Monday, February 29, 2016

The Ladies' Brain Trust & other influential women of the New Deal

In 1938, syndicated columnist Drew Pearson suggested that a Ladies' Brain Trust existed, consisting of four women who advised Frances Perkins. Below are Frances Perkins, the four members of the Ladies' Brain Trust, and several other women important to the New Deal.
  
Above: U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins leaving the White House, 1939. Perkins was a major architect of Social Security and once wrote, "What was the New Deal anyhow? Was it a political plot? Was it just a name for a period in history? Was it a revolution? To all of these questions I answer 'No.' It was something quite different... It was, I think, basically an attitude. An attitude that found voice in expressions like 'the people are what matter to government,' and 'a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life." For more information on Perkins, visit the Frances Perkins Center. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Ladies' Brain Truster No. 1 - Clara Beyer, right, confers with Frances Perkins, ca. 1938. Beyer was an administrator in the Bureau of Labor Standards and an aide to Perkins. When Beyer passed away in 1990, the New York Times pointed out that she played an important role "in the development of much of the social legislation that marked the New Deal: establishing worker safety, maximum hours, minimum wages and Social Security." And Beyer had been fighting for workers long before the New Deal. In 1922, when the New York Times condemned the concept of a minimum wage, Beyer wrote to them and declared, "If a minimum wage is economically unsound, then Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, France, Argentina, Norway, and all of the Canadian Provinces bordering on the United States with the exception of New Brunswick, as well as twelve of our states and the District of Columbia, are committed to an unsound principle, for in these [areas] minimum wages... are established by law" (Clara Beyer, "The Minimum Wage," New York Times, November 2, 1922). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Ladies' Brain Truster No. 2 - Mary LaDame, 1933. Pearson described LaDame as a social worker, previously employed by the Russell Sage Foundation, and also the "most active trusterette." During the New Deal, LaDame worked in the employment service division of the Labor Department, and did not hesitate to take her ideas past her supervisor, and directly to Secretary Perkins (Madera Tribune, January 18, 1938). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: Ladies' Brain Truster No. 3 - Congresswoman Mary T. Norton, surrounded by reporters at Capitol Hill, 1939. Norton served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1925-1951. Upon her passing in 1959, the New York Times wrote "Mrs. Norton was a staunch New Dealer and helped to guide the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt's wage and hour legislation as well as to defend it later. She also championed the Fair Employment Practices Act and was instrumental in raising the minimum-wage level from 40 to 75 cents an hour" ("Mary Norton, 84; Legislator, Dead," New York Times, August 3, 1959). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
 
Above: Ladies' Brain Truster No. 4 - Mary Dewson (or "Molly" Dewson) confers with other members of the newly-created Social Security Board, 1937. Dewson not only served on the Social Security Board, she helped shape the Social Security Act itself as an adviser to the Committee on Economic Security. Reflecting on the New Deal, Dewson remarked, "At last women had their foot inside the door. We had the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to see what was needed and to get the job done while working harmoniously with men. The opportunities given women by Roosevelt in the thirties changed our status" (Susan Ware, Partner and I: Molly Dewson, Feminism, and New Deal Politics, 1987, p.193). While certainly a true statement, Dewson was downplaying her own skill as an agent for change- a skill honed by years of working for social justice causes, for example, women's suffrage. Pearson said Dewson was "probably the shrewdest lady around the New Deal high command" (Madera Tribune, January 18, 1938). For more information on Dewson, see her Living New Deal biography here: https://livingnewdeal.org/what-was-the-new-deal/new-dealers/. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Other influential women of the New Deal...

 Above: The Director - Hallie Flanagan at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, New York, 1936. After conservative members of Congress shut down down the WPA's Federal Theatre Project (FTP) in 1939 (over concerns about "wasteful spending," communism, and the mixing of races) Flanagan wrote, "If [the FTP] had been less alive it might have lived longer. But I do not believe anyone who worked on it regrets that it stood from first to last against reaction, against prejudice, against racial, religious, and political intolerance" (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 367). Flanagan and her workers gave 64,000 performances to 30 million Americans. For more information on Flanagan, see her Living New Deal biography here: https://livingnewdeal.org/what-was-the-new-deal/new-dealers/Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Above: The Social Justice Dancer - Helen Tamiris, in Vanity Fair magazine, 1930. When Tamiris died in 1966, the New York Times wrote: "Largely through her efforts as the first president of the American Dance Association, dance was included in the Federal Theater of the Works Progress Administration. She served as the theater's chief choreographer in New York from 1937 until 1939. As the nineteen-thirties unfolded, Miss Tamiris's dancing and choreography showed a strong social and political involvement. The despair of the unemployed, the plight of the Southern Negro and the horrors of war all found expression in her work. One of the most successful of these was 'How Long, Brethren?' which was produced in 1937. 'The validity of modern dance,' she explained, 'is rooted in its ability to express modern problems and, further, to make modern audiences want to do something about them'" ("Helen Tamiris, Dancer, Is Dead: Choreographer Put a Stress on Social Responsibility," New York Times, August 5, 1966). Image scanned from a personal copy.

Above: The Teacher - Mary McLeod Bethune, reading from her bible at Bethune-Cookman College, a school she helped create decades earlier, 1943. Bethune was a top administrator in the National Youth Administration and a member of FDR's Black Cabinet. During World War II, Bethune called on African Americans to help the nation win the conflict. She said, "Despite the attitude of some employers in refusing to hire Negroes… we must not fail America…” Congressman Martin Dies (D-Tex), of the House Un-American Activities Committee rewarded her work by calling her a communist, a charge that was quickly withdrawn by the larger committee. When she passed away in 1955, the Washington Post wrote: "Not only her own people but all America has been enriched and ennobled by her courageous, ebullient spirit." Today, a statue of Bethune stands at Lincoln Park in Washington, DC. For more information on Bethune, see her Living New Deal biography here: https://livingnewdeal.org/what-was-the-new-deal/new-dealers/. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: The Tough-As-Nails New Dealer from the South - Ellen Woodward watches as children from low-income families dive into some toys made (or refurbished) on a WPA work project in New York, 1938. Born and raised in Mississippi, Woodward held several positions important to the New Deal, including head of the WPA's Women's and Professional Projects division. Woodward helped secure more work-relief jobs for unemployed women, told the red-baiting (and publicity-seeking) House Un-American Activities Committee that they were the ones who were un-American, and bristled at the idea that WPA wages were too high for African American women, declaring: "Government isn’t justified in paying people starvation wages because they only got that much before." For more information on Woodward, see Martha Swain's book, Ellen S. Woodward: New Deal Advocate for Women, 1995, as well as her Living New Deal biography here: https://livingnewdeal.org/what-was-the-new-deal/new-dealers/. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Above: The First Lady Extraordinaire - Eleanor Roosevelt visits a WPA work project in Des Moines, Iowa, 1936. Few, if any people in history have done as much for civil and human rights as Eleanor Roosevelt. During the New Deal she opened up more opportunities for women, minorities, and youth - the director of the National Youth Administration wrote: "Her unfailing interest, her deep and sympathetic understanding of the problems of youth, and her endless courage were a source of great strength and guidance to the NYA, to the youth on its program, and to the youth of America." After the New Deal, Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the UN Commission on Human Rights and helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." We haven't come anywhere near these aspirations of course, not even in the United States (the supposed wealthiest country in the world) but someday, when humanity is informed and mature enough, Eleanor Roosevelt's work will be there to tap into. For more information on Eleanor Roosevelt, see her Living New Deal biography here: https://livingnewdeal.org/what-was-the-new-deal/new-dealers/. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Above: Women in New Deal Work Programs - A statue of a WPA worker at the Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia. Hundreds of thousands of formerly-unemployed women in the various New Deal work programs were influential because they answered a call; because they proved that they could perform all manner of work if someone just gave them opportunities instead of insults. During their time in the WPA, women worked on scientific projects to fight disease, preserved our nation's history, delivered books to Americans in remote rural areas, fed the nation's children, cared for the nation's sick, clothed the needy, provided administrative support for infrastructure projects, and much more. And when America entered World War II, they contributed by sewing and repairing various military gear, and enrolling in the National Youth Administration's defense industry training - many Rosie the Riveters and Wendy the Welders came from the NYA. All these women, through their voluminous work, justified the New Deal and its work programs. Author Nick Taylor wrote of WPA workers: "These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation. They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them, thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people" (American-Made, 2008, p. 530). Photo courtesy of the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

New Deal Art: "Aspects of Suburban Life: Public Dock"

Above: "Aspects of Suburban Life: Public Dock," an oil painting by Paul Cadmus (1904-1999), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. The painting shows a chaotic reaction to a loose eel. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The U.S. Department of Energy Creates New WPA-Style Posters

Above: The U.S. Department of Energy recently created a set of posters "Inspired by iconic New Deal-era posters from the Works Progress Administration (WPA)..." You can see large images of the posters here, and you can download high-resolution pdfs here. Image above courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Above: A WPA poster showing the Old Faithful geyser, ca. 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

New Deal Art: "Engine House and Bunkers"

Above: "Engine House and Bunkers," an oil painting by Austin Mecklem (1894-1951), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Democratic Party has become the Bleak Hill Boarding School

The Democratic Establishment scolds its party members who support Bernie Sanders, and scolds those who support Sanders' call for radical change to the status quo of money in politics, financial fraud, and income inequality: 

Above: In this 30-second video (a scene from the Our Gang episode, "Mush and Milk") we see what the Democratic Party has devolved into - a mean, cantankerous shadow of its former New Deal self, completely dismissive of its non-elite members - members who resist subscribing to their neoliberal, corporate-friendly agenda. In their eyes, if you support Bernie Sanders and his non-Wall Street candidacy, you're a crazy wide-eyed dreamer who hasn't grown up yet. They seem to collectively say, "Eat your mush!"

Another hit piece on Bernie Sanders is on the Huffington Post today, this time from Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, a scholar at Brandeis University. She tells us that even though Sanders is a nice guy--heck, she's even dated guys like him!--he won't be able to govern like good ol' Hillary "Wall Street" Clinton: "He may have wonderful progressive ideas, but Hillary is a policy wonk. She understands the need for compromise..." Nemzoff then closes her piece with a dismissive sneer: "The young want revolution... Guess maybe I have become an old fuddy duddy, but you won't find me sitting around allowing simple answers (fantasies) to rule" ("Bernie is Nice Enough But Hillary Is the One Who Can Govern!," Huffington Post, 2-23-2016).

Nimzoff's op-ed is just the latest in a bombardment of articles, letters, and op-eds from elites in (or supporters of) the Democratic establishment. These writers scold Sanders and his supporters as idealistic dreamers who are going to throw away their votes in a fit of wide-eyed impracticality.

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman disciplined left-leaning voters who don't plan on supporting Clinton, by writing: "there’s nothing noble about seeing your values defeated because you preferred happy dreams to hard thinking..." Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright has warned that there's a "special place in hell" for women who don't vote for Clinton. Actress Beth Broderick fears potential tax increases under Sanders and says "Already our wealthiest individuals and corporations are relocating themselves to avoid the existing tax rate and there is very little we can do to stop them... I just prefer a more pragmatic approach."

Wow, there is little we can do to stop tax avoidance and tax evasion?? - this is typical of Democrats who've thrown up their hands and said, "I give up, let's just capitulate to unpatriotic Americans and white collar criminals - and let's certainly not listen to Bernie Sanders and his supporters when they say they want to hold tax evaders accountable." And you can expect this same jelly-spined philosophy to be in full force if Clinton ends up in the Oval Office, along with a whole cadre of Wall Street cronies finding jobs in her administration.

(During the New Deal, policymakers weren't afraid to fight white collar crooks. Image used by permission of the Estate of Rollin Kirby Post.)

Recently, four economists with ties to Obama and Clinton (i.e., the Democratic establishment) penned a letter scolding another economist's positive assessment of Bernie Sanders' agenda. They wrote: "We are concerned to see the Sanders campaign citing extreme claims by Gerald Friedman about the effect of Senator Sanders’s economic plan — claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence." Paul Krugman and Mother Jones' journalist Kevin Drum agreed and said, in effect, "Yeah, Friedman and Sanders are crazy!" (see here and here)

But here's the problem: It doesn't appear that any of them have actually evaluated the claims in any detail. Friedman responded, "I don't think they read the report. If they did, I don't think they would have said no credible economic research."  University of Texas economist James K. Galbraith, a former executive director for the congressional Joint Economic Committee, picked up on this too, writing to the four economists:

"You write that you have applied rigor to your analyses of economic proposals by Democrats and Republicans.  On reading this sentence I looked to the bottom of the page, to find a reference or link to your rigorous review of Professor Friedman's study.  I found nothing there... It is not fair or honest to claim that Professor Friedman's methods are extreme.  On the contrary, with respect to forecasting method, they are largely mainstream.  Nor is it fair or honest to imply that you have given Professor Friedman's paper a rigorous review.  You have not."

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research added: "it is more than a bit annoying to hear these four distinguished economists telling the world that we should listen to them because they are experts.  I respect all four of these people as economists, but I want to hear their argument, not their credentials."

All of this, and more, has reminded me why I left the Democratic Party. The establishment and the elites of the Party seem to have no respect for my desire for radical change. Perhaps, since they are doing well financially, they can't fathom why anybody would want more than incremental (if any) change. It also shows me that the Democratic Party has turned into the Bleak Hill Boarding School, as seen in the video clip above. They seem to be saying to their fellow, non-wealthy Democrats, "I'm sorry you don't like crushing student loan debt.  And I'm sorry you don't like stagnant wages.  And I'm sorry you're upset that the Obama Administration chose not to prosecute big banks who engaged in fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, insider trading, and manipulating the world's currency.  But I think you're being very immature to demand an abrupt change. Now, eat your mush!"

So, good riddance Democratic Party. I'm so glad I left you... and, yes, I know you really don't give a damn that I left... but, that's sort of my whole point, isn't it?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The New York Times on the Civil Works Administration: A "door into a new kind of civilization"

(CWA laborers working on an athletic field in Dayton, Ohio, 1934. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library & Museum and the New Deal Network.)

In 1934, when the editors of the New York Times reviewed a book about the Civil Works Administration (a New Deal program that offered job opportunities to the unemployed) they wrote that the CWA was a "policy and program wholly new in all the history of civilization... here has been a drafting of wealth that, instead of going up in smoke and death and destruction, was poured into the service of the country, saving life and health, hope and spirit, and creating instead of destroying..." They described the book as a "door into a new kind of civilization" ("A Vivid Record of CWA Construction," New York Times, September 2, 1934, reviewing the book America Fights the Depression: A Photographic Record of the Civil Works Administration).
 
Unfortunately, that "new kind of civilization" did not last very long. After the New Deal era, it slowly withered away. Today, most people have never even heard of the CWA, the NYA, or the WPA, let alone taken their lessons to heart. Instead of a new civilization, we poison millions of children with lead-contaminated water from old & filthy pipes; test for lead in ways that mask the true extent of the problem; and then collectively roll our eyes, shrug our shoulders, and say, "Who cares, it would cost too much money to replace those pipes anyway." Instead of hiring the unemployed, we insult them. Meanwhile, our Congress--completely oblivious to crumbling roads, bridges, and dams--spends $8 million per hour on perpetual war. 
 
And so, as we drive "the global surge in militarization," arming both our allies and our enemies, and as we neglect infrastructure needs, we can only weep for what could have been... had we remembered the work programs--and the spirit--of the New Deal.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mayors across America would like more federal assistance with their infrastructure. They won't get it.

(Unlike today, where the answer to lead-poisoned drinking water is "Sorry, we can't help you," and the answer to crumbling infrastructure is, "Sorry, but tax breaks for the rich are more important," the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA) made massive investments in our nation's infrastructure. This graphic shows PWA money flowing towards buildings, ships, dams, water treatment plants, bridges, and more. We're still using much of this infrastructure today, well past its intended lifespan. Image from a PWA publication.)
 
America's mayors tell us they desperately need help. Republicans shrug.
 
In a recent survey, "Mayors across the U.S. say they worry about their cities' aging infrastructure and they'd like more state and federal support..." Further, "Mayors say aging and underfunded infrastructure is their most pressing challenge. Mass transit, roads and water top the list of priorities."

The mayors' worry is understandable. After all, children across the nation are being poisoned by their drinking water (see my last blog post) and, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, "obsolete road designs and poor road conditions are a factor in about 14,000 highway deaths each year."

But, despite the worry, the poisonings, and the deaths, American mayors are unlikely to receive additional federal assistance; and whatever amounts they're currently receiving will likely be cut in the near future. That's because our Republican-controlled Congress has zero interest in our nation's infrastructure. And if a Republican is elected into the White House, it will only strengthen the right-wing's resolve to neglect our roads, bridges, airports, water mains, etc. For example, if you go to Donald Trump's website or Ted Cruz's website, you will see no mention of improving our infrastructure on their "issues" pages (or, if it is mentioned, it's buried somewhere that's hard to find). Instead, you will see, prominently displayed, things like, "Second Amendment Rights," "Secure the Border," and "Live Free or Die." They seem to be saying, "Who cares about neurotoxins in your children's drinking water, when you can have 50 guns, 80,000 rounds of ammunition, explosives, body armor, and no questions asked?"

(Today, mayors across America are having problems with mass transit infrastructure funding. During the New Deal, the PWA loaned money to railroad companies to build trains, re-employ workers on furlough, and improve tracks. Photo from a PWA publication.)
 
Clinton & Sanders on Infrastructure:

Hillary Clinton is better on infrastructure than Republicans, and is promoting a $275 billion plan. But it's spread out over 5 years, and I'm not sure how effective an additional $55 billion per year will be. Essentially, that's a boost of about $1 billion per state, per year; but the nation's needs are far greater than that. In 2013, for example, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimated that we need about $3.6 trillion for our infrastructure by the year 2020.

Bernie Sanders has a much more detailed and substantive plan, and promotes a $1 trillion boost over 5 years, bringing us much closer to the difference between current spending levels and ASCE recommended levels. Unfortunately, most Democratic voters seem to be opting for continued plutocracy (i.e., Clinton and her Wall Street allies), so Sanders is going to have a tough time making it to the Oval Office to promote his plan. Further, if Clinton ends up in the White House, and follows the Obama method of leadership, she's likely to water-down her infrastructure proposals--before negotiations even begin--in an effort to appease the GOP/Tea Party (Clinton has been praising Obama's legacy lately, and calling him a "progressive," but this is hard-to-swallow after he (a) backed away from the public option during health insurance reform, (b) offered to cut Social Security, (c) tried to sell the TVA, (d) refused to prosecute white collar crimes committed by those over a certain income level, and (e) crafted the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement by bringing Corporate America into the negotiations... but shutting workers out).

(Today, mayors across the country are having problems with road improvement funding. During the New Deal, the PWA granted money for road projects, like the Belmont-Concord Road in Massachusetts shown above. Photo from a PWA publication.)
 
If billionaires won't pay more, who will? You will - in fact, you already are.

So, where does all of the above leave us on the issue of infrastructure? Well, infrastructure will continue to crumble, of course, and what little improvements we do make will be funded mostly through regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates at the state & local level. And this is a problem because already, "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." Yep, during an era where billionaires keep adding more billions to their wealth but the middle-class and poor are stuck with stagnant or dropping wages, it is the latter who will be forced to pay more. A recent example of this phenomenon can be seen in the town of Fountain, West Virginia. To extend water service to more customers, existing customers are being asked to pay 80% more on their water bills. The extension project is being funded with grants of $2.5 million and a loan of $8.5 million payable over 40 years (hence the need to saddle the middle-class & poor with higher and regressive rates).  ("Fountain water customers oppose proposed 80 percent rate increase," Cumberland Times-News, February 2, 2016, start page 1A.)

Compare the situation in Fountain (a situation that is occurring on a regular basis in cities and towns all across America; just Google search words like "water rate hike") to the funding method of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the New Deal era. Back then, as long as a town could fund about 20% of an infrastructure project, the federal government--through the WPA--would kick in the rest. Another New Deal program, the PWA (shown in the photos of this blog post) used a mix of loans and grants to fund even more infrastructure projects. New Deal policymakers were able to offer this infrastructure assistance, in part, by tax hikes on the wealthy. But today, for some inexplicable reason, millions of voters are saying, through their votes, "No, don't tax billionaires more. Tax me more! Even though billionaires are getting richer, and buying more private jets and more private islands--while I can barely make ends meet--I want to be taxed more! Leave the billionaires alone!" Even worse, the rest of us are being impoverished by these voters. We're being forced to pay higher utility rates, higher bridge tolls, higher traffic fines, higher vehicle registration fees, higher sales taxes, higher property taxes, higher tuition, and so on, to satisfy their desire to serve the rich (see, e.g., "After Cutting Taxes On The Rich, Kansas Will Raise Taxes On The Poor To Pay For It," ThinkProgress, June 16, 2015).

Isn't that amazing?

(Today, mayors all across the country are having problems with their drinking water infrastructure. During the New Deal, the PWA helped bring clean drinking water to cities and towns all over the nation, like the drinking water brought to San Francisco from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (shown above). Photo from a PWA publication.)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Spending $8 million per hour for perpetual war, as millions of our children drink toxic water

Above: A water storage tank built with funds from the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA), ca. 1935. The description for this photo reads, "A million-gallon water-storage tank erected at Newport News, Virginia, to replace an old tank which had been condemned." New Deal policymakers understood the importance of replacing old infrastructure with new infrastructure. The PWA, for example, contributed funds to over 2,400 drinking water infrastructure projects. Image from "America Builds: The Record of PWA," 1939.

America's Drinking Water Infrastructure

Our drinking water infrastructure, like the rest of our infrastructure, is falling apart. We have a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks, every single year, causing a loss of two trillion gallons of water, every single year. These water main breaks shut down businesses, close schools, flood homes, damage roads, increase traffic congestion, and frequently cause water contamination (prompting officials to issue "boil water advisories").

In addition to water main breaks, our aging infrastructure is poisoning millions of children with lead. Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause irreparable damage even in trace amounts. We have been warned by numerous agencies and researchers, for example, the CDC, that no amount of lead is safe to ingest - none, as in zero (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, here, and here). And yet, amazingly, many cities and towns think their children are safe if they stay below the EPA's permissive 15 parts per billion. As if that were not bad enough, we know that many cities and towns are performing tests in ways that minimize the results.

Much of the damage caused by lead poisoning is irreparable. That damage includes anemia, kidney damage, brain damage, nervous system damage, mental retardation, and fertility and pregnancy problems. Death can occur in some cases and, generally speaking, children are much more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults.

Cities and towns that have recently found high levels of lead in their drinking water include Flint, Michigan; Sebring, Ohio; Granby, Massachusetts; and several towns in South Carolina. Some big cities, like Milwaukee and Chicago, may also be having lead problems. In any event, we know that children all across the country are drinking lead.     

Aging infrastructure, combined with a bad water source, can cause other problems too, for example, Legionnaires' disease. This likely happened in Flint, Michigan where, as children were being poisoned by lead, about 87 people came down with Legionnaires' disease, at least one woman died, and another is on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant ("Cases of Legionnaires' Disease create further concern in Flint," KNOE 8 News, February 14, 2016).   

Above: WPA workers, formerly unemployed, installing a new water main in Maryland, 1935. Across the nation, WPA workers installed 16,000 miles of new water lines. Many of these lines are still in use today, well past their intended lifespan. Today, we don't offer jobs like this to the unemployed. Instead, we frequently call the unemployed "parasites." Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.
 
Where is the money to fix old water mains, old distribution lines, and old plumbing? 

A few days ago, the editors of the New York Times highlighted the infrastructure problems associated with our drinking water and correctly pointed out that many areas will need state & federal assistance. The editors then declared, "There is no reason Congress cannot come up with the money."

In reality though, there are at least three major reasons why Congress cannot come up with the money to repair & improve our infrastructure.

1. Because we are spending $8 million per hour on perpetual war. By this time tomorrow, we will have spent another $192 million to keep our destabilizing war-machine rolling.

2. Because Republicans, Tea Partiers, and Wall Street Democrats are committed to keeping taxes low on the super-wealthy - mainly because the super-wealthy have paid them to do so, through campaign contributions, speaking fees, promises of lucrative jobs when they leave Congress, and Lord knows what else. Indeed, Republican and Tea Party politicians actually want to lower taxes for their super-wealthy donors again (as if the last four decades of gargantuan tax-cuts-for-the-rich have not caused enough damage already - for example, crumbling & outdated infrastructure).

3. Because many corporations and super-wealthy Americans are engaging in rampant tax avoidance and tax evasion. And, making matters worse, many politicians in Congress are protecting this unethical and illegal activity by trying to de-fund the IRS and by trying to eliminate tools used to catch tax evaders. With respect to the latter, a global financial expert said, "It is mind-boggling that a major political party [the GOP/Tea Party] would even consider endorsing a resolution to facilitate tax evasion."

Above: Here is some money that could have been used to protect America's children from lead poisoning. Instead, it went towards private jets, private compounds, private islands, monster-sized yachts, gold bathtubs, and similar trinkets for the rich. How much money do you think could be devoted to infrastructure, and other domestic issues, if we stopped spending $8 million dollars per hour on perpetual war, cracked down on tax evasion and tax avoidance, and increased tax rates on the wealthy to pre-Reagan levels? See, e.g., "What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts," New York Times, October 16, 2015. Image courtesy of Demos.org.
 
Questions:
 
Many super-wealthy Americans are doing everything in their power to avoid contributing towards the common good. Their efforts have been very successful so far, thus damaging the health of millions of children. But if we, the voters, continue putting anti-infrastructure Republicans, anti-government Tea Partiers, and Wall Street Democrats into high office... does that make us accomplices to the crime? And if we continue to let billionaires add tens, even hundreds of billions of dollars to their already-bloated wealth, every single year, and continue to spend $8 million dollars per hour on perpetual war--while simultaneously convincing ourselves that we can't afford to improve our infrastructure--does that make us fools? And lastly, if children suffering from the consequences of lead poisoning ask us, ten years from now, "Why didn't you replace the old pipes and plumbing?", what will we tell them?   

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Emergency Clothes

(A set of infant clothes made by workers in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) in Illinois, ca. 1934-35. Photo from a FERA report.)

Between 1934 and 1935, formerly-unemployed workers, now in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), produced over 16 million items of clothing for low-income Americans. FERA noted that "in every plant there were women who previous to the depression were affluent and living a full life surrounded by more than the usual luxuries, with maids, cars, summer homes, etc. Others had through years of thrift felt secure because of sizable nest eggs in some of our banks, but the banks collapsed and these people were without means [see special note on collapsing banks below]" (The Emergency Work Relief Program of the FERA, 1935, p. 63).
 
The FERA said of its clothing work, "Huge as the volume of production became, it was still far from supplying all the clothing needs of the millions on the relief rolls..." (ibid., p. 62). The WPA picked up where the FERA left off and, between 1935 and 1943, produced 382 million more articles of clothing (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1946, p. 134). Also, workers in the National Youth Administration created 11 million articles of clothing (Final Report of the National Youth Administration, 1944, p. 146). And Lord knows how many garments the Civil Works Administration produced before the Work Division of FERA took over its work. However, just the WPA, NYA, and FERA totals are well over 400 million.  

Note on collapsing banks: Before New Deal policymakers created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), many Americans lost their life savings when a bank collapsed. Today, many conservative politicians want to undo the New Deal entirely, sending us back to those days. Bankrolled by Wall Street, they are eager to privatize gains for the big banks, but socialize the losses onto the rest of us. The idea of the federal government doing anything to protect Americans from economic downturns, banking incompetence, or white collar crime is repellent to them - which is why they also want to get rid of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, even though the Bureau has saved American consumers billions of dollars by cracking down on greedy and illegal banking practices. (Many of these same politicians also want to repeal laws designed to catch super-wealthy tax evaders, in return for campaign contributions from the super-wealthy who will benefit from such repeals.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Emergency Music

(A Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) band plays in Battery Park in New York City, ca. 1934-35. Photo from a FERA report.)
 
(A FERA orchestra class in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, 1935. Photo from a FERA report.)
 
Before the WPA's music program, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was employing jobless musicians to play music for the nation. The FERA's music program, offered symphonies, community sings, dance orchestras, chamber music, "hilly billy" orchestras, African American quartets, music instruction, radio broadcasts, and more.
 
FERA's music program created several hundred orchestras, of various types, and performed before an aggregate audience of over 10 million between the years 1934 and 1935. Many audience members were low-income and did not normally have opportunities for music appreciation and instruction.

It's probably hard for most Americans, especially young Americans, to comprehend a government program of this type. After all, for most of our lives the super-wealthy have been paying politicians to not help the unemployed, outside of some scraps (unemployment benefits). Indeed, a survey of wealthy Americans showed that the vast majority of them do not support the creation of a government jobs program for the unemployed. What a shame that so many rich people have nothing better to do with their money than to pay politicians to be mean-spirited, especially when we have the experience of FERA, and many other New Deal programs, showing us that good music, art, research, conservation, and infrastructure can be performed if we offer the jobless opportunities instead of insults.

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Deal Art: "Looking Down Pennsylvania Avenue From Treasury Department"

Above: "Looking Down Pennsylvania Avenue From Treasury Department," an oil painting by Dorsey Donaphan, created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), ca. 1933-34. This image is from the PWAP's final report. I don't know if the original color painting still exists.

Above: Here's the same view today, from a slightly different angle. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith and provided courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The vapid & clueless mindset of the elite, along with their insulated & cushioned lives, perfectly explains why we need Bernie Sanders in the White House, and why we need another New Deal

(President Roosevelt and his New Deal policymakers increased taxes on the rich, built up the nation's infrastructure, created or improved thousands of parks, increased health care for all Americans, provided job opportunities for the unemployed, offered free education, lessened the influence of big money in government, and much, much more. Today, our vapid & clueless elite tell us that such things are impractical and unheard of. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

Yesterday, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote: "For the past several decades, the United States has had a bipartisan consensus that we should stick to our style of capitalism and our style of welfare state... It’s amazing that a large part of the millennial generation has rejected this consensus. In supporting Bernie Sanders they are not just supporting a guy who is mad at Wall Street. They are supporting a guy who fundamentally wants to reshape the American economic system, and thus reshape American culture and values."

Brooks amazement is shared, to one degree or another, by many other elite members of our society. Paul Krugman thinks Sanders and his supporters have been mesmerized into impractical thinking. Rich celebrities have wondered why every progressive isn't supporting Clinton. The mainstream media, e.g., the New York Times, writes biased pieces for Hillary. In fact, the Times is pretty much campaigning for her. Clinton, for her part, expresses bewilderment at the notions of health care for all and free public college. And Wall Street billionaire Steven Schwarzman scratches his head and says, "I find the whole thing astonishing and what’s remarkable is the amount of anger whether it’s on the Republican side or the Democratic side…. Bernie Sanders, to me, is almost more stunning than some of what’s going on in the Republican side. How is that happening, why is that happening?"

Most of these people are very wealthy, live in gated communities (or even private compounds), and would never dream of interacting or corresponding with people like us (i.e., the non-wealthy, the non-celebrity). Further, their vapid & clueless mindset, along with their insulated & cushioned lives, makes them completely oblivious to the reasons why we're angry.   

Take Brooks, for example. He's amazed, AMAZED!, that millennials are rejecting the status quo. But what is this wonderful status quo that Brooks holds on to so dearly? Well, ironically, in the exact same news source where Brooks moans to the heavens for an explanation--and also on the exact same day--we learn that "Despite big advances in medicine, technology and education, the longevity gap between high-income and low-income Americans has been widening sharply. The poor are losing ground not only in income, but also in years of life, the most basic measure of well-being."

In addition to dying much sooner than our elite overlords, we also know that America now has a record number of homeless children; that wages are stagnant or dropping; that the number of suicides rose, yet again, in 2014 (the most recent year with available data); that college graduates are suffocating under $1.3 trillion in student loan debt; that our infrastructure is so pathetic that our children are now forced to drink lead (and no, my friends, it's not just happening in Flint - see my last blog post); that our run-down schools are riddled with bullet holes; that the U.S. now has a policy of perpetual war; that we have the largest prison-industrial complex in the world; that our financial institutions have engaged in record-setting fraud and are using that ill-gotten gain to buy politicians like Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz; and that our retirement future looks increasingly bleak. To pour salt into the wound, the super-wealthy are adding tens, even hundreds of billions of dollars to their personal wealth while, at the same time, "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."

Here's the truth laid bare: We need Bernie Sanders in the White House, and we another (and even stronger) New Deal, because many of the elite members of our society are selfish & insulated idiots. And, as their their idiocy kills us, literally, they wonder why we don't love them. Now, that is amazing.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Poison & disease in our drinking water: Harold Ickes and his PWA warned us about this nearly 80 years ago

 
(New Deal policymakers invested heavily in American infrastructure. In recent years, we've drastically reduced infrastructure spending - even though we have a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks, and waste two trillion gallons of water, every single year. Image above from the 1939 publication, "America Builds: The Record of PWA.")

By now, we all know that thousands of children have been poisoned by lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. We also know that millions of other children across the nation are at risk for lead poisoning too, because (a) our water lines are old & obsolete, (b) testing for lead is often performed to minimize negative results, and (c) the EPA limits for lead are probably too permissive (many health experts are telling us that no amount of lead is safe to drink). And, as if these things weren't bad enough, the residents of Flint may also have been subjected to Legionnaires' disease due to their "aging water infrastructure."

Amazingly though, even after all this, there is still (still!) no national movement to improve our water infrastructure, just some protests and some band-aid solutions here and there. Indeed, anti-infrastructure Republicans are already--and predictably--resisting efforts to fix the situation, telling us that it's just "too much money" (which is code for, "I'm not going to raise taxes on my wealthy campaign donors, since they've specifically paid me not to"). But we'll keep re-electing these fools anyway, won't we? - because they rile us up with words & rhetoric like "freedom," "liberty," "God," and "taxes are theft." So, it seems, we've resigned ourselves to the "fact" that our children must drink from old & filthy pipes, if that's what it takes to protect the private fortunes, private jets, private compounds, and private islands of the super-wealthy. I mean, my God, we can't tax the holy "JOB CREATORS," right? - even though they're adding hundreds of billions of dollars to their already-bloated wealth without creating good-paying jobs.

In 1939, Harold Ickes and his Public Works Administration (PWA) wrote: "Water is life. Apparently this fundamental fact must be learned on the battlefront of experience again and again. When this lesson is forgotten, even for a moment, the consequences are immediate and disastrous. A brief lapse in maintaining the purity of a water supply occurred in 1928 in Olean, N.Y., a town with a population of 21,000. Typhoid germs rode into the Olean homes through the water pipes. Two hundred and thirty-eight cases of the disease resulted. Twenty-one people died... To prevent similar disasters, engineers everywhere to whom the Nation has entrusted the purity of its water supply must be eternally vigilant" (America Builds: The Record of PWA, 1939, pp. 169-170). To this sentiment, I would add: All of us must be eternally vigilant - and that vigilance starts with electing people who are dedicated to improving American infrastructure, not people who are dedicated to serving the wealthy few with deregulation, tax breaks, and protection from law enforcement.

Between the years 1933 and 1939, Ickes and the PWA provided $312 million for 2,419 waterworks projects (about $5.4 billion in today's dollars). Additionally, New Deal work programs for the unemployed (CWA, FERA, WPA, NYA, and CCC) installed over 20,000 miles of new water lines, the vast majority of it for drinking water. They also made water consumer connections, and built reservoirs, wells, and water treatment plants.

We could do the same today, if we weren't so hooked on trickle-down economics and so immersed in middle-eastern affairs. But we are... so we're letting our children drink risky and poisoned water.

Unbelievable.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Analysis: Sanders' economic agenda would usher in another New Deal, i.e., greater economic prosperity

(Photo by Michael Vadon, provided courtesy of Wikipedia, and used here under the CCA-SA 2.0 Generic Licence.)

According to an analysis by Gerald Friedman, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Bernie Sanders' economic agenda would do wonders for the nation's economy and workforce: "median household income would be $82,200 by 2026, far higher than the $59,300 projected by the Congressional Budget Office. In addition, poverty would plummet to a record low 6%, as opposed to the CBO's forecast of 13.9%. The U.S. economy would grow by 5.3% per year, instead of 2.1%, and the nation's $1.3 trillion deficit would turn into a large surplus by Sanders' second term."
 
Friedman writes: "Like the New Deal of the 1930s, Senator Sanders' program is designed to do more than merely increase economic activity. [It will] promote a more just prosperity, broadly-based with a narrowing of economy inequality." 

Of course, so many people are addicted to trickle-down economics, plutocracy, and voting for anti-infrastructure Republicans, that Sanders will have a tough time achieving the Oval Office and implementing his policies; but a Sanders' presidency would be the start of a movement. And a movement is what this nation needs - not more corporate Democrats letting the nation drift further and further to the right with their watered-down, Wall Street-friendly agendas; and not more Republicans who want to hand out tax breaks for the rich while children are being poisoned by lead coming out of old, filthy water lines.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Women in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration fought malaria

Above: These women lab workers are fighting malaria in Kentucky, while working in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), ca. 1934-1935. FERA was an early New Deal program that offered work for the unemployed. FERA offered women jobs as "laboratory technicians, bacteriologists, doctors, dental hygienists, nutritionists, dietitians, attendants in public hospitals, health education supervisors, occupational therapists, nursery school workers, clerical workers," and more. Photo and information from a FERA report.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Clinton, Cruz, and Corporate Crooks are playing us for suckers. Let's not play along.


Above: In this audio, we hear President Franklin Roosevelt warn us about organized money taking control of politics and government. Corporate America and the super-wealthy hated FDR for taxing them more, and for signing laws that prevented their frauds; insured the bank accounts of their middle and lower-income depositors; deprived them of slave-wage labor; prohibited them from gambling with depositors' money; strengthened unions; and so on. They just couldn't stand the fact that the government was helping someone other than them.

Hillary Clinton and Wall Street

In an article about Wall Street giving more money to Hillary Clinton than any other presidential candidate, a Clinton spokesman said, "People from across the country and a range of backgrounds support Hillary Clinton because they know that she’s fighting for them... holding Wall Street accountable and strengthening the middle class."

So, let me get this straight: She's receiving millions from Wall Street, but she's holding them accountable? Um...okay...

We know that Clinton voted to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling families (a favor to the financial industry), does not want to reinstate Glass-Steagall (thereby allowing her banker friends to keep gambling with depositors' money), hesitated on expanding Social Security (since that would raise taxes on her rich buddies), and is a war hawk (which must surely please the wealthy investors of the defense industry - after all, more unnecessary and perpetual wars = more profit). 

Ted Cruz and the Big Banks

According to the New York Times, top Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (a Tea Party darling) has been a "populist firebrand who criticized Wall Street bailouts and the influence of big banks in Washington." However, the Times also points out that Cruz has received sweetheart loans to run his political campaigns, from both Goldman Sachs (where his wife worked, just coincidentally of course) and Citibank ("Ted Cruz Didn't Report Goldman Sachs Loan in a Senate Race," New York Times, January 13, 2016).

And we know that if Ted Cruz becomes president, he'll start signing off on gargantuan tax breaks for the wealthy before he's unpacked his first suitcase at the White House.

The Corporate Crooks of America

So, who are these people funding Clinton, Cruz, and other presidential candidates? Well, many of them are greedy and unethical, and others are just downright criminal. But don't take my word for it, consider the following...

U.S. financial institutions have been hit with about a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars in fines for fraud and criminal conduct (see here and here). On the other hand, few, if any, top executives have been criminally prosecuted by the Department of Justice. It seems as though, as long as the Obama Administration can get a piece of the action, it's willing to let super-wealthy wrongdoers off the hook (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).

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren recently said that the justice system is rigged in favor of the wealthy: "There are two legal systems. One for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else." She knows this from both empirical studies and personal experience. When she confronted the CEO of JP Morgan, about possible illegal behavior at his company, he just leaned back, smiled, and said, "So hit me with a fine. We can afford it."

Charles Ferguson, an Academy Award-winning documentary maker, recently pointed out that "Hillary Clinton and her husband, along with many others, are increasingly trapped by the wealth, credentials, and insider status they have pursued so fervently - because they derive from a corruption whose nature and consequences can no longer be concealed. America's financial elites are now so corrupt, arrogant, and predatory that political leaders beholden to them can't even pretend to deliver economic or political security, much less fairness or progress."

Former banking regulator William Black, now a professor of law and economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has recently formed an anti-white collar crime group and is asking each presidential candidate "to pledge not to take campaign contributions from financial felons. That group, according to the federal agencies that have investigated them, includes virtually all the largest banks." Black concludes that "We cannot... fail to act now given the urgency of the problems caused by the collapse of personal accountability for Wall Street elites. Our economy and our democracy are both imperiled by that collapse and require urgent redress."

Bernie Sanders

Clinton, Cruz, and the others who take large sums of money from Wall Street are, in fact, taking money derived from illegal tax evasion, mortgage & securities fraud, money laundering, illegal manipulation of the world's interest rates & currency, accounting fraud, bribery, price fixing, illegal foreclosures on U.S. soldiers in combat zones, and so on (indeed, this is the whole point behind professor Black's request that presidential candidates stop taking money from the big banks).

We know that Bernie Sanders is going out of his way to avoid this type of campaign money, relying instead on smaller donations from middle and lower-income Americans (although, to be fair, it appears that he may have benefited from a healthy dose of Wall Street money in the past). Sanders has noted the difference between a Clinton White House and a Sanders White House: "The CEOs of large multinationals may like Hillary. They ain't going to like me. And Wall Street is going to like me even less. And the reason for that is we've got to deal with the elephant in the room, which is the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street."

And the more Bernie Sanders talks about law & order, the more Wall Street shovels money towards Clinton. During the run-up to the Iowa Caucus, Clinton left the state to court Corporate America. Sanders said, "My opponent is not in Iowa tonight. She is raising money from a Philadelphia investment firm. Frankly, I would rather be here with you." 

Now, a lot of people say that Sanders can't get elected, but a recent poll shows him doing better against Republican candidates than Clinton - which seems to indicate that if anyone is un-electable, it would be Clinton. Critics also say that, even if Sanders is elected, he won't be able to get anything done because Republicans will block him. Well, first off, they'll block Clinton too, even if her policy proposals are more timid than Sanders', which they certainly will be. Just look at how they've consistently blocked Obama's weak proposals these past 7 years (Obamacare, by the way, just barely squeaked in before Republicans took full control of Congress). Second, Sanders will surround himself with progressive-minded advisers and officials, not the corporate shills that Obama has surrounded himself with, and not the corporate shills Clinton will surround herself with. And third, Sanders will use the bully pulpit more effectively, persistently, and aggressively than Clinton. Clinton will do just as Obama has - talk tough for a few minutes and then move on. Sanders, on the other hand, will be relentless. He's the grumpy old guy this country so desperately needs in this, the Golden Era of White Collar Crime. (Also see, "It's a Movement, Stupid: Why Bernie Can Deliver on Promises of Change, While the Sensible Centrists Can’t," Common Dreams, January 29, 2016.)

Let's Stop Being Suckers 

Clinton, Cruz, and others are receiving gobs of money from Wall Street, but telling us, "Hey, I'll be your defender against Wall Street! I'll hold them accountable! They won't influence me at all!!" My God, are we really going to fall for this?  

We need to get Corporate America out of our political system. They are keeping us in crushing debt, providing us with stagnant or dropping wages, leading us into old age poverty, and creating an atmosphere of contempt for law and government - and simultaneously enriching themselves with unprecedented sums of money. In short, we need to stop being Corporate America's suckers. America is supposed to be a democracy, not a plutocracy. Let's make it so.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

New Deal Art: "Ashokan Reservoir"

Above: "Ashokan Reservoir," an oil painting by Charles Rosen (1878-1950), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1934. The Ashokan Rservoir was built in the early 1900s and, in combination with the Schoharie Reservoir, "supplies about 40% of New York City’s daily drinking water needs." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

New Deal Art: "California 1938"

Above: "California 1938," a wood engraving with water color on paper, by Charles Surendorf, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1938-39. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The WPA at the Delta National Wildlife Refuge... and our collective amnesia

Above: The description for this photo reads, "The mail boat leaving for up-river points on the Mississippi after making a call at the WPA quarter boat barracks camp. This mail boat is sole means of communication betweeen the Delta Refuge and the outerworld." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Above: The description for this photo reads, "A view of the new US Biological survey station being built at the site of the old US Quarantine station on the Delta Refuge. The photo shows the 'quarter boats' tied up to the newly built wharf; the teel and warehouse; four smaller buildings for permanent personnel of the station and the new office building and resident manager's home now under construction. The construction work is a project of the WPA." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.
 
Above: The description for this photo reads, "Nurse Clara Finnessey aiding a patient of the WPA worker's camp, LA. Delta Refuge." Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

The photos above show a time period in American history where policymakers actually cared about the common good. Public jobs for the unemployed? A government-paid nurse for the unemployed? A wildlife refuge developed by the unemployed? A refuge that still benefits us today? (Biodiversity, public fishing & hunting, kayaking, wildlife observation & photography). To most Americans living today, these things probably sound quite foreign. We have been subjected to so much trickle-down economics, and inundated with so much empty-headed praise for the "job creators," and bombarded with so much anti-government rhetoric, that there simply isn't much room left for the truth of history. If you stopped someone on the sidewalk and asked, "What was the Works Progress Administration?", they'd likely say, "I have no idea." 
 
I would suggest that the largest work & construction program in American history--which the WPA was--should be required learning in both K-12 and college. And not just a passing mention, or a right-wing dismissal, but an in-depth analysis of all that they created and all that we still utilize today.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Reverse New Deal: Rich Democrats Hurting Poor Democrats

Above: WPA laborers having a meal on a work boat. These men helped create the Delta National Wildlife Refuge. When the unemployed needed work, New Deal policymakers created programs like the CCC and WPA. Today, Corporate Democrats would never propose such a thing - their interest lies more in protecting their wealth and serving their Wall Street backers. Indeed, today's Corporate Democrats have become the "Organized Money" that FDR so disliked. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.
 
Lately, I've been seeing a lot of rich Democrats promoting Hillary Clinton and/or belittling Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Paul Krugman wrote a piece about Sanders' supporters being impractical and starry-eyed; rich celebrities have written about their love for Clinton; the corporate Democrats of the "Third Way" have been spreading lies about Sanders' policy proposals; and billionaire George Soros has just pumped up Clinton's run for the presidency with $8 million dollars.

These rich Democrats must surely know that Clinton is militaristic, voted to make bankruptcy harder for struggling Americans, doesn't want to reinstate Glass-Steagall to keep the big banks from gambling with taxpayer-backed money, is not interested in expanding Social Security (despite the nation's ever-growing retirement crisis, i.e., poverty), and is receiving gobs of money from Wall Street - a Wall Street that has recently engaged in massive amounts of mortgage & securities fraud, money laundering, illegal tax evasion, manipulating the world's interest rates & currency, and so on. In fact, there can be little doubt that much of Clinton's funding (and speaking fee income) is the product of fraud and criminal activity. (See "$128 Billion In Bank Fines, In One Chart," Huffington Post, August 8, 2014.)

Whether Clinton's rich Democrats know it or not, they are hurting poor Democrats. Are they doing this to protect their own private fortunes from increased taxation, or are they just oblivious to the death of the American Dream for so many? Is it the desire to see the first woman elected president? If so, I would say, "but can't we wait a little longer, for an Elizabeth Warren-type candidate? You know... someone who will actually work hard for the middle-class & poor, as opposed to just saying it because the other candidate is saying it?"

During the New Deal, the Democratic Party began to help the poor with great energy. The WPA hired the unemployed, the Rural Electrification Administration powered up rural communities, the Securities and Exchange Commission demanded more information be given to small investors, the worst aspects of child labor were gotten rid of, African Americans were given more opportunities, etc. It was the beginning of a great shift in attitude that would, over time, motivate racist Southern Democrats to peel away from the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party.

Today, Bernie Sanders offers hope for change - hope for people who have little or no representation in the federal government; people who have been, in effect, excommunicated from the political process. As Dr. Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago puts it: "Sanders embraces the old Roosevelt consensus with a vengeance, and echoes Roosevelt's own campaign against 'government by organized money,' a power which, as Roosevelt famously said in 1936, was 'unanimous in their hatred' of him--to which Roosevelt famously replied: 'I welcome their hatred.' The Clintons, with their long track record of commitment to the Reagan consensus, could never be as bold as FDR, which explains, of course, why they too are beloved by 'organized money'..."

Rich Democrats are now part of "Organized Money." And they remind me of why I left the Democratic Party halfway through the Obama presidency. They offer little hope - just continued plutocracy, continued white collar crime, and continued mass poverty. Welcome to the Reverse New Deal: Rich democrats hurting poor democrats.