be found on infrastructure issues, a conservative politician/radio show host is proposing a higher sales tax ("Infrastructure Cracks as Los Angeles Defers Repairs," New York Times, September 1, 2014). Again we see how lower federal taxes on the wealthy--facilitated by the political right--pushes the revenue burden down the income scale, forcing tax increases that disproportionately burden the middle-class & poor (i.e., regressive taxes).

5. Crossing a bridge? You better not be poor, otherwise we'll be taking a higher percentage of your income, thank you very much.

In my home state of Maryland, over the past 3-4 years, the toll to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge went from $2.50 to $6.00 (a 140% increase). The increase was needed to pay for maintenance and repairs. Like sales taxes, tolls are regressive. The less you make, the higher percentage of your income is taken to satisfy the toll. If you have toll bridges in your area, I bet you've seen similar increases.

(WPA workers repairing a bridge connecting Keyser, West Virgnia, to McCoole, Maryland, in May of 1936. Would you prefer federal, WPA-type assistance on infrastructure projects near you, or would you prefer that your state & local policymakers keep jacking up your taxes, tolls, fees, and fines to pay for those needed repairs & improvements? If the latter, well, vote for the political right--they'll be happy to oblige you. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

6. Toll Roads.

In an effort to privatize our infrastructure (or simply to enhance existing funding mechanisms), many on the political right would like to see a greater use of toll roads (see, e.g., "Mitt Romney taps Bushies for transpo advice," Politico, October 11, 2012).

Tolls roads, in addition to putting a disproportionate financial burden on the middle-class & poor, would also increase traffic congestion. Think your commute is bad now? Wait until toll booths are placed every few miles along your route. You'll be sitting in traffic longer so that some super-wealthy investors and executives can add a few more millions of dollars to their off shore bank accounts.

In Texas, a greater use of toll roads by the Republican government is making even their Republican constituents angry ("Republicans Against Toll Roads," New York Times, October 20, 2014). But, I have a few questions for those angry Republican voters: "What did you think was going to happen, after you've been backing Republican politicians for these past 30+ years? Did you think your roads and bridges would just magically maintain themselves? Could you not foresee that lower taxes on the mega-wealthy would eventually mean higher taxes, tolls, fees, and fines for you?"

7. For heaven's sake, don't increase taxes on millionaires & billionaires! Instead, just hand out more more traffic fines to the middle-class & poor!"

Recently, "Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster...filed a lawsuit against 13 St. Louis County municipalities, alleging they violated a Missouri law that limits revenue from traffic fines and court fees" ("Missouri Attorney General Sues Municipalities Over 'Predatory' Traffic Fines," December 18, 2014). 

Well golly, if you're not going to get more money from the Forbes 400--who are worth $2.29 trillion, by the way--you have to get it from somewhere, right?? So, pull over the middle-class & poor and nail them with more traffic fines. See, revenue problem solved! Better still, traffic fines are regressive and thus--like local taxes and tolls--extremely unfair. Yippee! (Oh, how the right-wing millionaires & billionaires must be rolling on the ground with laughter at this particular revenue switcheroo.)

8. Regressive (yes regressive) fuel taxes.

Conservatives and progressives often (not always) seem to agree on raising the fuel tax. Conservatives like it because it hammers the middle-class & poor (as opposed to millionaires & billionaires) and progressives like it because it discourages fuel use and thus helps preserve the environment. Problem is, it's just another regressive tax (despite what you hear from some policy wonks, e.g., "Hey, those poor people don't have cars anyway and, even if they did, they wouldn't drive as much because they can't afford to go on vacations!").

The regressive nature of the fuel tax could be offset with some sort of tax credit for low-income folks; but I don't hear policymakers talking about credits nearly as much they're simply talking about raising fuel taxes for more revenue. In any event, there is pressure in various parts of the nation to increase the fuel tax to pay for infrastructure (see, e.g., "New Year's gas tax increases hit states, hike up fuel prices," Washington Times, January 3, 2015)

9. Oooops! Cutting taxes on the wealthy doesn't raise revenue? Guess we'll have to raise property taxes!

Recall that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his colleagues reduced tax rates for the wealthy, and eliminated business taxes altogether, in a scheme they promised would create an economic paradise--a free-market oasis in the land of "creeping socialism!"

Well, things didn't work out the way they wanted and the tax cuts blew a giant hole in the state's budget. The political right's Alice in Wonderland belief that massive tax cuts for the wealthy will increase revenue just isn't panning out (and it's just been reported that revenue for Kansas, in January 2015, was tens of millions short of right-wing predictions, again). I wonder if they'll be coming out of the rabbit hole anytime soon.

Scrambling to plug the budget hole, Brownback and his trickle-down comrades have been working feverishly to raise taxes on the middle-class & poor and also to cut spending on programs that help the middle-class & poor. Their latest strategy is to force an increase in property taxes. The trickle-down tricksters in Kansas want to cut even more funding for education, and also transfer some of the budget burden away from the state and onto the locals, via property taxes, despite the fact that "property taxes in many areas of Kansas are already onerous." And, as the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy points out, "Property taxes are typically regressive..." Republicans LOVE those regressive taxes!

10. Want to see the beauty of our national parks? Okay, pay more. Lots more.

This past October, Yosemite National Park made a proposal to substantially raise its fees, e.g., raising the entrance fee from $20 to $30 (a 50% increase). The fee increase is proposed, in part, to pay for "enhance[d] visitor services, including repair and maintenance of park facilities, restoration and rehabilitation of visitor service buildings, additional park programs and transportation services, and increase[d] resource protection."

Yosemite is hardly alone. As Time Magazine reports, "Price Hikes Up to 150% Are Planned for Your Favorite National Parks" (October 21, 2014). It's hard to blame the National Park administration though, because they have a maintenance backlog of about $11 billion. Sure, the Forbes 400 could take care of that pretty easily, with their $2.29 trillion, but they've probably already had a word with their congressional representatives: "Hey, do you want more campaign cash? Then you best not raise my taxes. Understand?"

So, since there will probably not (no, make that "certainly not") be a new federally-funded Civilian Conservation Corps, guess who's going to pay the maintenance bills? You'll find the answer in the nearest mirror. And these types of entry fees are...drum roll please...yep, you guessed it, regressive: The less money you make, the higher percentage of your income will be required to enter the park.

The New Deal vs. Today    

During the New Deal, federal policymakers made massive investments in infrastructure when struggling Americans couldn't. For example, with regard to the tens of thousands of WPA infrastructure projects across the nation, between 1935 and 1943, localities only had to raise about 20% of the cost before WPA funds filled in the rest. Today, however, with Republicans & Tea Partiers in charge, we have a different reality: More and more of the burden is falling on the people who can afford it the least.

President Obama is currently proposing a half-trillion dollar national infrastructure upgrade, paid for, in part, by taxes on corporations--corporations that have been (a) enjoying record profits and (b) utilizing a multitude of tax avoidance gimmicks these past many years. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan--a man who has benefited from (and is still benefiting from) big federal programs (see here, here, and here) but doesn't want anyone else to--responded to Obama's proposal with the typical right-wing cynicism of anything that doesn't pamper the wealthy: "What I think the president is trying to do here is to, again, exploit envy economics. This top-down redistribution doesn't work."

What Ryan is saying, in effect, is: "The middle-class and poor will have to pay a disproportionate amount of money for infrastructure improvements, through regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rate increases, so that my super-wealthy campaign donors don't have to pay another dime." Problem is, Mr. Ryan, the middle-class & poor are not experiencing record profits like Corporate America and the super-wealthy are, and thus cannot handle the additional & disproportionate burden.

Not all Republicans are against taxing the wealthy to pay for infrastructure. For example, Matthew Dowd, a national strategist for the Republican Party, recently wrote: "we need to have a well-paying jobs program tied to infrastructure improvements administered locally by cities, counties and states where people still trust government to get the job done. And this should be funded by tax policies at the federal level which put a much bigger burden on the wealthy in this country."

Unfortunately, Dowd's voice is the rare voice of reason in the Republican Party. More often than not (much more often than not) Republican politicians act as bodyguards against increased taxes on their political sugar daddies (campaign donors), thereby forcing a revenue burden shift downward to the middle-class & poor.

So, let's sum this up: The wealthy are getting wealthier--but are being asked to pay less. The middle-class and poor, who have been stuck with stagnant wages for decades--are being asked to pay more. Read that again, very slowly and very carefully.

Welcome to The Great Right-Wing Revenue Switcheroo! Now, open your wallet...because the right-wing vacuum cleaner is coming for more.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The New Deal and Football

Above: The newly built football stadium at Fort Hill High School in Cumberland, Maryland. WPA laborers built the stadium in 1936-1937. Work included building the grandstand, installing the running track, and excavating & landscaping the playing field. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

  Above: 1937 Thanksgiving Day football game between Fort Hill High School and Allegany High School. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Above: WPA workers building the football stadium. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

 Above: The Fort Hill High School football stadium today, from the opposite angle of the three photos above. The school complex you see in the background was also built circa 1936-1937, with funds from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA). Photo by Brent McKee.

 Above: In November of 1936, WPA administrator Harry Hopkins addresses a crowd at Louisiana State University's (LSU) football stadium, recently expanded by WPA workers. The WPA project at LSU was just one of thousands of recreational projects performed by WPA workers. For example, the WPA built 2,302 new stadiums, grandstands, and bleachers across the nation (Final Report on the WPA Program, p. 131). Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum