Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: As America invests in "ghost schools" abroad, real schools here are falling apart

(WPA workers building a school in Centreville, Maryland, 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

American taxpayers are funding a lot reconstruction efforts abroad, but a lot of the money has gone missing. A recent U.S. government report indicates that, "The inability to adequately inspect and manage [U.S. funded] reconstruction efforts has led to extreme waste, including one case where the Afghan government found that millions of dollars had disappeared as Afghanistan paid for 'nonexistent ghost schools, ghost teachers, and ghost students'" ("Tens of Millions Wasted on 'Ghost' Schools, and That’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg," Mother Jones, January 29, 2016). 

We've also lost an unknown, but large amount of military equipment in Iraq. In one case,  2,300 Humvees were lost to ISIS.  And, of course, our 8-million-dollar per hour wars show no sign of ending. Most likely, we'll be spending trillions of dollars on middle-eastern conflicts over the next several decades. For some, this will be a very lucrative outcome. After all, the loss of 2,300 Humvees might mean a contract for the building of 2,300 more.
 
In any event, while we're paying for ghost schools abroad, our own schools are falling apart. Old schools in Baltimore had to shut down because their heating systems don't work. Underfunded schools in Kansas had to close early to help pay for tax breaks for the rich. High levels of toxic lead (from old pipes) were found coming out of water fountains in schools in Sebring, Ohio. Detroit's school system is being sued over "rodent-infested school buildings that are crumbling, damaged by water and pockmarked with black mold," along with "unrepaired bullet holes, exposed wires, and boarded-up windows." And, all across America, schools are being closed due to water main breaks - most of which are occurring on old pipes that should have been replaced by now: Schools closed in West Baltimore on January 15th, in Barneveld, Wisconsin on January 19th, in Troy, New York on January 20th, in Atlanta, Georgia on January 26th, in Kirkland, Illinois on January 29th, and, well, the list goes on and on. What do you expect, in a country that experiences about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks, every single year.
 
Things don't have to be this way of course. We could stop trying to be the Policeman Of The World, and start paying more attention to domestic problems; for example, fixing bullet holes & removing rats from our schools, and providing non-toxic drinking water to our schoolchildren. During the New Deal era, WPA workers engaged in 39,000 projects to build, repair, or improve schools, and they also installed 16,000 miles of new water lines. Other New Deal work & construction programs, e.g., the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) also engaged in these types of projects.

Unfortunately, fear is a big seller. So, it's quite probable that more and more money will be spent overseas, while less and less is invested in our own schools and infrastructure.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Krugman is not only wrong about Bernie Sanders, he's also wrong about the New Deal

(WPA workers on a road improvement project in Baltimore, Maryland, 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

Krugman is wrong on Sanders and his supporters

In a recent op-ed, economist Paul Krugman critiques Bernie Sanders and his supporters. His concern is that Sanders and his supporters are wide-eyed dreamers, unaware of political realities:

"The point is that while idealism is fine and essential--you have to dream of a better world--it’s not a virtue unless it goes along with hardheaded realism about the means that might achieve your ends... Sorry, but there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking about means and ends. Don’t let idealism veer into destructive self-indulgence."

But former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich suggests otherwise:

"Krugman doesn’t get it. I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen." 

I agree with Reich; and I don't think Krugman understands Sanders' supporters (of which, I am one). We understand that Sanders, if elected, will not get everything he's fighting for. But we want someone who will use the bully pulpit more aggressively than President Obama has. We want someone who comes to the bargaining table with more fire, and a higher starting offer. Too often, Obama has begun negotiations with a low bid, and then caved even further. Sanders and his supporters know that compromise is often necessary but, damn it, you have to come in swinging. Politics is dirty and nasty - always has been, always will be. With so much economic inequality today, and so much financial corruption, we need a fighter; not the "adult in the room" who passively let's the country swing further to the right in an effort to remain genteel. 

Krugman is wrong on the New Deal

Krugman also writes, "And the question Sanders supporters should ask is, When has their theory of change ever worked? Even F.D.R., who rode the depths of the Great Depression to a huge majority, had to be politically pragmatic, working not just with special interest groups but also with Southern racists. Remember, too, that the institutions F.D.R. created were add-ons, not replacements: Social Security didn’t replace private pensions..."

Krugman is right that FDR was hindered by southern Democrats who were highly, and openly, racist. But he's wrong that New Deal institutions were "add-ons, not replacements." In fact, he's shockingly wrong.

The Securities and Exchange Commission was not an add-on. It was a replacement for a wild-west, fraud-ridden stock exchange. The Civilian Conservation Corps was not an add-on, it was a replacement for deforestation. The WPA and other New Deal work programs were not add-ons, they were replacements for unemployment and infrastructure neglect. The Rural Electrification Administration was not an add-on, it was a replacement for a powerless rural America. I could go on all day long - the TVA, certain parts of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Soil Conservation Service, and so on. All of these things were wide-ranging, breathtaking replacements for the status quo. I'm not even sure Social Security can properly be deemed an add-on. It's true that it didn't replace private pensions - but did everybody have a private pension? For those who didn't, wasn't Social Security a replacement for a penniless retirement?

Paul Krugman is a great economist, and has persistently provided a rational voice to counter the foolishness that spews from the mouths of billionaire-backed Republicans and Tea Partiers. But his remarks on Sanders and the New Deal are not his best moments.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How much lead will we drink to please the rich? Another town has contaminated water.

(WPA workers on an infrastructure project in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 1941. All across the nation, WPA workers repaired and modernized our infrastructure on a vast scale. Much of this infrastructure is still being used today, far beyond its intended lifespan. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)

The town of Sebring, Ohio has found lead in its water supply; coming from, among other places, water fountains in schools. Lead causes brain damage in children. The reasons for the lead contamination are a corrosive water supply and an aging infrastructure - just like the lead contamination problem that recently poisoned children in Flint, Michigan.

If you think these are isolated problems, you might want to think again. These older pipes can be found all across the country, and lead can be leeched out of them as they age. Chemicals are added to prevent most of the leeching, but is the process good enough to keep us safe? According to a recent article in the Seattle Times, "Some researchers question whether chemical treatment and routine testing for lead in the water are enough, arguing that the only way to remove the threat is to replace the pipes... officials have long treated the water with phosphates to prevent leaching. Phosphates are generally considered safe for humans [generally??]... The EPA says cities need to take steps to reduce lead levels if they exceed 15 parts per billion. But many health experts say no amount is safe."

The American Society of Civil Engineers has been warning us, at least since the early 2000s, that our infrastructure needs serious improvement. We've ignored those warnings. Progressive-minded politicians have proposed public jobs programs for the unemployed, e.g., a new WPA, and they've introduced legislation to repair & improve our infrastructure. Conservative politicians have blocked them, preferring instead to ignore or even insult the unemployed. Conservative politicians have even delayed the Highway Bill, feverishly trying to insert Wall Street favors into it. Things are so bad, that a top Republican in Congress blamed his own party for hindering infrastructure improvement.

Why is this foolishness occurring? Well, mainly because conservative politicians are protecting their wealthy campaign donors from increased taxation - taxation that would generate the revenue needed for infrastructure repairs. Those wealthy campaign donors are not interested in improving our bridges, roads, and water lines, even though such improvements would help hundreds of millions of people. They prefer to focus on their private compounds, private jets, and private islands.

Not every conservative has jumped down the infrastructure rabbit hole, of course. A little over a year ago, Republican political strategist Matthew Dowd 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." He's essentially calling for a New Deal-type infrastructure program, because that's exactly how it worked back then. Local communities & governments submitted infrastructure proposals, wrote up plans, provided a certain percentage of funding, and New Deal programs like the WPA and PWA kicked in the rest of the money.

Significant, wide-scale infrastructure improvement cannot occur unless we tax the rich more (both individuals and corporations) because the middle-class & poor are already tapped out. You see, as the rich have become richer and richer, the majority of the rest of us don't even have a few hundred bucks standing by for an emergency. Over the past several decades, as the rich have gobbled up more and more of our national wealth, incomes for people who have to work for a living have stagnated or dropped. We could borrow money to repair our infrastructure, of course, since interest rates are low; but how much more do we want to keep adding to the national credit card, especially after President Bush and his war hawks ran up the balance with their poorly conceived and poorly executed wars in the middle-east?

In any event, here's the million-dollar question: How much lead are American voters willing to drink, and have their children drink, to please the rich? I think I know the answer to that question, and it's horrifying.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New Deal Art: "The Sky Pond"

Above: "The Sky Pond," an oil painting by Paul Kauvar Smith (1893-1977), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Deal Art: Shoveling snow in New York City

Above: "Snow Shovellers," an oil painting by Jacob Getlar Smith (1898-1958), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. The description for this painting reads, "Many artists went out into the cold to find subjects after the PWAP began in December 1933. Jacob Getlar Smith found men hired by the government’s new work relief program, the Civil Works Administration, to shovel snow from the streets and park paths of New York. Some of the snow shovellers sport crisp fedoras and warm overcoats while others wear battered caps and ragged coats; some have practical boots while others wear shoes more suited to office work. Men used to physical labor stride along vigorously; those accustomed to sitting behind desks walk more slowly, bowed with weariness after a morning spent clearing snow. Black and white, poor and middle class—all had lost their jobs to the Great Depression. Smith showed them gathered into the ranks of the New Deal social programs that offered them all the means to get through the winter. A boy pulling a sled walks alongside the men, a reminder of the families who looked to these men for their support." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A New Deal for Michigan

("Flint Landscape," an oil painting by John Davies (1901-1965), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

Decades of trickle-down economics, and recent austerity, have not been kind to Michigan. Its schools are crumbling and, as of 2012, it had the "second-worst roads and bridges in the nation." Also, in the city of Flint, children have been poisoned by lead in their drinking water--due in part to old pipes--and their parents are being billed for it. Furthermore, in 2014, Detroit shut off water to low-income residents who could not afford to pay their ever-rising water bills but, interestingly, it did not shut off water for businesses that owed millions.

With respect to infrastructure generally, an executive for a trade group in Michigan said, "But no one can really figure out where we go in finding solutions." I have a suggestion where to go: The New Deal.

Let's look at some of the things the New Deal did for the Wolverine State back in the 1930s and 40s...

Civil Works Administration (CWA):

In January of 1934, there were 176,000 Michigan residents, formerly unemployed, working in the CWA. They built or repaired schools, roads, bridges, water lines, and more.

(Source: "Analysis of Civil Works Program Statistics," 1939, p. 18)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA):

In February of 1935, 3,720 college students in Michigan 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).

Between 1933 and 1935, FERA granted $116 million to Michigan for relief efforts (about $2 billion in today's dollars). FERA funds typically went towards cash relief, rural relief projects, and a wide variety of work programs.

(Source: "Final Statistical Report of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration," 1942, pp. 64, 103, and 232)

("Production," a mural study for the Buchannon, Michigan Post Office, by Gertrude Goodrich (1914-?), created while she was in, or competing for, a New Deal Section of Fine Arts commission, in 1941. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)  

Public Works Administration (PWA):

By 1939, the PWA had contributed $62 million in funding towards 461 infrastructure projects in Michigan (not including federal projects). In today's dollars, that's about $1 billion.

(Source: "America Builds: The Record of PWA," 1939, p. 284)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC):

Between 1933 and 1942, nearly 103,000 Michigan men were employed in the CCC. This included about 94,500 junior and veteran enrollees and 8,300 support staff. Among their many accomplishments were the planting of 485 million trees (perhaps the most of any state) and the stocking of 156 million fish.

(Source: Perry H. Merrill, "Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942," 1981, pp. 158-159)

("Way of Life," a mural study for the Chelsea, Michigan Post Office, by George Harold Fisher, (1895-1986), created while he was in, or competing for, a New Deal Section of Fine Arts commission, in 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.) 

Public Works of Art Project (PWAP):

Between 1933 and 1934, in Region 9 of the PWAP (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan), unemployed artists were paid to create 70 sculptures, 159 water color paintings, 161 murals, 210 oil paintings, and other works of art, for use in public buildings and parks.

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

National Youth Administration (NYA):

During academic year 1939-1940, 850 schools and colleges in Michigan were participating in the NYA program, employing about 16,000 students each month.

During any given month of fiscal year 1942, there were about 8,000 young Michigan men & women employed in the NYA's out-of-school work program.

(Source: Federal Security Agency - War Manpower Commission, "Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943," 1944, pp. 246-247, and 254)

("Settlers," a mural study for the East Detroit, Michigan Post Office, by Frank Cassara (1913-?), created while he was in, or competing for, a New Deal Section of Fine Arts commission, ca. 1939-1941. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

Post Offices:

During the New Deal era, the U.S Treasury built or expanded Post Office buildings in Michigan and commissioned artists to decorate them. See the Living New Deal's Michigan pages for examples.

Works Progress Administration (WPA):

Between 1935 and 1943, WPA workers in Michigan produced 5.9 million articles of clothing; served 28 million school lunches; created or improved 22,000 miles of roads; built or improved 700 bridges & viaducts; installed or improved 64,000 culverts; engaged in nearly 1,200 projects to build, repair, or improve schools; created or improved 326 parks; installed 700 miles of new water lines; constructed 153,000 linear feet of new airport & airfield runway; and more.

(Source: "Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43," 1946, pp. 134-136)

(A WPA poster, created by artist Maurice Merlin between 1941 and 1943. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation (FSCC): 

During calendar year 1936, the FSCC distributed 1.1 million pounds of canned beef to low-income residents of Michigan, 278,000 pounds of evaporated milk, 200,000 pounds of enriched oat cereal, 4.7 million pounds of fresh apples, 1.2 million pounds of citrus fruit, 100,000 pounds of walnuts, and much more.

In 1940, the FSCC delivered 3.7 million pounds of food for Michigan schoolchildren.

(Sources: (1) Report of the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation for the Calendar Year 1936, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937. p. 13. (2) Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation, Report of the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation for the Fiscal Year 1940, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940, p. 8)

(A store in Detroit lets WPA workers know that their credit "Is Good Here." 1942 photo, courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Deal Art: "Railroad Yards"

Above: "Railroad Yards," a lithograph on paper by Grant Arnold (1904-1988), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1935. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

State of emergency declared in New York towns of Halfmoon and Waterford, after a 100-year-old pipe breaks

(WPA workers digging a trench for a water main in Cumberland, Maryland, 1937. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)
 
As Michigan is dealing with its lead-poisoning scandal (children in Flint, Michigan were poisoned due to neglected infrastructure, polluted water, and austerity), the New York towns of Halfmoon and Waterford (Saratoga County) are dealing with a dire situation of their own.

An old water main, installed around 1916, broke and caused massive water pressure loss in the two towns, prompting a "state of emergency" declaration. Some residents have no water service, several schools are closed, streets are shut down, citizens are being advised to boil their water before using it, and fire-fighting has been put at risk ("Water shortage in Waterford, Halfmoon a 'difficult situation,'" The Daily Gazette, January 20, 2016).

This break is just one of the quarter-of-a-million breaks that Americans experience, every single year.

But nothing will motivate our policymakers to invest more in American infrastructure - nothing. Not a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks, not two trillion gallons of water wasted every year, and not poisoned children. I am firmly convinced that we could have 500 million water main breaks every year, and have every child in America (not including the children of the super-wealthy, who can afford to have clean water trucked into their private compounds) poisoned by lead or bacteria, and our policymakers--who are predominately right-wing now--would still be trying to give more tax breaks to the rich, and still be promoting illegal tax evasion, instead of focusing on infrastructure. 

President Roosevelt and his New Deal colleagues knew better. They taxed the rich more and they built up our infrastructure with programs like the PWA, WPA, and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. In New York, WPA workers installed over 1,200 miles of new water lines. We could do the same today - but we won't. Instead, we'll keep voting for Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Democrats who take massive amounts of money from Wall Street. Isn't that amazing?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: Right-wing policymakers (and their super-wealthy backers) neglect infrastructure and poison children

Above: A young resident of Flint, Michigan, protests her poisoning. Photo copyright: Jake May, Flint Journal-MLive, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

Above: WPA workers on an infrastructure project in Baltimore, Maryland, 1935. Unlike the girl in the photo above, these girls had the benefit of New Deal policymakers - policymakers who understood the value of sanitation and clean water. Across the country, WPA workers installed 16,000 miles of new water lines and 24,000 miles of new sewer lines. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and other groups, have repeatedly warned us about our deteriorating infrastructure. Right-wing politicians have repeatedly ignored these warnings, and they've also repeatedly blocked and mocked infrastructure improvement initiatives. Indeed, they're so obstinate, that even a top Republican in Congress has blamed right-wing politicians for blocking infrastructure improvements.
 
See:
 
"Senate GOP blocks $60B Obama infrastructure plan," USA Today, November 3, 2011.
 
"$478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP," The Fiscal Times, March 25, 2015.
 
Residents of Flint, Michigan have recently been poisoned by lead, because of old pipes, a corrosive water supply, and a decision by policymakers to save money (austerity). The residents of Flint have also had E. Coli in their water, and possibly the bacteria that causes the deadly Legionnaires disease. And this is just part of a larger national problem of infrastructure neglect that is causing a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks each year. These breaks, 650 per day, shut down schools, shut down businesses, rupture roads, create sinkholes, flood residential basements, force Americans to boil their water before using it, and waste two trillion gallons of water annually.
 
And it's not just water mains. For example, right now, there is a huge methane gas leak in California. Also, passenger train safety is threatened by lack of funding. And in 2014, 300,000 West Virgnians couldn't drink their water because chemicals had spilled into the Elk River from a leaking storage container. With respect to roads, "The federal Department of Transportation estimates that obsolete road designs and poor road conditions are a factor in about 14,000 highway deaths each year."    

How have right-wing politicians responded to the highway deaths, the methane leak, the polluted Elk River, the poisoned children, and the general lack of funding? Well, they bogged down the Highway Bill by trying to attach unrelated Wall Street favors to it, they've tried to weaken regulations designed to keep our air & water clean (see link below), and, instead of increased revenue & funding, they want to give more tax breaks to the wealthy.
 
Also See:
 
 
 
To pour salt into the wound, after decades of right-wing tax breaks for the rich, the revenue burden for infrastructure has shifted downward to the state & local level in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates. Despite the fact that the middle-class and poor have faced stagnant or dropping wages for the past several decades (while the rich have gotten infinitely richer), and despite the fact that a recent report showed 63% of Americans are "$1,000 away from financial ruin," the rich and their right-wing marionettes in Congress and state governments are forcing them to pay more and more and more. In fact, right-wing politicians have even been trying to facilitate illegal tax evasion by the super-wealthy, which puts even more of a burden on the middle-class and poor.
 
During the New Deal, the rich were taxed more and infrastructure was repaired & modernized on a vast scale. But, until Americans learn this history, and until they stop voting for right-wing foolishness, more rivers will be polluted, more water mains will break, and more children will be poisoned. This is completely outrageous. But it's also, sadly, the reality of our new anti-New Deal, trickle-down America.

Above: Here's some money that could have been used to prevent the poisoning of the children in Flint, Michigan. Instead, it went to private jets, private compounds, private islands, and political campaign contributions - contributions designed to shield super-wealthy Americans from higher tax rates and law enforcement. Think of it as a giant kick-back scheme, where millionaires & billionaires tell right-wing politicians, "Look, you send me some tax breaks, and you send me some laws to keep the fuzz off my back, and I send you some campaign money. Got it?" Image courtesy of Demos.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Deal Art: "School's Out"

Above: "School's Out," an oil painting by Allan Rohan Crite (1910-2007), an African American artist in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Harold Ickes on Japanese American internment camps: The camps are "both stupid and cruel"

(Harold Ickes and his wife Jane Dahlman at their home in Olney, Maryland, 1938. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Franklin Roosevelt's biggest mistake as president had nothing to do with the New Deal. Instead, his biggest mistake occurred in 1942, when he caved to military, political, and public hysteria, and signing Executive Order 9066, which authorized the relocation of Japanese Americans on the west coast to internment camps. The country had just been stunned by the Pearl Harbor invasion, and there was fear that some Japanese Americans might aid the enemy (or be the enemy). There was also hope on the part of some white Americans that the relocation of Japanese Americans would remove business and labor competition.

Harold Ickes, one of Roosevelt's top men, despised the racially-discriminatory policy of Executive Order 9066 and, as Secretary of the Interior, was aghast that he would have a role to play in it. He called the Relocation Centers, "fancy-named concentration camps," described them as "both stupid and cruel," and told the president that the camps were "turning thousands of well-meaning and loyal Japanese into angry prisoners." Roosevelt replied that he regretted the military necessity of the relocations. (T.H. Watkins, Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold Ickes, 1874-1952, 1990, pp. 792-793)

In truth, and as I wrote in a previous blog post, the country would have been better off requesting help from Japanese Americans on the west coast. For those who might think this naive, they would do well to remember what did happen when we requested help from Japanese Americans, for example, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This was a volunteer Army unit that earned "9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations." The Japanese American Museum in San Jose explains one of their wartime actions: "Perhaps the most famous of the 442nd accomplishments was the heroic rescue of the Texas 'Lost Battalion' which had been caught behind enemy lines. In a ferocious battle, the 442nd suffered over 800 casualties (including 184 killed) to rescue 211 members of the Texas battalion."

(The 442nd in France, 1944. Photo courtesy of NPR and the National Archives.)

Today, there is all sorts of hateful talk about building walls, shooting refugees, and creating a database to track Muslim Americans. We shouldn't respect any of this foolishness. Instead, we should remember the words of Harold Ickes and remember the bravery of the 442nd. Ickes knew (and so should we) that our country is stronger when we bring people in and enlist their skill & labor to make a better world - and weaker when we exclude, stereotype, and demonize. This was true for Japanese Americans during World War II, and it's true for today's excluded and neglected groups, e.g., American Indians, refugees, minorities, and unemployed workers. These groups are an untapped well of greatness that we are failing to see because of fear and hysteria.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Deal Art: "Waterbirds Nesting"

Above: "Waterbirds Nesting," an oil panting by Josephine Joy (1869-1948), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Did you know that WPA workers protected "birds and other wildlife ...by the construction and placement of shelter houses, feeding stations, and sanctuaries"? (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, 1946, p. 54). Image courtesy  of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

11,000 theater performances by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration

(A theater performance in New York City, ca. 1934-1935, funded by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). Photo from a FERA report.)

Before the WPA's Federal Theatre Project, the Work Division of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration had its own impressive drama program. Between 1934 and 1935, 395 acting companies across the country gave 11,000 performances to over 5 million audience members. It was a win-win situation, where unemployed theater workers were given jobs and more Americans were able to experience the theater. There were performances for CCC camps, a Portable Theatre group in New York City, puppet shows for children, vaudeville in San Francisco, "stunt nights" & dramatic contests in New Jersey, and an African American theater group in Massachusetts. There were even acting companies in places not widely known for theater; for example, Wyoming had five acting companies. (The Emergency Work Relief Program of the FERA, 1934-1935, 1935, pp. 108-111.)
 
The New Deal offered opportunities for the unemployed, and improved the quality of life for the entire nation through improved infrastructure, assistance with food & clothing, greater access to the arts, and much more. Compare that to today's public policy, where the unemployed are largely ignored, infrastructure is allowed to age and crumble, social services are demonized, and art... well, art isn't even on the agenda.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In her State of the Union rebuttal, Republican Governor Nikki Haley promoted "limited government"... but failed to mention the lawlessness, death, and poisonings "limited government" causes.

(Republican Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, used under the CCA-2.0 license.)

In her State of the Union rebuttal, Nikki Haley praised Obama, saying "he is at his best" when he speaks "eloquently about grand things." She then quickly scolded him: "Unfortunately, the President’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words." I'm no fan of President Obama, but I find it disingenuous that Haley did not mention the fact that Republicans have ridiculed and blocked Obama's agenda, throughout his entire presidency, thereby ensuring that, indeed, his record would fall far short of his words.

She then back-stabs the president (more on that in a minute) further, by saying: "Even worse, we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it [translation: "Obama is a wimp"]. Soon, the Obama presidency will end, and America will have the chance to turn in a new direction." (What direction would that be Ms. Haley? More involvement in the middle-east? More tax breaks for your millionaire & billionaire donors? More negligence of our infrastructure?)    

The reason I say she is back-stabbing the president, is because just a few months ago she was on the phone begging him for federal aid (you can see a picture of that here), after she and her Republican buddies in South Carolina had failed to adequately take care of their infrastructure (they were more interested in lying about the unemployed and getting them to pee in cups) and the infrastructure was decimated in a storm - dozens of failed dams, washed out roads, broken water mains, etc. At the time, she was thankful for his declaration of a disaster, because it freed up federal funds to help her state. She said Obama was "extremely gracious and kind." So gracious and kind, in fact, that she felt compelled to imply he was a wimp in her speech last night.

What I found most interesting however, was Haley's call for limited government: "If we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families [actually, all of the Republican candidates' tax plans skew towards the wealthy, and some actually increase taxes on the middle-class and poor] and we’d put the brakes on runaway spending and debt."

Ah, the eternal GOP/Tea Party siren-call of "limited government!".

But, in many ways, limited government has already been achieved. For example, federal criminal prosecution of big financial institutions is non-existent, and armed militia groups are now permitted to point their weapons at federal officers and seize control of federal land (see yesterday's blog post). Also, taxes are (by historic standards) very low on the super-wealthy, and government spending on infrastructure has been drastically reduced.

But there's a price to be paid for all this "limited government" - for example, lawlessness and crime. And, with respect to infrastructure, dams fail and kill people, roads deteriorate and kill people, and old water mains flood homes, close businesses, and poison children. But Nikki Haley didn't mention any of this in her State of the Union rebuttal, despite experiencing some of these things first hand. Why not? Because conservative governance is all about (a) blathering on about "limited government" and (b) ignoring the lawlessness, death, and destruction that such "limited government" causes - until it's too late, and then they beg the federal government (a.k.a., taxpayers across the country) to fix their problems (also see, "[Republican] Snyder activates National Guard in Flint, seeks federal help" [after infrastructure is ignored and children are poisoned by lead] Associated Press, Yahoo News, January 12, 2016).

There is a better way to govern, of course, but most Americans have never learned or heard about it, and thus have no idea what you're talking about when you say things like "New Deal," "Works Progress Administration," or "Civilian Conservation Corps." I went to a state forest headquarters once--a state forest where the CCC had been in the 1930s and 40s--and asked one of the young assistants if she had any information about the CCC's work there. She thought for a moment, and then said she was unaware of the CCR being at the park. Now, as much as I like Credence Clearwater Revival, that wasn't exactly the type of information I was looking for.

We need to teach more Americans about the New Deal; otherwise, we'll be left with more empty-headed calls for "limited government," more broken water mains, and more poisoned children.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What would FDR do? The Obama Administration's stunning lack of law enforcement.

(President Roosevelt's attorney general, Homer Cummings, leaving the White House in 1935. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

At the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a heavily-armed group of men has taken over federal buildings, torn down a fence, rifled through government files, used federally owned trucks & tractors, blocked public access, and threatened violence if law enforcement tries to make them leave. Some of these men are from the same group that had an armed confrontation with federal law enforcement in 2014, in the Cliven Bundy land-grazing dispute. The men at Malheur want the refuge shut down and the land given to ranchers, miners, and loggers. Militant outsiders have also descended in the area around the refuge and are apparently using intimidation tactics on residents and those they suspect of being federal employees. At a town hall meeting, a 15-year-old girl tearfully said, "I just want them [Bundy and the militants] to go home so I can feel safe and I can feel like it is home again... I shouldn't have to be scared in my own hometown."

The sheriff of Harney County has issued an alert, saying, "There are continual reports of law enforcement officers and community members being followed home; of people sitting in cars outside their homes, observing their movements and those of their families; and of people following them and their families as they move around the community." The sheriff then offered tips for residents to remain safe, including, keeping curtains closed, being alert for unusual vehicles parked near their homes, and being aware of vehicles following them.

Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers are offering "support" for the criminal activities at Malheur, like Michele Fiore, a Nevada legislator who is famous for making a calendar and a Christmas card showing her and her family carrying guns, and for telling a fellow lawmaker who disagreed with her to "Sit your ass down."


Above: In this video, a 15-year-old girl who lives near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge expresses her fear about the incident, and related events occurring in her town. Though the residents gave her a standing ovation, people on YouTube have already started attacking her for expressing her feelings. One "caring person" wrote: "What a crock. If she's actually scared, it is because her Liberal parents instilled fear in her. Nobody would trust the government before they trusted a patriot rancher...not even an ignorant 15 year old." Original YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nlFKyLArzE&feature=youtu.be.)

The Obama Administration has responded to the Malheur incident--the occupation and destruction of federal property--by telling us that it is a local law enforcement matter. His law enforcement agencies say they are "monitoring" the situation, they make occasional denouncements, but more-often-than-not they refuse to comment. There were plans to shut the power off at Malheur, but those plans seem to have fizzled out, and American taxpayers, apparently, continue to provide free power to the protesters, militants, domestic terrorists, or whatever they're being called today. A judge in the area, upset at the amount of taxpayer dollars the occupation is eating up, plans to bill Ammon Bundy $70,000 per day for local costs.

This isn't the first time that the Obama Administration has refused to aggressively enforce the law. For example, since the Cliven Bundy land-grazing dispute, little or no action has been taken against Bundy, and his cattle continue to graze on public land for free (he owes about a million dollars to the government, after many years of not paying the required fees - fees that are low compared to privately-controlled grazing land). The Obama Administration has also taken a soft approach to white-collar crime. His attorney general famously implied that they would not prosecute white-collar crime if the perpetrators were wealthy & powerful. (Also see "Are banks too big to jail? PBS Frontline's stunning report shows how the Obama administration undermined the rule of law," Salon, January 23, 2013.)

We hear excuses as to why the Obama Administration will not enforce the law, for example, they don't want to create another Waco or Ruby Ridge incident, or they don't want to make martyrs out of the armed men at Malheur. But would those concerns be raised if the protesters at Malheur were armed blacks or armed Muslims?

Many people are starting to get angry at the Obama Administration for not enforcing the law against the Bundys and the bankers. Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) recently said, "As far as I know, Cliven Bundy is still engaged in grazing his cattle illegally and has not paid any fines and there’s been zero enforcement against him. They haven’t done anything. It’s just like Obama and Wall Street. They don’t seem to want to take on any law breakers whether they’re white collar criminals on Wall Street or radical extremists in the West."

Groups representing current and retired federal employees have also expressed concern about the lack of law enforcement by the Obama Administration. In a letter to the Department of Justice, they wrote: "In our experience we have learned that lawbreakers must be held accountable in a timely manner or they will gain power and become more dangerous. We are very concerned that the longer that no action is taken, the current situation will deteriorate and become more and more dangerous for the dedicated people protecting the public lands and the public legally using these lands."

(President Roosevelt and Attorney General Homer Cummings at a crime conference in 1934. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Law enforcement is inherently tricky, and there will never be a completely mistake-free set of policies & actions. Still, in light of the Obama Administration's frequent refusal to enforce the law, it's interesting to note some of the law enforcement developments that occurred during the New Deal era. Consider the following three examples:

1. President Roosevelt's attorney general, Homer Cummings, "transformed the Department of Justice... [he] 'took the view that his office called for leadership rather than passive administration... he conceived a program to refurbish the rusty machinery of national justice.' He established uniform rules of practice and procedure in federal courts. To fight the crime waves of the Prohibition era, he secured the passage of laws that brought into effect the 'Lindbergh law' on kidnapping, made bank robbery a federal crime, cracked down on the interstate transportation of stolen goods, and strengthened federal regulations on firearms. He gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation more power, sponsored a national crime conference, established Alcatraz as a model prison for hardened offenders..."

2. According to the FBI, "Prior to 1933, Bureau agents had developed an esprit de corps, but the public considered them interchangeable with other federal investigators. Three years later, mere identification with the FBI was a source of special pride to its employees and commanded instant recognition and respect from the public. By the end of the decade, the Bureau had field offices in 42 cities and employed 654 special agents and 1,141 support employees... The legal tools given to the FBI by Congress, as well as Bureau initiatives to upgrade its own professionalism and that of law enforcement, resulted in the arrest or demise of all the major gangsters by 1936."

3. New Deal policymakers also cracked down on Wall Street fraud by creating the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of its first chairmen, William Douglas, brusquely refused Wall Street's ridiculous offer to police itself, and then created "a legal and technical framework that would endure for decades" (Michael Hiltzik, The New Deal: A Modern History, 2011, p. 191).

So, how would FDR respond to the armed occupation at Malheur? Well, we'll never know for sure of course, but considering that he had placed his beloved Civilian Conservation Corps there to develop the refuge and improve public access, and considering that his FBI was not afraid to duke it out with lawbreakers, I think we could make a pretty good guess.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

After 763 water main breaks in two years, Syracuse asks for infrastructure help. They won't get any.

Above: A WPA water line project in Annapolis, Maryland, 1938. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA installed 16,000 miles of new water lines all across the country. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

The city of Syracuse had 391 water main breaks in 2014. So, they asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for assistance. His response was, "fix your own pipes." Then, in 2015, Syracuse had 372 more water main breaks. That's 763 breaks in two years. Aware that their governor is less-than-interested in helping, they're now asking for help from the federal government. Unfortunately, Congress is now controlled by Republican & Tea Party radicals who haven't the slightest interest in the nation's infrastructure. Their legislative goals are largely confined to (a) tax breaks for the rich and (b) getting involved in as many middle-eastern affairs as possible.

Syracuse has estimated that it will cost $726 million to repair / modernize their water lines. If we created a new WPA, made it even larger, and operated it under the same financial scheme as was done during the Great Depression, Syracuse would only have to come up with about $145 million, and the federal government would fund the rest. Unemployed Americans would have jobs and Syracuse would have a new water system.

But we're not going to create a new WPA, are we? You see, at the same time that we've let our infrastructure fall apart, we've fallen into a habit of insulting the unemployed, promoting illegal tax evasion by the super-wealthy, and worshiping the holy "JOB CREATORS" - even though the holy "JOB CREATORS" haven't been interested in creating good middle-class jobs for decades (yet--just coincidentally of course--they've done a very good job at making themselves richer... and richer... and richer).

So, the city of Syracuse will be on its own. Governor Cuomo has suggested that the city should build up its local tax revenue. And you know what that means. Yep, more regressive taxation - higher taxes, higher tolls, higher fees, higher fines, and higher utility rates that will disproportionately impact the middle-class and poor. And that's the last thing that middle and low-income Americans need right now because, "Virtually every state tax system is [already] fundamentally unfair, taking a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families."

Perhaps Syracuse can do what other cities and towns have done in the face of little or no state & federal help: Target middle and low-income Americans with more aggressive law enforcement, more regressive traffic fines, more regressive court fees, more interest on those fees & fines, and more jail time for those who can't afford to pay (see, e.g., "Limit cities' reliance on revenue from traffic fines," Denver Post, May 17, 2015).

Syracuse is hardly alone in its need for infrastructure assistance. Across the nation, there are about a quarter- of-a-million water main breaks, every single year. In Flint, Michigan, where the state just poisoned thousands of children with lead-tainted water in an effort to save money (austerity), the mayor (who was not responsible for the decision to switch to a cheaper water supply) said, "We need funding and we need resources. It's an infrastructure crisis for us, so we know that's going to be a tremendous cost and burden on the city of Flint that we can't handle by ourselves."

America has turned away from the New Deal, in favor of political corruption, austerity, apathy, and trickle-down economics. And so, we see that the new mentality is "fix your own pipes." So be it. But there's a price to be paid for that sort of anti-social, psychopathic public policy. And that price is dam failures and death in South Carolina, poisoned children in Flint, and hundreds of water main breaks in Syracuse. And a recent New York Times article reported that "The federal Department of Transportation estimates that obsolete road designs and poor road conditions are a factor in about 14,000 highway deaths each year."

We need a New Deal. Unfortunately, all we're going to get is more crumbling infrastructure, more traffic fines, and more tax breaks for the rich.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Aubrey Williams defends the WPA against bankers

(Aubrey Williams, deputy administrator of the WPA, and head of the National Youth Administration. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.)

In 1937, some bankers criticized the WPA as wasteful government spending. Aubrey Williams, deputy administrator of the WPA, said: "They did not deplore the government lending the banks $5,000,000,000 or $6,000,000,000, when 2,300 of their number defaulted with the savings and deposits of their then trusting but now disillusioned depositors," and said that America had turned away from "the bitter viewpoint of accepting as the fixed scheme of existence that the good things of life were not meant for the many, but were reserved for the few." ("Says WPA Must Go On: Williams, Aide to Hopkins, Strikes at Banker Critics of Spending," New York Times, October 17, 1937.)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Deal Art: "The Builders"

Above: "The Builders," an oil painting by Charles F. Quest (1904-1993), celebrating "physical labor and teamwork," and created while Quest participated in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project. Did you know that between 1935 and 1943 WPA laborers worked on 125,000 projects to build, repair, or improve public buildings? Did you know that the "CCC Boys" built at least 2,500 cabins in parks across the U.S.? Did you know that the Public Works Administration funded thousands of public buildings, including schools, hospitals, courthouses, and housing developments? Other Roosevelt-era agencies, like the CWA, the NYA, the FERA, the Resettlement Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, also had large infrastructure accomplishments. Many Americans are unaware of New Deal history, even though it was the largest work & construction program in human history. Isn't that amazing? Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: Instead of adequate infrastructure investment, Michigan gets water main breaks, water shut-offs for poor people, poisoned children, and a state of emergency. (Warning: epic, but totally hinged rant ahead.)

(WPA workers on an infrastructure project in Cherry Lake, Florida. Much of the infrastructure created by WPA workers still serves America today, well past its intended lifespan. Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.)

Here's what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) said about Michigan's drinking water systems back in in 2009:

"much of the delivery system including piping, valves and hydrants are reaching the end of their anticipated design life and routine replacement has been postponed for too long. Out of sight and out of mind...until the  road is closed and flooded out, toilets cannot be flushed, food cannot be cooked, dishes cannot be washed, or a shower cannot be taken" [and I would add, "and children are poisoned by lead"]. (link

And here's what the ASCE said about the nation's drinking water systems in 2013:

"Especially in the country’s older cities, much of the drinking water infrastructure is old and in need of replacement... Some pipes date back to the Civil War era and often are not examined until there is a problem or a water main break. These breaks are becoming more common, as there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States." (link)  

So, did Michigan and the nation listen? Nope. In fact, I'd wager that most people have never even heard of the ASCE, let alone looked at any of their warnings & reports. After all, one has to keep up with the Kardashians, so there's precious little time for anything else.

But there's a price to be paid for ignoring infrastructure. In Michigan (as in the rest of the nation), there are water main breaks that shut off water service, buckle roads, flood basements, shut down businesses, and close schools. Then there are the water shut offs for low-income Detroit residents who can't afford their rising bills, but not for businesses that owe millions. But that's okay, because business owners are the holy "JOB CREATORS" and the law doesn't apply to them in the quite the same harsh manner that it applies to people making minimum wage, i.e., people who lack political representation.

And now we've learned that children in Flint, Michigan have been poisoned with lead because the state decided to switch them to a cheap, old water system to save money (austerity). The Republican governor of Michigan has declared a state of emergency, after the U.S. Department of Justice said it will look into the matter (it seems that state officials may have known about the lead poisoning but refused to act, even as Flint residents kept using their austerity-driven, lead-laced water supply).

And the poisoned children of Flint (lead affects children far more than it affects adults) are not the only victims of crumbling infrastructure. For example, "The federal Department of Transportation estimates that obsolete road designs and poor road conditions are a factor in about 14,000 highway deaths each year" ("Human Cost Rises As Old Bridges, Dams and Roads Go Unrepaired," New York Times, November 5, 2015). In South Carolina, there was a loss of life after dozens of dams failed this past October. A dam safety official said: "We’re really not surprised at some of the things that are happening when you don’t have a fully robust state regulation program and [Republican-led] South Carolina, unfortunately has not put the time, resources or manpower into their state dam safety program."

And here's the really insane thing: As Republicans keep blocking infrastructure bills, and as the federal government offers less and less aid to the states, and as super-wealthy Americans keep adding billions of dollars to their personal fortunes (buying more private compounds, more private islands, and more private jets), states and localities are forced to raise taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates on the middle-class and poor. Yes, millionaires & billionaires are pampered, while more and more regressive taxation is forced upon everyone else. As the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy (another organization that most Americans don't know about, and don't care to know about about; even though they should for the sake of their wallets) reported a year ago: "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." 

All this foolishness is fueled by (1) extreme public apathy, (2) Republican priorities that put middle-eastern affairs first, and American infrastructure... well... infrastructure isn't even on their agenda, and (3) campaign contributions from the super-wealthy (i.e., legalized bribery designed to keep their tax rates low, to keep law enforcement from investigating their tax-evading bank accounts, and to keep the rest of us misinformed, distracted, and stupid). 

During the New Deal, things were very different - opposite in fact. Programs like the WPA, PWA, CWA, NYA, and CCC improved American infrastructure on a scale not seen before or since - on a scale that most Americans cannot even comprehend today. And FDR and his New Deal colleagues were not afraid to raise taxes on the super-wealthy. Oh yeah, and most people weren't misinformed, distracted, and stupid back then. They knew quite well, especially after the Pecora investigations, who was responsible for their unemployment, lost savings, and general misery (hint: big financial institutions and the radical greed of the fortunate few). And that's why they elected Roosevelt four times.

So, let's be clear and let's be frank. Today, as a nation, we've said (if not directly, then through our ignorance & apathy): "I'd rather have a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks, every single year; I'd rather waste two trillion gallons of water, every single year; and I'd rather have children be poisoned by lead-contaminated water, than create a new WPA or tax millionaires & billionaires more. In fact, I'm willing, and even happy, to be hammered with regressive taxation, so that a few privileged families can buy private islands to escape the madness they've created for the rest of us through their greed."

This isn't your garden variety foolishness. This isn't the type of foolishness that you can find growing on a tree. No, this is foolishness on a monumental scale. This is the type of foolishness that indicates a burned-out shell of a civilization - a civilization held together by duct tape.

Where's an FDR, a Harry Hopkins, and a Frances Perkins when you need them? Heck, where's common sense?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hoover, Pecora, and the Banksters

(President Herbert Hoover and his wife, 1932. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

President Herbert Hoover, while not always averse to using federal action to respond to the Great Depression, preferred to use persuasion. He tried to persuade financial leaders to clean up their act and he tried to persuade the public to be patient for the economy to self-correct. This is reminiscent of modern libertarianism and conservatism, where we are told that the federal government should not intervene during economic downturns because the "market" will self-correct - sort of like magic. 

But even Hoover had his limits. When financial leaders brushed his concerns off, year after year, he prodded the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking and Currency to begin an investigation of Wall Street (he was particularly concerned about "short-selling," a type of financial gambling in the markets). Eventually, the investigation would be led by attorney Ferdinand Pecora, who would expose a financial world of fraud, tax evasion, and other white collar misdeeds. The public learned, in detail, how they had been hoodwinked. Even Hoover, who had strong faith in the American system (outside of short-selling) was shocked: 
 
"If only part of the things brought out prove true, these men have done the American people more damage than all the incidental operations of Al Capone... [I]f these stores are true these men are not bankers, they are banksters who rob the poor, drive the innocent to poverty and suicide and do infinite injury to those who honestly work and strive. Worse than that, they are traitors to our institutions and national ideas." (Michael Perino, The Hellhound of Wall Street, New York: Penguin Press, 2010, p. 190)
 
But, of course, the stories were true. In the years after the Pecora Investigation financial executives hid, resigned, or went to jail. Heck, even the president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, wound up in prison. You see, when there isn't oversight, people will do all sorts of crazy things. Isn't that a shocking revelation?  
 
As a result of the Pecora Investigation, and as a result of the implementation of New Deal policies, the financial markets were reined in and stabilized for many decades. But then Reagan and Clinton era deregulation kicked in and started causing market instability and, lo and behold, Wall Street is up to its old tricks again - cheating the system and hurting people who just want a decent middle-class life (see, e.g., "Banks Keep Overcharging Service Members on Student Loans," Military.com, July 7, 2015). 
 
But here's the funny thing: Unlike the Pecora and New Deal time frame, the government is largely excusing financial crimes (as long as they get a piece of the action via fines) and a significant portion of the American public has either continued to worship the wrongdoers as "JOB CREATORS," or has chosen to look the other way - even as their paychecks stagnate or shrink. And Republican & Tea Party politicians, in the wake of these enormous amounts of fraud, actually want to reward the wrongdoers with tax breaks, protection from law enforcement, and the elimination of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And millions of voters are crying out, "Yes, I'll vote for that!"
 
I believe the military term for this phenomenon would be FUBAR.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: A right-wing militia group seizes Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and demands that the American public give the land to ranchers, loggers, and miners. (The CCC, however, developed the land for the people.)

(Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)
 
A right-wing militia group has occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon: "The group wants to see ranchers, loggers and miners reclaim their land from the government and that the wildlife refuge be shut down" ("Militants seize federal wildlife refuge in OR," WSFA News, January 3, 2016).
 
The group "said they are not looking to hurt anyone. But they would not rule out violence if police tried to remove them" ("Militia takes over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters," The Oregonian, January 2, 2016).

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, "Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 18, 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as the Lake Malheur Reservation. Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government lands encompassed by Malheur, Mud and Harney Lakes as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds'” (About the Refuge).
 
Later, during the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped develop the Refuge. For example, the work of the CCC "improved access throughout the valley and better distribution of irrigation water led to increased public use... The CCC was also responsible for early development of camping facilities at Page Springs Campground" (a campground that still exists today, at the southern end of the refuge).
 
Today, visitors to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge can, among other things, fish and hunt. If the Refuge was handed over to "ranchers, loggers and miners," as the occupying militia group wants to happen, those things would be severely restricted or terminated altogether. That's why public lands are important. So every American can enjoy them and benefit from them - not just those wealthy enough to own huge cattle ranches, or own a timber business, or be a large investor in the coal & gas industry. Unfortunately, with the increasingly paranoid & hysterical rhetoric coming from the political right, much of America is losing sight of that and demanding that our public lands be handed over to the privileged few.
 
Welcome to the Reverse New Deal. 
 
Also see...
 
 
"Koch-Backed Group Calls For No More National Parks," ThinkProgress, July 3, 2015. 
 
"The Great Republican Land Heist," Harper's Magazine, February 2015.