Monday, November 20, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (7/10): "Little Corn Dancer"

Above: "Little Corn Dancer," an artwork by Herman Ilfeld Bacharach (1899-1976), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration, Julie Redwine, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

According to his obituary in the Las Vegas Optic (August 13, 1976), Bacharach was born in 1899, into a family of "pioneer merchants" in Las Vegas. He graduated from art school at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and became "an artist of note." He was "especially interested in Indian ceremonials, dances and their depiction by Indian artists." Bacharach also illustrated children's books and designed costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. During World War II, he served in the Air Force. 

A 2002 article on New Mexico State University's website offers a somewhat different biography of Bacharach, for example, reporting that he graduated from New Mexico Normal University and attended UPenn, "where he apparently left after about a year. His parents believed he was in dental school, while Bacharach was pursuing a career in art... As an artist he achieved no fame... Upon the death of his father, Herman returned to Las Vegas to help with the family business, Bacharach Bros., and never returned to the East and his artistic career again." However, the Las Vegas Optic published at least two other articles about Bacharach that would seem to dispute parts of this account: an article about a first place art award he won while attending UPenn (April 16, 1921) and another article announcing his return to UPenn's "fine arts department" after a visit home to Las Vegas (September 10, 1921). It seems unlikely that his parents were unaware of his art studies and ambitions - at least, not for very long.

Considering the various sources, it seems Bacharach was probably a fairly accomplished and successful artist but, for one reason or another (more stable income? the desire to preserve a legacy?), chose to focus on the family business after World War II.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (6/10): "Cambodian Dancer"

Above: "Cambodian Dancer," a lithograph by Alexander King (1900-1965), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1937. It's unclear whether this is the same Alexander King who was described by TIME magazine as "an ex-illustrator, ex-cartoonist, ex-adman, ex-editor, ex-playwright, ex-dope addict... ex-painter," or a "Little known printmaker who worked on the NYC-WPA" (Paramour Fine Arts). A document on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia states "Alexander King lived a bizarre life made up of multiple marriages, morphine addiction, art theft and forgery. Apparently, he experienced some lucid moments in the late 1930s that allowed him to participate in the Federal Art Project printmaking program in New York City." A biography on askART states that Alexander King (1900-1965) was "Described as a... morphine addict, failing playwright and painter... a man of iconoclastic observations and caustic humor... he became an art thief, stealing fifty prints from the Metropolitan Museum. He was jailed twice, and married four times. He wrote a book, 'Rich Man, Poor Man, Freud and Fruit,' and died one day after appearing on 'The Today Show' to publicize it." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (5/10): "Russian Sailor Dance"

Above: "Russian Sailor Dance," a color woodcut print by Antonina Mancuso, created while she was in the WPA, ca. 1939-1940. Hardly any definitive information on Mancuso exists on the Internet or in newspaper archives (but see below). I did comes across a Find A Grave entry for an "Antonina Mancuso" (1909-1994), but it's not clear whether this is the same person. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.

Above: This image is on the website of the Internet Archive here. It is a 1940 entry form to display artwork at the Cleveland Museum of Art., and lists "Russian Sailor Dance." It is written in Mancuso's own writing - note how the prominent "T" in "Antonina" is the same as we see at the bottom of the artwork above. Note also that, for price, she lists "N.F.S.", presumably "Not For Sale," which was probably due to a WPA restriction on artists selling their publicly-funded artworks. Nevertheless, showing the art in an exhibition could obviously help an artist get noticed; and, indeed, there were exhibitions specifically for WPA artists to show off their work, as well as exhibitions for children who created art in WPA art classes (see examples below).

Above: A WPA poster, promoting an exhibit of art created in the WPA's Federal Art Project. This type of exhibit could help artists, like Mancuso, get noticed and perhaps even get offers of paid art work outside the WPA. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting an exhibit of artwork created by children in WPA art classes. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, November 17, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (4/10): "The Ballet School" and "Ballet Fedre"

Above: "The Ballet School," a painting by Gwyneth King (1908-1985), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Above: A WPA poster, promoting the WPA production, Ballet Fedre. Ballet Fedre was performed in Chicago from January 27 to February 19, 1938 (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 386). Perhaps its popularity allowed it to run beyond the date you see on the poster above. One of the authors of the play, Berta Ochsner, wrote another ballet, Fugitive From Rhythm, "in which a young farmer who applied for work on [a] W.P.A. agricultural project was assigned by mistake to a percussion ballet" (Arena, p. 139). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (3/10): Swing Dancing

Above: "Swingtime," an aquatint and etching by Charles L. Sallee, Jr. (1911-2006) created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Sallee was an African American artist and, according to the blog of the Sandusky Library (Ohio), he served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II (as a draftsman and cartographer, designing "roads and escape routes"), and then went on to enjoy "a long career as an interior designer." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University.

Above: "Jitterbug Swing," a color woodcut print by David Burke, created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. I wasn't able to find much information on David Burke on the Internet or in newspaper archives but, interestingly, it seems that one of his woodcuts from the 1930s, quite possibly a New Deal artwork, is listed as stolen on the FBI's National Stolen Art File ("Fishing Port Landscape with View of Back Bay"). Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: "Evolution of Swing," a lithograph by Raymond Steth (1917-1997), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1939. This artwork highlights the origins of (or major influence on) swing dance: Africa and slavery. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the WPA dance production Swing Parade. Swing Parade was performed in San Francisco from April 15 through June 30, 1937 (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 391). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A WPA poster, advertising the WPA dance production Swing Mikado. Swing Mikado was a very popular federal theatre production and played in several venues across the nation. In New York, it became so popular that some private sector Broadway producers became jealous and upset (see, Susan Quinn, Furious Improvisation, 2008, pp. 270-271). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (2/10): "Cowboy Dance"

Above: "Cowboy Dance," a mural study by Jenne Magafan (1916-1952), created for the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1941. On October 20, 1952, at only 35 years of age, Magafan died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York. She had been an accomplished artist, for example, painting a mural for the Beverly Hills Hotel, and painting another mural that was displayed in the White House. Her twin sister, Ethel (1916-1993), was also an artist, and also participated in New Deal artwork projects. Like their physical appearance, their artwork was very similar, with one newspaper noting that "the works of the Magafan twins were so much alike that it took a practiced eye to detect the difference" (see "Jenne Magafan, Noted Artist, Dies At Albany," The Times Record (Troy, New York), October 21, 1952, and "Jenne Magafan Dies In New York State," Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1952). Just two months before she passed away, Jenne was with her sister Ethel in Europe, both of them studying and traveling on Fulbright Awards ("Village Notes," The Kingston Daily Freemen (Kingston, New York), August 15, 1952). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New Deal Dance Art (1/10): "Eagle Dance"

Above: "Eagle Dance," a painting by R.W.R. Taylor, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Mike Ramos.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

WPA Bocci

Above: A game of Bocci in Northern California, ca. 1935-1943, part of the WPA's recreation program. Bocci (or Bocce) is sort of cross between bowling and horseshoes. During the New Deal, the WPA offered many opportunities for people to get off their sofas and get into games, sports, dances, art classes, and more. It was great for physical fitness and great for socializing. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Bocci," a lithograph by Harold Anchel (1912-1980), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Case of Roy Moore: Are we abandoning the concept of "innocent until proven guilty," for the sake of political preference and political correctness?

Above: "The Accused," a woodcut print by Harry Rein (1908-1969), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In a new Raw Story article, titled in a way that completely abandons the concept of "innocent until proven guilty"--"Morning Joe panel destroys 'depravity' of GOP justifying 'slimebag' Roy Moore's child molestation"--we read that conservative commentator Nicolle Wallace, a frequent critic of the hard right, scolded the Republicans who have not rushed to judgment against the GOP senate candidate Roy Moore, saying on Morning Joe: "I think every Republican there went out to do the right thing. They intended to say and do the right thing. But by saying 'if the allegations are true,' when women, many, many, years later, have put their names in the paper - no woman wants to be dragged into a sexual assault, a sexual harassment story. So I really think it's ignorance, not malice... Four women put their name in a story with absolutely nothing to gain."

I am certainly no fan of Republicans, or the loony tune Roy Moore, and it may very well be that Moore did what he is accused of. Also, sexual assault and harassment is obviously a nationwide problem. Who in their right mind wants their mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, daughter, or any woman, man, or child assaulted or harassed? But Nicolle Wallace's assertion, essentially, that no woman would lie about sexual assault and harassment is both naive and demonstrably false.    

Most of us are familiar with some high profile stories of false accusations, for example, the Duke Lacrosse rape accusation scandal, the Rolling Stone rape article debacle, and the amazing case of Brian Banks, the football player who secretly taped his accuser admitting she fabricated her rape story - after he served 5 years in prison, was forced to register as a sex offender, and probably had his opportunity to have a pro football career ruined (see, e.g., "Blindsided: The Exoneration of Brian Banks," CBS, March 24, 2013). But there are other, less famous cases too. For example, a summary of wrongful convictions from the University of Michigan Law School highlights the case of Nathaniel Lewis:

"Nathaniel Lewis was convicted in 1996 of raping a fellow student at the University of Akron in Ohio. He was exonerated in 2002 based on a portion of the supposed victim's diary in which she wrote that the sex was consensual and that she had accused Lewis of rape because she was tired of being considered promiscuous" ("Exonerations in the United States, 1989 – 2012: Report by the National Registry of Exonerations," pp. 74-75).

Above: "The Line-Up," another artwork by Harry Rein, this one a lithograph, created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

More generally (i.e., in all cases, not just cases related to sexual assault) false allegations, false arrests, wrongful prosecutions, and erroneous convictions are much more prevalent than most people know, or are willing to admit. In Massachusetts, chemist Annie Dookhan falsified lab results which caused an untold number of wrongful convictions ("Epic Drug Lab Scandal Results in More Than 20,000 Convictions Dropped," NBC, April 18, 2017). In Washington, D.C., inaccurate breathalyzers likely caused hundreds of wrongful convictions for alcohol-related offenses ("D.C. paid out nearly $400K for flawed breath testing system," WTOP - Washington's Top News, January 9, 2013). And, according to a project run by the Universities of California and Michigan, as of today, there have been at least 2,120 exonerations (most or all for serious crimes - where the scarce resources for this type of legal work are put) and these people have lost a combined 18,450 years of freedom (The National Registry of Exonerations).   

If you think women can't lie, or men can't lie, or children can't lie, you're not paying attention, you're not doing your research, and you're ignoring history. With respect to children, remember the Salem Witch Trials or the more recent and ridiculous satanic ritual abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 90s, where some children were coached and stirred into such a frenzy that they claimed their abusers took them "to outer space in hot air balloons." (Also see, Cathy Young, "Crying Rape: False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem," Slate, September 18, 2014.) 

Above: In this video clip, we see people banging pots outside the residence of one of the Duke lacrosse players accused of strangling, raping, and robbing Crystal Mangum in 2006. One protester shouts through a megaphone, "We're standing in solidarity with the women who've gone through this horrible atrocity." Another protester says she's "enraged and disgusted... that something like this has happened" (emphasis added). Signs we see in the video say things like, "Real men tell the truth" and "Sunday Morning: Time to Confess." The story was eventually shown to be a false accusation, the prosecutor on the case was disbarred, and Crystal Mangum is currently serving time for stabbing her boyfriend to death (only a few years after she was arrested for the attempted murder of another boyfriend).

I find that progressives (and I consider myself a progressive) are often the ones rushing to judgment. For example, liberal columnist and education expert Diane Ravitch castigated Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her staff for listening to those accused of crimes, scoffing: "DeVos' world gets stranger by the day. After hearing from rape victims, DeVos and her top civil rights official have decided to champion the rights of those accused of raping the women... The alleged perpetrators of rape, it seems... are the real victims. What a strange new mission for the Office for Civil Rights" ("DeVos's New Cause: The Rights of Those Accused of Raping Women on Campus," Common Dreams, July 13, 2017).

I am no fan of the goofy, silver-spooned, right-wing extremist Betsy DeVos but, I'm sorry Ms. Ravitch, what is wrong with protecting the rights of the accused, and listening to their side of the story too, especially when this nation has such a rich history of wrongful conviction, lynching, and mass incarceration?

Here is what justice demands: A person who alleges sexual assault should be listened to. A person who says "I didn't do it" should also be listened to. We should look at such instances, and examine the allegations and evidence with unbiased eyes and judgment. We should not sacrifice the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" on the alter of political correctness, or blind chivalry, or misogyny, or misandry, or any other knee-jerk Neanderthal impulses. We should not assume that a particular group, gender, or age group is utterly incapable of lying. Because, to do so, encourages lying. For example, if society were to declare that people over the age of 70 are completely incapable of stealing, some small percentage of people over the age of 70 might consider stealing, on the confidence that society is biased towards finding them innocent.

There are few things more horrible than sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape (and you'll know this if it ever happens to you or someone you love). But I can think of at least one thing that is more horrible: Living in a world where finger-pointing is all it takes to imprison or lynch someone. That's why centuries of injustice, horror, and hangings spurred the concept of "innocent until proven guilty." We must uphold this tenet of justice, no matter how angrily we're browbeaten by those who want to be the judge, jury, and executioner... and no matter how much we may dislike the accused.  

Above: "Prisoner," a lithograph by Julius Bloch (1888-1966), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. In 1931, nine African American males, the Scottsboro Boys, were falsely accused of raping two white women. One of the two eventually admitted she lied, but the defendants' lives were forever damaged. Most served time, and one was even shot in the head trying to escape (see, Jay Bellamy, "The Scottsboro Boys: Injustice in Alabama," National Archives, Spring 2014). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.

"[I]t is just as important for a state's attorney to use the great powers of his office to protect the innocent as it is to convict the guilty."

--Homer Cummings, 1924 (FDR's attorney general from 1933-1939), "The Suspect, the Prosecutor, and the Unlikely Bond They Forged: New evidence shows that Homer Cummings, who would later be FDR's attorney general, rescued an innocent man accused of murder," Smithsonian Magazine, January 2017. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The political right continues to peddle trickle-down economics. The question is: Will we continue to be their fools?

Above: "Drip, Drip," an etching by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. I'm not sure what Hagedorn's intentions were, but this is a great representation of trickle-down economics. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Trickle-Down Lies 

Over the past several decades we've cut and kept taxes low on the rich. Not satisfied with that, many rich Americans are engaging in various methods of tax evasion and avoidance. As a result, the super-wealthy have become even more super-wealthy.

This coddling of the rich - cutting their taxes, not going after their tax evasion too aggressively (even encouraging it at times), and pampering them in various other ways - was marketed as a way of creating a better life for all Americans. Their wondrous investments, we we're told, would create a magical tsunami of great jobs. Trickle-down economics, we we're told, would be our salvation.

But multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer recently explained the reality: "For decades, rich guys like me have been selling you tax cuts on the merits of pure economic stimulus. The rich are 'job creators,' we've told you. The more money and incentives we wealthy few have to invest in creating jobs, the better the economy is for everybody - especially you. That's a lie."

Even right-wing superstar Ann Coulter has had enough, recently tweeting, "Bush cut taxes! Did it create millions of jobs? Nope. The rich pocketed their tax cut & sent jobs abroad, hired guest workers. F-- them." 

Trickle-Down Warnings

The trickle-down economics scam is not a new scam. Indeed, President Franklin Roosevelt warned us about trickle-down economics many times. For example, in a radio address to businessmen in 1936, Roosevelt said: "We must hold constantly to the resolve never again to become committed to the philosophy... that Government should be ever ready to purr against the legs of high finance; that the benefits of the free competitive system should trickle down by gravity from the top to the bottom; and above all, that Government had no right, in any way, to interfere with those who were using the system of private profit to the damage of the rest of the American citizens."

With regard to that last bit, it's interesting to note what billionaire Tom Steyer recently said: "There is an absolute, unspoken war between corporate interests and the American people... We're seeing a deliberate attempt to take away [working families'] future by really rich people." 

Trickle-Down Failures, Trickle-Down Tenacity

Since the New Deal, we've collectively dismissed Roosevelt's warnings and, instead, fell under the spell of the trickle-down tricksters of the political right. And the results have been devastating, as FDR would have foreseen. Wages have been stagnant for decades, job benefits are more stingy, retirements are more precarious, we've been killing ourselves more frequently, we're angry, we're sick, we're fat & unhappy, we're suffocating in debt, our children are drinking lead from crumbling infrastructure, and we're being evicted by the millions.

Trickle-down economics has not only failed, but its failure has been so obvious, and so spectacular, that you'd have to be comatose (or extremely wealthy) not to see it.

And still, still, the political right is pushing for more trickle-down economics - telling us that another round of gargantuan tax-cuts-for-the-rich is just what the middle-class needs. This morning, Trump's top economic adviser, Gary "the Goldman Sachs" Cohn, declared that tax-cuts-for-the-rich "means the workers get paid more; the workers have more disposable income, the workers spend more. And we see the whole trickle-down through the economy, and that's good for the economy" ("Gary Cohn: Trickle-down is good for the economy," CNBC, November 9, 2017).

Trickle-Down Fools Forever?

It's not surprising, of course, that Gary "the Goldman Sachs" Cohn and his ilk are pushing for more tax cuts; after all, they will benefit tremendously. And it's not surprising they want to eliminate the estate tax altogether, so that their children & grandchildren will be even more superbly-placed in America's fortified caste system. Their silver-spooned progeny will be able to enjoy idle & luxurious lives, while our children will have to work in crappier and crappier jobs to support their vanity and greed - just like today, but even worse.

No, none of this surprising. The only real question is: Will we continue to be their fools? Every American needs to look in the mirror and ask: "Am I going to be an idiot for the rich?" The answer to that question will have enormous consequences for the quality of our lives - now and in the future.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (5/5): "Dunes Near Lighthouse"

Above: "Dunes Near Lighthouse," an oil painting by Mary DeNeale Morgan (1868-1948), created while she was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1942. Morgan was a prolific California artist and her work is held at several prestigious institutions. Her paintings and sketches have been exhibited for over a hundred years (see, e.g., "Berkeley Art Exhibit To Open," Oakland Tribune, November 15, 1908, and "In Brief," The Californian, February 13, 2009 (announcing an exhibit of Morgan's art at the Pacific Grove Library). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Neil Greentree Photography.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (4/5): "Low Tide"

Above: "Low Tide," a watercolor painting by Avery F. Johnson (1906-1990), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, ca. 1938-1939. Johnson specialized in watercolors and was a member of the American Watercolor Society. According to his obituary, he supervised "the Treasury Department art projects in Key West and the Virgin Islands" and then served in "the Office of War Information in North Africa and Italy during World War II." After the war, "He taught at the North New Jersey School of Industrial Art and the Montclair Museum for many years" ("Avery Fischer Johnson, artist," Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey), July 13, 1990. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, November 6, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (3/5): "The Beach"

Above: "The Beach," a lithograph by Aline Fruhauf (1907-1978), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Above: Fruhauf specialized in caricature work and, according to an article on the Georgetown University Library's website, "joined the graphics division of the Federally funded Works Progress Administration (WPA), which further honed her lithographic skills. More importantly, the WPA experience enabled her to meet and mingle with many of the emerging New York artists whom she caricatured in a new series of lithographs entitled Artists at Work, exhibited at the ACA [American Contemporary Art] Gallery in 1938. Her subjects included Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Max Weber, and Raphael Soyer, among others." The lithograph above is titled "Mural Painter at Work" (also created while she was in the WPA) and the woman in the lithograph is probably a self-caricature of Fruhauf. Compare the long neck, glasses, and prominent eye brows to Fruhauf's self-portrait on the Georgetown University website here. Image above courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (2/5): "Beach Scene" by Wilford Huntington

Above: "Beach Scene," a watercolor painting by Wilford Huntington, created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1940. During the New Deal, there were many projects to protect and improve beaches. For example, in the November 9, 1935 edition of the Orlando Sentinel, it was reported that WPA workers were repairing and fortifying an area of Daytona Beach that had been eroded away by a storm in 1932. The project included building a bulkhead, moving sand, and planting grasses and shrubs ("New Bulkhead Protects Beach: WPA Improves Strip At Daytona," p. 9). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

New Deal Beach Art (1/5): A beach scene by Saul Kovner

Above: A lithograph of a beach scene, created in 1941 by WPA artist Saul Kovner (1904-1981). According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Kovner was born in Russia and "After his training at the National Academy of Design [in New York City], Kovner maintained a studio near Central Park, creating paintings and drawings of the city and its people. He later moved to California and exhibited widely on the West Coast." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Tom Steyer's money would be better spent on a New Deal museum & research center, an educational outreach program, and public policy forums in red states

Above: A WPA poster, advertising an upcoming forum, ca. 1936-1941. A forum is "a public meeting or lecture involving audience discussion." Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Billionaire Tom Steyer is currently running a $10 million television ad campaign to have Trump impeached. But that money (and more) would be better spent funding a New Deal museum & research center, an educational outreach program, and public policy forums in red states.

A television ad campaign by a liberal donor is not going to convince a Republican House of Representatives to impeach a Republican president. And even if it did, who would fill Trump's shoes? Answer: Vice President Mike Pence, a man who would pulverize the social safety net with even more glee than Trump.

And impeaching Trump would do little or nothing to address one of the major problems that put Trump in the White House in the first place - a seriously misinformed public (another major problem was the Democratic Party's choice to run an establishment candidate during an anti-establishment year). 

Too many millions of Americans are unaware of their own country's history and, specifically, unaware of how the New Deal, i.e., left & center-left policies, modernized the nation and set the foundation for a strong middle-class... a middle-class that has deteriorated in modern times, thanks to trickle-down economics and trade deals that benefit wealthy investors at the expense of workers. A misinformed public will keep clinging to the extreme political right and, eventually, put another Donald Trump-type character in the White House.

It would be better for Tom Steyer and other wealthy liberals to fund a New Deal museum & research center, which would highlight the history that led to America's strong infrastructure and strong middle-class; and to fund an educational outreach program (emanating from the museum); and to fund public policy forums in red states, to engage with Republican and Independent voters, and show them how the extreme political right has chipped away at their quality of life for decades. Not every mind would be changed, of course, but considering the inroads Bernie Sanders has made in many red state areas, it would be a worthwhile and fruitful endeavor (see, e.g., "Top Trump Pollster: 'No Question' Bernie Sanders Would Have Won," Common Dreams, October 31, 2017). 

Public policy forums could discuss, for example, how the 1956 Republican Party Platform promoted Social Security, unions, unemployment insurance, etc., and compare that to today's relentless Republican assault on the social safety net. (See, "Viral meme says 1956 Republican platform was pretty liberal," Politifact (rated "Mostly True"), October 28, 2014.) The idea isn't to get people to switch parties or vote for specific politicians, but to show them how the Republican Party (and the Democratic Party too, by the way) has betrayed its past principles to serve the wealthy few, and how that betrayal is tearing the country apart (see, "Two-Thirds of Americans Say This Is Lowest Point in US History They Can Remember," Common Dreams, November 1, 2017). 

So, Mr. Steyer, and other wealthy folks, get in touch with the Living New Deal, whose mission is to preserve New Deal history & inform the public of the vast and still-beneficial investments that were made in American infrastructure, American art, American education, American healthcare, American parks & recreation, etc.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Instead of a new WPA, we got opioids

Above: "Employed," an artwork by Nicholas Bervinchak (1903-1978), created while he was in the WPA's art program, 1940. During the 1930s and 40s, the WPA employed 8.5 million jobless Americans. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

In 2011, in the thick of the recession, the idea of a new WPA for jobless, financially devastated Americans was brought up. President Obama shot it down. Not interested. That same year, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to create a new WPA. The corporate-controlled Democratic Establishment yawned. Not interested. During the 2016 presidential race, Bernie Sanders campaigned on the idea of creating millions of jobs to improve the nation's infrastructure, and candidate Jill Stein promoted a Green New Deal, which "would include a WPA-style public jobs program to secure the right to decent paid work through public jobs for the unemployed..." Unfortunately, Americans weren't interested, opting instead for plutocrats Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. 

And so today, there are still 17.5 million Americans looking for work, the labor force participation rate is still low, wages are still stagnant, and we have an epidemic of opioid deaths closely linked to unemployment and despair. Now, what comes first, unemployment or opioid abuse, is a sort of chicken and egg question, but it's probably a little of both: "The concern is that technology and globalization, which have led to the elimination of jobs for millions of low-skill workers, is creating a snowball effect of unemployment. Workers turn to drugs and then find themselves unemployable, or unable to maintain work, because of their substance abuse" ("The opioid crisis is draining America of workers," CNN, July 27, 2017). Why do some unemployed people turn to opioids? Because, "opioids have been shown to help relieve depressive symptoms" ("The Link Between Opioids and Unemployment," The Atlantic, April 18, 2017).

In other words, many Americans are in a state of despair because they can't find good-paying jobs (if any jobs at all), can't pay their bills, are hounded by blood-thirsty debt collectors, can't support their families (or start a family), and, deep down inside, probably know that the country, as a whole, doesn't care about them at all. So, they turn to opioids and other drugs to relieve their depression, stress, and anxiety. (See, "The Forces Driving Middle-Aged White People's 'Deaths Of Despair'," NPR, March 23, 2017.)

Above: In this video clip, from a July 2017 episode of The Big Picture, trial attorney Mike Papantonio discusses (at 1:55) how opioid distributors planned their marketing, "They said go to the white middle-class... in a declining economy. Let's go where they're losing jobs... where there isn't work, where there's despair."

Above: In this video clip, from a June 2017 episode of The Big Picture, Dr. Richard Wollff, from the University of Massachusetts, discusses the links between the loss of good-paying jobs, our collective dismissal of the unemployed, and drug abuse.

During the New Deal, millions of unemployed Americans were given job opportunities in the CCC, CWA, WPA, and other agencies. And these millions of Americans improved the common good, for example, infrastructure. We still benefit from their work today. In modern America, however, we have been trained by right-wing politicians, right-wing think tanks, right-wing news outlets, and right-wing millionaires & billionaires to despise the poor and the unemployed. Even when jobs are outsourced, or replaced by machines, or lost through white collar crime & fraud, we still blame the poor and jobless, scolding them for not taking "personal responsibility." And so, because of this collective foolishness, our infrastructure crumbles while millions can't find good-paying work (or any work at all); and also while tens of thousands die each year from opioid overdoses, and tens of thousands of others kill themselves by other, more intentional means.

But hey, no worries, because on top of all the dead bodies are the Forbes 400, who recently saw their collective, record wealth rise from $2.4 trillion to $2.7 trillion. Everything is fine and dandy for them.

Will we ever wise up and connect the dots? Not likely. You see, we've lost our energy, our compassion, and our critical thinking skills. And that doesn't bode well for problem-solving.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Children are still drinking lead for billionaires, this time in Oakland and San Francisco

Above: "CWA Workers at Patrick Henry School in 1934," a lithograph by Russell Limbach (1904-1971), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. All across the nation, New Deal relief workers built, repaired, or improved thousands of schools, utility plants, and water mains. All of this work meant clean water for America's children. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

While the super-wealthy are amassing record wealth, enjoying historically low tax rates, anticipating even more tax cuts, and, in some cases, keeping a good portion of their riches secreted away in offshore (and onshore) tax havens, America's children keep drinking lead-contaminated water from old water mains, old connection lines, and old plumbing.  

In just the past few days, for example, lead contaminated drinking water has been found in schools in Oakland and San Francisco. And they're just two areas "among a growing list of schools across [California] posting high levels of lead flowing out of faucets."

Lead is a neurotoxin, and causes both physical and mental damage. For example, in 2016 the CDC noted that lead poisoning increases the risk for "damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems (e.g., reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency, and criminal behavior), and hearing and speech problems." Amazingly though, some areas of the country don't even bother testing for lead; and some that do test, and find positive results, keep the information to themselves "for months - without doing anything about it" ("No One Monitoring Lead In School Water, Lawmakers Told," News Channel 5 (Tennessee), October 25, 2017).

And so this is what happens when private fortune is glorified and the common good, e.g., infrastructure, is belittled - millions of children drink neurotoxins. Indeed, our right-wing and neoliberal governments have been so neglectful of the common good--letting millions be poisoned--that a young girl has had to step in and create a better lead-testing device ("Troubled By Flint Water Crisis, 11-Year-Old Girl Invents Lead-Detecting Device," NPR, October 20, 2017).

Yes, an 11-year-old child has had to step in and create a better poison-detecting device, because our plutocratic governments are too busy pampering the rich to be bothered with replacing crumbling, toxic infrastructure.

Isn't that amazing?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

To serve their wealthy donors (and their own wallets), Republicans & neoliberals are raising taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates on the middle-class & poor... and the middle-class & poor are going along with it

Above: A WPA poster, promoting tourism in the National Parks. Today, it's getting drastically more expensive to visit our national parks (see below). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Republicans and neoliberals are raising our taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates

All across America, Republicans and neoliberals are raising (or have already raised) our taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates. By constantly serving their rich masters--e.g., cutting federal taxes on the rich, reducing federal spending & assistance, and turning a blind eye to tax evasion & avoidance by the rich--they're forcing the revenue burden down on everyone else. Even worse, the middle-class & poor seem to either (a) not have the necessary critical thinking skills to figure it out, or (b) they fully understand what's happening, but are too submissive or apathetic to resist.

Below are some examples of this foolishness I'm talking about. With a little Internet searching, you'll find that these increases are being replicated all across America. We're being nickel & dimed into stagnation, or even poverty, by Republicans and neoliberals... all so the Forbes 400 (and other super-rich people) can keep amassing record wealth.

Republicans and neoliberals are raising our National Park fees  

Recently, the National Park senior pass was raised by 700%. And now, the Trump Administration is proposing large increases in entrance fees for everyone else too. The Trump Administration is also hoping to cut federal spending on National Parks. Yes, instead of raising taxes on the super-wealthy, who are enjoying record wealth, the Trump Administration will raise fees on the middle-class & poor, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. (See, "Trump Administration Eyes Steep Fee Hikes At America’s Busiest National Parks," Huffington Post, October 24, 2017).

National Park fees, by the way, are regressive - the less you make, the higher your burden.  

Republicans and neoliberals are raising our car registration fees

Recently, in West Virginia, car registration fees were just about doubled. And try this experiment: Do a Google search with the words "car registration increase" and see what pops up for areas all around the United States. I would tell you the results, but I don't want to spoil the fun. Who knows, you might even find that your own car registration fees have been doubled or tripled.

Car registration and other DMV fees, by the way, are regressive - the less you make, the higher your burden. 

Why are all these fees going up? To support tax cuts for the rich at the federal level. 

Republicans and neoliberals are raising our state & local taxes

Over these past many years, all across the country, regressive sales taxes, regressive property taxes, regressive state fuel taxes, and more have been increased. In fact, when measured as a percentage of income, middle & lower-income Americans pay double the state & local taxes that the rich pay, "the definition of regressive, upside-down tax policy" ("Fairness Matters: A Chart Book on Who Pays State and Local Taxes," Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, January 26, 2017).

Why are all these taxes being raised? To support tax cuts for the rich at the federal level.

Republicans and neoliberals are raising our road & bridge tolls (and even trying to add more toll booths) 

Above: These WPA workers are building a new road in Shenandoah County, Virginia, ca. 1935-1943. New Deal policymakers hired jobless Americans to improve the nation's infrastructure. WPA workers performed 650,000 miles of roadwork (new construction, repairs, or improvements). That's enough roadwork to go around the Earth 26 times. Today, Republican and neoliberal politicians are trying to give more of our public roads to millionaires & billionaires, so the millionaires & billionaires can restrict our freedom of movement with more tolls and fees. Millionaires & billionaires want more money, they don't care about your travel plans, and they don't care if they make your daily commute a traffic nightmare - after all, they won't be the ones stuck in a traffic jam; they'll be sitting at home in their pajamas, moving money (your toll money, thank you very much) around on the stock market. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Recently, tolls have been increased (or are being considered for increase), for the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Golden Gate Bridge, California's 91 Freeway, Indiana's toll roads,  the SR 520 Bridge in Washington, and so on and so on. And these tolls are regressive - the less you make, the higher your burden.

I can't think of many acts that are more submissive, than the slavish willingness of middle-class & poor Americans to sit in traffic jams, waiting to pay tolls, so that the rich can enjoy low taxes and, in some cases, greater profit. For example, writing for the Wall Street Journal, Thomas Coyle says, "For most of us, a toll road is just another expense. But for a family with vast resources and a long investment horizon, it can be something quite different: a source of income... In growing numbers, rich families are investing in infrastructure..." (also see, "How Investors Can Profit From Toll Roads," Kiplinger, October 6, 2016).

Isn't that sweet? Republicans cut taxes for the rich, and scale back federal spending on infrastructure, and then the rich move in and privatize our infrastructure, forcing us to pay them back with interest. Less taxes for the rich, and more profit for the rich. Do you fully understand that? You're waiting in traffic, waiting in line to give your money to the rich. Millionaires & billionaires (and in some cases, foreign millionaires & billionaires) are actually stopping your vehicle and making you pay them.

Oh, that reminds me, here's a message the super-wealthy asked me to give to everyone: "Thanks suckers!" 

Interestingly, U.S. News & World Report recently noted that red state Texas is starting to get "toll fatigue" and actually eliminating some tolls. It seems that Republican-loving Texans are getting tired of stopping every so many miles to pay their "I-Love-The-Rich" fee. The article also reports that "Transportation experts say that a primary reason for a growing reliance on tolls is that for far too long Congress hasn't adequately funded the country's transportation needs." Hmmm... I wonder if that inadequate funding has coincided with Republican and neoliberal trickle-down economics?

Republicans and neoliberals are raising our utility rates

Like tolls, utility rates are regressive - the less you make, the higher your burden; and, like tolls, they're being raised to pamper the rich. Once again, our wallets are emptied so the rich can hoard more wealth (which, very conveniently, will allow them to buy more political puppets, and fund more "job creator" propaganda).

Republicans and neoliberals are raising fines

Of all the regressive revenue mechanisms designed to fleece the middle-class & poor, none are more sinister than fines. States like Georgia, and localities like Ferguson, Missouri have used fines, and ruthless, soulless criminal justice systems, to harass, fine, and jail their middle and (especially) lower-income residents. Americans are literally losing their freedom to ensure that millionaires & billionaires can avoid taxes and live in greater and greater luxury.

In a recent case, a judge in Mississippi forcibly separated a mother from her child until the mother could pay a court-imposed fine / fee (in regards to a misdemeanor violation). 

Will Americans ever learn?

Above: A WPA poster, urging Americans to become better-informed citizens. New Deal policymakers believed that democracy, education, civic engagement, and the common good were far more important than private fortune. Today's Republicans and neoliberals don't. Image courtesy of George Mason University.

Americans, for whatever reason(s), seem to have an awfully hard time learning from mistakes. We lag behind other developed countries in so many areas (Internet, healthcare, lifespan, education, infrastructure, financial regulation, etc.), but never seem to learn. We just keep putting our faith in millionaires & billionaires, even as they fail us year after year, defraud us decade after decade, and perpetually try to undermine our democracy. We are so devoted to them, that we'll even empty our wallets for them. 

About a year ago, Penn State Professor Sophia McClennen said of the nation, "we have collectively lost our ability to process information and make good judgments. To be truly stupid, you need to have poor reasoning skills. So our problem isn't just that we have lies substituted for facts; it is that we don't even know how to process information anymore."

If McClennen is right (and I think she is), there is no light at the end of the tunnel. If you can't process information, then you can't see how you're being taken to the cleaners in order to protect the mega-rich. Thus, you'll never learn, never change, never wake up. You'll just scratch your head stupidly, keep allowing yourself to get nickel & dimed, and drag everyone else down with you.

Think about it: We had Reagan's trickle-down economics and the national debt ballooned. We had Bush Jr.'s trickle-down economics and job growth was very poor. Trickle-down economics has failed so miserably (unless you're rich), that even right-wing superstar Ann Coulter has had enough, recently tweeting, "Bush cut taxes! Did it create millions of jobs? Nope. The rich pocketed their tax cut & sent jobs abroad, hired guest workers. F-- them." 

But it doesn't matter does it? Because soon, having learned nothing, we'll be implementing Donald Trump & Paul Ryan's trickle-down economics - Trickle-Down Economics 3.0. And when that ultimately fails, we'll cut taxes on the rich again... and again... and again... never learning... never waking up... but always, always willing (or perhaps completely oblivious to) paying more taxes, tolls, fees, fines and utility rates.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New Deal Hard Times Art (10/10): "Boy Artist at Transient Shelter"

Above: "Boy Artist at Transient Shelter," a lithograph by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. How many children today sit in homeless shelters and dream of a better life? And how many realize, despite all the happy-talk to the contrary, that it's unlikely, because of the greed and selfishness of the American caste system? Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

As the super-rich keep hoarding wealth, evading taxes, and refusing to give American workers a significant raise, child homelessness remains a major problem in the United States. For example, in 2016 the U.S. Department of Housing and Human Services (DHHS) reported: "Homelessness is a reality for many families with young children in our country. In fact, infancy is the period of life when a person is at highest risk of living in a homeless shelter in the United States... Experiences of homelessness in early childhood are associated with poor early development and educational well-being" ("Early Childhood Homelessness in the United States: 50-State Profile," January 2016, available here).

Childhood homelessness occurs just about everywhere in America. In Kentucky, the DHHS report shows that 10.6% of children in Kentucky under the age of 6 experience homelessness. Meanwhile, "New York City remains in the midst of the worst crisis of homelessness since the Great Depression, with more than 62,000 men, women, and children sleeping in shelters each night. A chronic shortage of affordable housing and the potent combination of rising rents and stagnant wages have fueled a daunting and unabated 79 percent increase in the demand for shelter in the last decade... The City has made far too little progress for the 45,000 children staying in shelters each year. The number of children in shelters remains at record levels" ("State of the Homeless 2017," Coalition for the Homeless, available here).

The problem of child homelessness is so bad that it's developed its own lingo. For example, homeless high school students are sometimes referred to as "couch surfers or couch hoppers," because, lacking a permanent residency of their own, they stay at various shelters and friends' homes ("Number of homeless children and adults in America has increased," The Philadelphia Tribune, June 28, 2016).

How will our Republican federal government address child homelessness? Answer: They will give massive tax cuts to the super-rich. Not more affordable housing, not an increase in the earned income credit, not a public works program for the unemployed, but massive tax cuts... for the super-rich "job creators" who have failed so miserably at creating good-paying jobs. Republicans are working hard, for example, to repeal the estate tax (a tax paid only by the rich) so that even more dynastic wealth can be passed down from generation to generation. This will solidify America's developing caste system - those born into great wealth will live in great luxury and those born into poverty will remain in poverty, struggling all their lives with low wages and high debt (see, e.g., "Poor at 20, Poor for Life: A new study indicates that from the 1980s to the 2000s, it became less likely that a worker could move up the income ladder," The Atlantic, July 14, 2016).

In the Bible, Christ says we should avoid hoarding wealth and, instead, help the poor (see, e.g., Matthew 19: 20-24). But in America today, with the strong support of many evangelicals (who voted for Trump, a man who says, "I'm a very greedy person") we help the super-rich get richer and scold the poor - calling them "takers," "parasites," and "lazy good-for-nothings." And then, the political right (the group that facilitates most of this wealth-hoarding and name-calling) has the nerve to declare America "A Christian Nation!!"

Isn't that amazing? I mean... isn't that just jaw-dropping, eye-crossing, pull-your-hair-out amazing? Wow!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Deal Hard Times Art (9/10): "Forgotten Man"

Above: "Forgotten Man," an oil painting by Gustav Berk, created while he was in a New Deal art program, probably either the Public Works of Art Project or the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1934-1935. Not much is known about Berk, but according to the Nebraska State Historical Society, he was born in Germany and lived from about 1871-1937. He had a wife named Margaret and two children, so it's possible he has descendants living today - descendants who might not even be aware that he painted "Forgotten Man," an artwork based on one of Franklin Roosevelt's speeches. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

On April 7, 1932, in his Radio Address From Albany, New York: "The 'Forgotten Man' Speech", Franklin Roosevelt said: "In my calm judgment, the Nation faces today a more grave emergency than in 1917. It is said that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo because he forgot his infantry - he staked too much upon the more spectacular but less substantial cavalry. The present administration in Washington provides a close parallel. It has either forgotten or it does not want to remember the infantry of our economic army. These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."

Today, plutocracy has once again taken over the country. As everyday Americans face stagnant wages, crushing personal debt, rising rates of depression and anxiety, the political right is working hard to give massive tax cuts to the rich and also to cut the social safety net. We are forgotten again.

Monday, October 23, 2017

New Deal Hard Times Art (8/10): "Poverty"

Above: "Poverty," an aquatint by Dorothy Rutka (1907-1985), created while she was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

A few days ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highlighting America's looming retirement catastrophe ("Government report sounds alarm on retirement crisis," CNBC, October 19, 2017). This wide-scale, old-age poverty crisis will be due to a number of reasons (some are explained in the article, some are not), including: Stagnant wages; the exportation of good-paying jobs; decreased union participation; rising healthcare costs; the growing and pathetic "gig economy"; rising levels of personal debt; recent & cold-hearted limitations on bankruptcy relief; financial fraud; the replacement of fixed pension plans with inadequate 401k's (if anything at all); the refusal of right-wing politicians to expand Social Security; and the greed & selfishness of the super-wealthy.

If millions of voters keep electing Republican, Tea Party, and "centrist" (i.e., Republican-Light) politicians, and millions of others keep sitting on the sidelines in apathy, little or nothing will be done to address old-age poverty. We can expect even higher rates of suicide and other deaths of despair, while younger generations are trained by right-wing millionaires and billionaires--via think tank "researchers," political advertisements, and mainstream media talking heads--to blame impoverished senior citizens for their plight. "Personal responsibility!" they'll scream at the elderly. "Rugged individualism!" they'll admonish. "Tough sh&t!" they'll laugh, "You should have saved more!" And the fact that they couldn't have saved more because of pathetic wages, outsourced jobs, and crushing debt won't matter a bit to the right-wing boneheads who will be scolding them.

Free market fanaticism, and the refusal to accept the existence of market failure, breeds sociopathy - and that's going to cause a lot of suffering for older Americans in the very near future.