Monday, August 27, 2018

The New Deal Worked: Rising wages

Above: Formerly-jobless Americans, now WPA workers, get their paychecks in Detroit, Michigan, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The New Deal increased wages

During the New Deal, wages increased. For example, here is the year-by-year, average weekly earnings for American manufacturing workers:

1929: $25.03 (Stock Market crash; caused by "limited government" fanaticism.)
1930: $23.25
1931: $20.87
1932: $17.05
1933: $16.73 (New Deal starts; more policies for regular Americans, less pampering the wealthy.)
1934: $18.40
1935: $20.13
1936: $21.78
1937: $24.05
1938: $22.30
1939: $23.86
1940: $25.20
1941: $29.58
1942: $36.65 (Full involvement in World War II starts; thus, even more government spending.)
1943: $43.14
1944: $46.08
1945: $44.39

Not only did workers earn more per week, but they also worked less. For example, in 1929 manufacturing workers worked an average of 44.2 hours per week to earn their $25.03. By 1940, they were only working 38.1 hours to earn $25.20. Less time at work means more time with family and friends, more time for recreation, and more time to simply rest.

(Source of statistics: "Employment and Earnings," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 1960, p. 29.)  

The New Deal increased real wages too

It's a good thing, of course, when wages increase; but it's even more meaningful when "real wages"--that is, wages as compared to the cost of goods and services--increase as well. Because that means paychecks are going further and have more value. And during the New Deal, real wages skyrocketed. Policies for the people, such as work-relief for the unemployed, protections for unions to negotiate better wages, and massive infrastructure projects, lifted American workers up.

Above: This chart shows real wages for American workers, for the periods 1871-1913 and 1924-1944. Notice the period of stagnation, from 1924-1933, followed by a supercharged increase during the New Deal years. This chart is from Gerhard Bry, "Wages in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States," p. 278, in Gerhard Bry (ed.), Wages in Germany, 1871-1945, Princeton University Press, 1960. Image used for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Today, we settle for the illusion of wage increases


Above: "False Dimensions," a lithograph by Lucien Labaudt (1880-1943), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Michigan Museum of Art.

All across the mainstream media, and all across the Internet, centrist and right-wing economists and commentators have been telling us how wonderful things are. Trump and his supporters tell us that he's worked magic with the economy and we're all doing better, thank God! But here's the funny thing: Trump's own Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) tells us that our paychecks aren't going as far as they used to. For example, in the Real Earnings Summary for July, we learn that for most workers, "From July 2017 to July 2018, real average hourly earnings decreased 0.4 percent" (and the BEA real earnings reports before this one paint the same general picture of stagnation or reduction; also see "For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades," Pew Research Center, August 7, 2018). 

Why the discrepancy, between what we're told and reality? I would suggest the following three reasons:

1. Trained to flap our flippers at the wrong economic indicators

Collectively, we've been trained to judge the economy primarily by the stock market and the unemployment rate. But what good is the stock market to the average American if nearly all the gains end up in just a few wealthy hands? And though the unemployment rate is important, it has little impact on workers who are already employed. Ask yourself: Has your paycheck corresponded with the unemployment rate? In other words, when unemployment goes up, does your paycheck go down? And when unemployment goes down, does your paycheck go up? Some people might respond, "yes," but I bet most would respond, "not really."  Again, the unemployment rate is important, but not nearly as important to most workers as other indicators, such as real wages, consumer debt, and apartment rental costs.

2. Our team captain MUST be praised 

The second reason (many of us) have been convinced that the economy has made an amazing recovery is because critical thinking has taken a back seat to the cult of personality. Tens of millions of Americans don't analyze reports, numbers, history, and statistics; instead, they just nod their heads to whatever Donald Trump, Sean Hannity and, for that matter, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama tell them. In other words, the reality is less important than the propaganda. The propaganda makes them feel good, makes them feel like they're on the winning team.

3. The rich like us stupid

The third reason we're being duped is because it benefits the rich. If we think we're doing great, even when we're clearly not, then we're less likely to seriously challenge the status quo of inherited wealth, tax evasion by the rich, financial fraud, usury, stock market manipulation, ruthless barriers to debt relief, etc. The rich know this, so they provide a steady supply of funding to their puppets in government, media, and think tanks - more and more cash to feed the propaganda juggernaut.

Reality check

Here's the painful truth: The New Deal improved our paychecks for decades. But the period after that, roughly the last 40 years or so, has been sh&t for most Americans. Goosestepping behind Dear Leader--be it Trump or be it Obama--doesn't change that reality.

Friday, August 24, 2018

America's Economic Circus: Our paychecks weaken while the banks feast on record profits... and Trump supporters scream, "America is great again!"

Above: Part of a WPA poster, ca. 1935-1939. What a great representation for America's current economic foolishness. Image courtesy of George Mason University, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Our wonderful-awful economy

Fresh off the heels of reports about record consumer debt and weakening paychecks (Trump's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that real wages are stagnant or down for most Americans) we learn that Trump & Republican "Tax cuts [for the rich] helped drive bank profits to a record $60.2 billion in the second quarter" ("America's banks have never made more money," CNN, August 23, 2018).

But Trump supporters think this is great. They're still hanging from the rafters at the Trump rallies, rolling in the aisles and singing hymns, like, "Lock her up!" To them, it seems, record debt, stagnant paychecks, and fattening banks make America great again.

And this is why we never come close to solving our problems. Homelessness, poverty, ever-rising suicide rates, crushing debt, crumbling infrastructure, mass incarceration, perpetual war, deadly wildfires, and more, roll on and on and on, because tens of millions of Americans goosestep behind the likes of Obama and Trump, never holding them accountable, instead becoming mesmerized by vague phrases like "Yes We Can," "I'm With Her," and "Make America Great Again."

And unfortunately, as long as we remain stupid, the rich and their political, media, and think tank puppets will continue to enchant us with magical phrases, while delivering nothing and hoarding even more of the nation's wealth and opportunity.

When President Franklin Roosevelt promoted a "New Deal," it wasn't an empty phrase - it actually happened: Millions of jobs for the unemployed in work programs like the CCC and WPA; FDIC to protect Americans' life savings; the SEC to police stock market fraud; Social Security to improve retirements; a massive infrastructure modernization program; rising wages (see here and here), and much, much more. Indeed, we're still benefiting from the New Deal today, even as wave after wave of magical phrases are invented by the rich to deceive us into believing stagnation is improvement.

This is our economic circus... our financial carnival... "Step right up folks!... and see the Dog-Faced Boy and the Wonderful-Awful Economy!"

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We could have had the beginnings of another New Deal. Instead, we got stagnant wages, tax cuts for the rich, and a Republican criminal enterprise

Above: A pro-New Deal artwork by Raymond Johnson, ca. 1934-1935. The CWA employed 4 million jobless Americans during the winter of 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

What could have been 

In Bernie Sanders, we could have had the beginnings of another New Deal, for example, better wages, better infrastructure, expanded Social Security to address the current and growing retirement crisis, better healthcare, and more progressive taxation on the obscenely rich (many of whom gained their wealth through financial fraud, tax evasion, theft, usury, shipping jobs overseas, money laundering, and other shady activities).

It's true that Sanders, if elected president, wouldn't have been able to implement his agenda 100%, but it would have been a start. But Clinton supporters said, "No! It's Hillary's turn! Bernie Sanders' ideas are pie-in-the-sky! Heck, one positive policy change takes decades of work!!" And the Democratic Establishment made certain Bernie never stood a chance, with various methods of rigging the primary against him. Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, and Donna Brazile have all acknowledged this. And Republican voters, of course, think anything that helps the common man is godless communism - they would never support Bernie. Indeed, they believe that all advantages should be given to the rich, and that the rest of us should simply kneel and pray to the rich to trickle something down on our heads - preferably not in liquid form.

And so, we didn't get Sanders and his New Deal-style agenda. We were denied a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. 

The corrupt, swampier mess we got

Instead of the beginnings of another New Deal, we got stagnant and dropping wages. For example, the most recent "Real Earnings Summary" from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that real wages (wages compared to the current prices of goods and services) has dropped over the past year. In layman's terms, our paychecks aren't going as far as they used to. To pour salt into the wound, massive tax breaks were given to the rich (yet again) and the rich are using those tax breaks, not to significantly improve the lives of American workers, but instead to further enrich themselves. What a shocker. Who could've possibly predicted that rich, greedy, and gluttonous Americans would use their tax breaks to further gorge themselves?

In addition to Republican economic foolishness (which always makes the rich richer and middle-class & poor poorer) we now see, more clearly than ever, that the Republican Party is essentially a vast criminal enterprise. President Trump's one-time campaign chair has been found guilty of tax evasion and bank fraud, and his personal attorney has plead guilty to the same and also told us of a conspiracy between himself and Trump to engage in a campaign felony violation. And Trump's first two congressional supporters have recently been indicted - one for insider trading, and the other for misusing campaign money to fund an extravagant lifestyle.

Trump's base doesn't seem to mind though. They're still chanting "lock her up!" - in complete obeisance to their Lord & Savior Trump. To them, everything that Trump says is scripture, and any statement critical of him is satanic blasphemy. Yes, the man who said he grabs women by the you-know-what, and said he tried to have sex with a married woman (while he was married too), and the man who says he's greedy... has replaced Jesus for many Americans... in what has to be one of the quickest and most stunning moral flip-flops in human history, symbolized perfectly by the photo of Donald Trump and Jerry Falwell, Jr., in front of a Playboy magazine.

The loosely-connected, but wide-ranging criminal enterprise of the Republican Party

Why am I labeling the entire Republican Party a criminal enterprise? Because most Republican politicians & leaders are not holding their criminal members accountable. They're letting them get away with it and they're using spin and word garbage (for example, "alternative facts" and "truth isn't truth") to deceive the public. And we know that they would never impeach Trump, not even if he said, "Y'know, I think America should become a Russian state. Wouldn't that be tremendous?" (Sound far-fetched? Some Trump supporters are now wearing, "Id rather be Russian than Democrat" shirts.)

America has willingly given the White House, the Congress, and soon the Supreme Court, to a pack of criminals and sociopaths.

They say there will be a "blue wave" in the coming elections. Maybe. But don't rule out the possibility that tens of millions of Americans will say, "Y'know, I actually don't mind this criminal activity too much. And if they want to use my campaign donations to pay off porn stars, settle sexual harassment claims, and go on vacations to Hawaii, that's fine with me. As long as they're demonizing and punishing the people who don't look like me, I'm fine with it."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Anti-immigrant hysteria, fueled by the Trump Administration, is hurting the blue crab industry in Maryland

Above: "Blue Crabs," a drypoint artwork by George Constant (1892-1978), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1939. During the New Deal years, the Maryland blue crab industry did very well. All sorts of factors impact the crab industry, for example, weather and local regulations, but rising wages during the New Deal (see here and here) couldn't have hurt - after all, rising wages means people are more willing to buy goods and services (see, e.g., "Maryland Crab Crop Best In Years, Canning Boosted," Cumberland Evening Times, March 7, 1940 - this article details a fairly consistent rise in the crab industry throughout the 1930s, and a potential "best in history" consumer demand for 1940 specifically). Image courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: An NRA code supplement booklet from 1934, for the blue crab industry. One of the earliest New Deal initiatives was the National Recovery Act / Administration (NRA). Among other things, this act sought to ensure fair competition and fair wages in industries across the nation. Parts of the NRA were eventually ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Image scanned from personal copy.

Even though almost all Americans are descended from immigrants, many Americans are anti-immigrant. Italians, Irish, Chinese, Hispanic, and more have felt the wrath of anti-immigration hysteria. And Donald Trump didn't help matters when he said in 2015 that most Mexicans coming to America are drug dealers and rapists. Trump's policies, fueled in part by his adviser Stephen Miller's hatred of "the other," have exacerbated American xenophobia.

Well, there's a price to be paid for anti-immigrant hysteria, fear, and anger, and Maryland's blue crab industry is paying that price right now. Due to a combination of congressional and Trump administration policies, the blue crab industry is suffering from a lack of migrant workers to pick the crab meat. Therefore, the blue crab businesses are unable to produce a steady supply of meat to grocers, restaurants, etc. And, of course, there is a ripple effect, for example, less crabs picked means less industry demand for crabs (because only so many can be picked), which means less bait sold: "We've never seen it like this before," said one woman, "For 25 years, I’ve been a waterman’s wife. And this paid for our home. Our cars. Our kids. But he’s not selling bait. And I had to find work" (emphasis added).

The irony is that many crab industry areas, areas that are dependent upon migrant workers, voted solidly for Donald Trump. Did they not see that Trump and his cronies, like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, were virulently anti-immigrant? Could they not foresee that their livelihoods were going to be threatened with policies designed to punish and exclude "the other"?

I'm actually sympathetic to the notion that many businesses have been allowed, too often, to utilize low-paid foreign labor to fatten their own pockets, at the expense of the American worker. But the genie is already out of the bottle. Americans expect certain prices, and if migrant workers are now excluded, consumer prices will likely skyrocket. Instead of trying to force Americans to be crab pickers, for example, why not create a vast, well-paid public works program, where displaced American workers can modernize America's crumbling infrastructure? If Mexican workers benefit greatly by picking crabs (see first article cited below), because the American dollar goes much further in Mexico, and it keeps prices down, then why not leave things be? Again, there are many other important tasks, like infrastructure, that American workers can be put towards.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

As Republicans focus on tax breaks for the rich, and also on making life more difficult for the middle-class & poor, thousands of old water lines continue to burst

Above: A new water supply system for New Orleans, funded by the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA), ca. 1935-1940. This was just one of tens of thousands of New Deal waterwork projects across America. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Punishing the middle-class & poor, kissing the feet of the rich, and watching water lines explode

As Republicans work day and night to cut off food assistance and healthcare for the poor (see here and here), and to reduce retirement income and healthcare for senior citizens--in order to give more tax breaks to millionaires & billionaires--water lines are bursting across the nation, usually due to old age or some other form of infrastructure neglect.

In just the past few days, water lines have burst in Long Beach, California; Loveland, Colorado; Davie, Florida; Worcester, Massachusetts; San Diego; and other areas. And a few weeks ago, a water line that was installed in 1886 (just a few years after Billy the Kid was shot and killed) ruptured in Detroit. These types of breaks typically result in loss of water service, damaged roads, traffic jams, and flooded homes & businesses.

Americans experience about a quarter-of-a-million water main breaks every year, and watch about two trillion gallons of water wasted, thanks to our crumbling, neglected infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a "D" letter grade in their latest infrastructure report card; and they were probably being merciful.

And all the while, Trump and Republican lawmakers twiddle their thumbs, blissfully unconcerned. Where is that giant infrastructure program that Trump promised us? Do you see it? I don't. Do you see him working hard to make it happen? I don't.

But Trump supporters and other Republican voters don't seem to mind too much, do they? They'll put up with the broken water lines... they'll let the financial future of their kids & grandkids fall apart (the GOP-proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts linked above)... and they'll put up with stagnant or dropping real wages... if that's what it takes to punish African Americans, gays, migrants, and Muslims... if that's what it takes to get back at the "libtard"... if that's what it takes to serve the holy "JOB CREATORS" - the "job creators" who, by the way, have sent so many of our good-paying jobs to other countries.

Isn't that amazing? Isn't that just jaw-droppingly stupid? Doesn't that make you want to pull your hair out and scream: "WTF is wrong with these people?!?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New Deal Art: "WPA Art Class Painting"

Above: "WPA Art Class Painting," a color lithograph by Eleanor Coen (1916-2010), created while she was in the WPA, 1940. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, used here for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: The WPA offered many art opportunities to youth during the 1930s and 40s, for example, art classes and exhibitions of their work. In this photo, we see two boys painting a mural in a town hall in Montague, Massachusetts, as part of a WPA recreation program, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The WPA worker who twice wore the Hope Diamond

Above: May Yohe, unknown date (but probably around 1900-1905). Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

May Yohe (1869-1938) was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and became a world renown actress in the late 1800s. She married Lord Francis Hope of England, owner of the Hope Diamond, and she wore that famous stone on two occasions. 

After her marriage to Lord Hope, however, Yohe led a life of near-constant rise and fall - both in love and fortune: marrying and divorcing, venturing into this business or that business, acquiring and losing large sums of money, and even farming for a while.

In her older years, serious financial and health problems arose for Yohe and her husband, Captain John A. Smuts. So, she took a job as a WPA clerk in April 1938, transcribing Boston's vital records (for example, births and marriages) from "ancient ledgers to card catalogs," for $16.50 a week. But Yohe took things in stride, shut down the notion that she was the latest victim of the Hope Diamond curse, and said: "I've had this job three weeks and I'm proud of it. I'm happier than ever before" ("May Yohe, Once Star, Found As WPA Clerk," Oakland Tribune, May 4, 1938) 

But even though Yohe had a bluntness and spirit that would have made WPA chief Harry Hopkins proud too, she wasn't entirely immune from wistful remembrance: "Sometimes I dream of the lights and the music and the applause and I wish I could go back to the stage for a while" ("May Yohe, Once Stage Darling of Two Continents, Owner of Hope Diamond, Dies In Poverty After Working For WPA," Pensacola News Journal (Pensacola, Florida), August 29, 1938).

Perhaps if Yohe had lived just a little bit longer, she could have found a role in the WPA's Federal Theatre Project... for one last show, one last season under the lights, and one more round of applause.

"I wore it twice and didn't care if I never wore it again. It looked like a bum sapphire. Why I gave the old stone more publicity than it ever had before or since."

--May Yohe, discussing the Hope Diamond (see Pensacola News Journal article cited above.)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Why isn't the progressive message catching on more?

Above: This etching by Edward Hagedorn (1902-1982), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943, reminds me of how Corporate America and the mainstream media suppress progressive economic ideas. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I was watching CNN yesterday, and anchor Brooke Balwin asked a couple of her guests why the progressive agenda wasn't catching on more (some progressive candidates didn't do so well during this last round of elections). One respondent said she wasn't sure, and right-winger Erick Erickson explained--in a surprisingly generous way--that progressive ideas do well in some parts of the country and not-so-well in others.

But I would like to offer the following reason instead: The progressive message, especially it's economic message, isn't catching on as well as it could because Corporate America, super-wealthy individuals, and the mainstream media are actively suppressing it. There is big money behind Fox News, a right-wing propaganda outlet, and CNN, a centrist propaganda outlet. (CNN is essentially a pharmaceutical advertising agent, running dozens of drug ads every day.) But there isn't much big money behind progressive media outlets.

There is no progressive equivalent to Fox News and CNN on cable TV, and so the progressive message doesn't get aired to the same degree as the right-wing and centrist messages. One of the main reasons for this, no doubt, is because the progressive movement calls for much higher taxes on the wealthy, and the wealthy executives, anchors, talking heads, and advertisers of Fox News and CNN don't like that too much, and don't want that message to get much air time. (CNN did host a few town halls showcasing Bernie Sanders but, conveniently, most or all of these occurred after he had already lost the primaries / race.)

Those of us who watched CNN during the 2015-2016 debates, primaries, and presidential race remember, quite clearly, that CNN engaged in a near black-out of the Bernie Sanders' campaign. They devoted most of their airtime to the Donald Trump carnival, pausing only long enough to tacitly endorse Hillary Clinton and openly ridicule Sanders and his supporters (see, for example, "Money Talks: Why CNN Wants You to Believe That Hillary Clinton Won the Democratic Debate," Huffington Post, October 16, 2015, and also my blog post on May 19, 2016, "Nevada's Democratic Convention and America's Mainstream Media: Joseph Goebbels, eat your heart out!").

There are, of course, other reasons why the progressive agenda isn't catching on as fast we'd like, for example, wealthy liberals are putting little-to-no money or effort towards the education of the American citizenry - a citizenry that is infamous for its lack of history knowledge and lack of critical thinking skills. Also, progressives are not well-coordinated, and are spending too much of their time & energy bickering with their Democratic Establishment overlords (they should form their own party instead). 

But if Brooke Baldwin wants to know why the progressive agenda isn't catching on faster, she should look to her own network's obsession with Trump, her network's suppression of forward-thinking candidates, and her network's routine disinterest in discussing and thoroughly analyzing policy ideas that threaten the wealth & opportunity hoarding of the financial elite.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Solution-Avoiding America

Above: A WPA poster. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Trying to heal injuries, by impaling ourselves

Super-wealthy Americans are greedily hoarding more and more wealth, and hiding their money in tax havens... and we respond by giving them more tax breaks.

Global temperatures are rising and wildfires are getting larger and more deadly... and we respond by blaming the "libtard."

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at record levels... and we respond by scaling back air pollution restrictions

Our children are drinking lead... and we respond--not with a large scale infrastructure investment--but by giving more cash to the Pentagon, for their Perpetual War Campaign, and by floating the idea of a Space Force to fight (I suppose) hostile extraterrestrials.

Our paychecks are stagnant against inflation... and we praise the holy "JOB CREATORS" for a job well done.

The super-wealthy ship our jobs overseas to increase their profits... but we blame the migrants, who are fleeing violence and poverty, for our economic woes.

There is a growing retirement crisis, and senior citizens must now file for bankruptcy more often... and Republicans respond by trying to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Welcome to Solution-Avoiding America.

The New Deal solved problems. Today, we wander around in a daze of foolishness.

During his 1932 presidential campaign, Franklin Roosevelt noted: "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." 

FDR and his fellow New Deal policymakers--like Harry Hopkins and Frances Perkins--were men & women of action. They created FDIC to protect Americans' life savings; they created the WPA to hire the unemployed and create infrastructure that we still use today; they created the CCC to better manage our forests; they created the SEC to police against stock market fraud; they created Social Security and the 30-year mortgage--and they backed unions that fought for better pensions--so that Americans could retire in peace and security.

But today, mesmerized by magical words like "innovation!" "entrepreneur!!" and "the power of the market!!!", Americans are letting New Deal advances slip away. And the more our quality of life deteriorates, the more perplexed we become as to how to solve it. The New Deal sits in front of our faces, like a mile-wide flashing light, but we stubbornly turn away: "No, goddammit, we have to give more tax breaks to the rich! We have to let them pollute more!! That's how you grow the economy!!!"

But what good is a growing economy when the rich are pocketing all the growth, and our planet is on fire?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

WPA workers vs. dogs, snakes, spiders, scorpions, bees, and vicious fish

Above: A mobile first aid unit for a large WPA project in Mobile, Alabama, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

WPA workers sometimes faced insect and animal hazards on the job. Here are a few accounts:

In March 1940, John Barnum of Port Huron, Michigan was bitten by a dog while working on a WPA project ("WPA Worker Bitten," The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), March 23, 1940).

In May 1940, Leonard Morrow of Thickety, South Carolina, felt a bite on his back and then killed what was likely a spider. He then became very ill and was taken to the hospital ("WPA Worker Bitten By Poisonous Spider," The Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina), May 23, 1940).

In August 1939, a WPA inspector was walking through high weeds, looking over some work, when he was bitten by a snake. After his foot began to swell, his doctor had him admitted to a hospital for some type of surgical treatment ("WPA Inspector Bitten By Snake," Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois), August 1, 1939).

Herman Barnes, of Flintstone, Maryland, was bitten by a Copperhead while working on a WPA road project. He was given anti-venom and apparently recovered ("Man Bitten By Snake," The Baltimore Sun, June 5, 1938). 

WPA worker Clinton Elijak was severely bitten by a pickerel (a toothy, fast-moving, and barracuda-like freshwater fish) while clearing brush from Many Point Lake in Minnesota in August 1938 ("WPA Worker Bitten By Bold Pickerel," Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), August 13, 1938).

WPA engineer John Ryan was bitten by a rattlesnake while walking along a highway improvement project in Casa Grande, Arizona, March 1936. The bite was not life-threatening ("WPA Engineer Bitten By Rattler," Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), March 15, 1936).

In June 1937, a Copperhead bit WPA worker Charles Fagley in Pennsylvania, and struck at another, before it was killed. Fagley's arm "swelled rapidly" and he was rushed to a hospital ("Bitten by Copperhead," Republican and Herald (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) June 18, 1937). 

Near Billings, Montana, March 1938, a scorpion crawled up the pant leg of WPA worker A.W. Brown and gave him a nasty sting, causing serious but probably not life-threatening illness ("Local WPA Worker Stung By Scorpion," The Billings Gazette, March 12, 1938). This was most probably the Northern Scorpion

WPA worker Roger Harris was stung by many bees while clearing out stumps on a WPA project in Texas, June, 1938 ("Speed Is Shown By WPA Worker; Hits Bees' Nest," The Eagle (Bryan, Texas), June 18, 1938).

WPA worker Alfred Berg was bitten by a Black Widow spider in Ohio, September 1939, but "given a good chance of recovery by attending physicians" ("Bitten By Spider," The Coshocton Tribune, (Coshocton, Ohio), September 7, 1939).

Pennsylvania resident James Ekins was working on a WPA project in March 1936 when he was bitten on the hand by a dog ("Bitten By Dog," The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), March 28, 1936).

Above: A WPA safety poster. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

After a record-breaking year of greenhouse gases, the Trump Administration is trying to increase air pollution levels (again)

Above: A WPA-funded air pollution survey in New York City, ca. 1935-1943. During the New Deal, there was a greater appreciation and focus on science, research, and environmental protection & improvement. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Today, we learned from the new State of the Climate report (which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looks to for information) that greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere were at record levels in 2017. Other records were set too, such as sea-level rise and arctic & antarctic ice reduction.

However, we also heard today that the Trump Administration wants to pull back air pollution regulations, thus clearing "the way for vehicles to, by 2030, spew an addition 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere." And this is just the latest effort by the Trump Administration to increase air pollution, CO2 concentrations, and global temperatures (see, e.g., "EPA fans struggling coal industry by rolling back pollution regulations," The Guardian, July 18, 2018). 

There is a phenomenon in the United States called "rolling coal," where drivers modify their vehicles to spew out more exhaust pollution. It's essentially a way for right-wingers to irritate liberals and thumb their noses at science and education. Well, it's clear that the Trump Administration, and their fossil fuel donors, are engaging in "rolling coal" too, but on a national & global scale. It is also clear, that if we don't remove these people from political power, they will eventually destroy the human race. 

"Last year, and the year before, we warned that world leaders were failing to act with the speed and on the scale required to protect citizens from the extreme danger posed by climate change and nuclear war. During the past year, the need for leadership only intensified - yet inaction and brinksmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth."

--Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2017 Doomsday Clock Statement 

According to UNICEF, fossil fuel-contributed air pollution already kills hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 5, around the globe, every year. And according to MIT, there are 200,000 premature deaths in the United States attributable to air pollution, mainly from vehicle emissions. And pregnant women in Utah are routinely urged to stay indoors due to that state's horrendous air quality. And now the Trump Administration wants to loosen air pollution regulations?

Are Trump and his supporters, and the Republican Party, and their fossil fuel donors, and America's super-wealthy shareholders, polluting on purpose, because profit means more to them than health and life? Or are they so stupid that they think polluting has no consequences? Or is it just their spiteful way of getting back at the "libtards"?

Perhaps the reasons don't matter, because the results are the same: Heavier rain events, deadlier temperatures, record-setting wildfires, polluted fish, and death by air pollution. And these things are going to get worse and worse as long as the political-right, and their Corporate-Democrat-Enablers, are in power.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

3D-Printed Guns: The U.S. Constitution is being weaponized to destroy our "inalienable" rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Above: President Franklin Roosevelt and his Attorney General Homer Cummings at a crime conference, 1934. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

FDR and Homer Cummings on gun control

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the first major, commonsense, federal restrictions on firearms - the National Firearms Act of 1934 (see, "Franklin Roosevelt: The Father of Gun Control," The New Republic, December 19, 2012). And FDR's attorney general, Homer Cummings, wanted a federal registry of firearms (New York Times, October 19, 1935), and once said: "Show me the man who doesn't want his gun registered and I will show you a man who shouldn't have a gun" (New York Times, October 8, 1937).

Disclosure

I have several firearms myself, mostly hand-me-downs from relatives who have passed on. I think target shooting is fun, home-defense essential and, though I don't hunt myself, I have no problem with hunting - as long as it's properly managed and most or all of the animal is put to good use. With that in mind, I think the gun frenzy in America today, i.e., the notion that everyone, perhaps even toddlers, should be armed (and without rules), is insane. Indeed, the first and second amendments of the U.S. Constitution are being weaponized, destroying our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Our inalienable rights are being alienated by gun zealots

Years before the right to free speech and the right to bear arms were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." And even the U.S. Constitution was created in order to "insure domestic tranquility," "promote the general welfare," and "secure the blessings of liberty."

But how can I be happy and enjoy liberty, when children are regularly being mowed down by crazed gunmen and when a simple argument can turn into a homicide or gun battle? And how can I be free, when I must be armed? (a situation right-wingers are trying to force down our throats). How can any of us enjoy liberty and happiness, when we're constantly wondering whether a road rage nut will try to shoot us from the window of his/her car?

The people promoting unlimited gun rights don't care about our rights, or our lives. To them, we are collateral damage, we don't matter, and we are expendable.

In 2016, Cody Wilson, the gun fanatic trying to let everyone create their own 3D-printed guns, was asked about the possibility of a tragedy resulting from his work. He responded: "It does not register on my meter. Whatsoever." He also said: "All I tried to do in law school was print a pistol and put it on the internet... I represent the destruction of commonsense gun control" ("Cody Wilson: the man who wants Americans to print their own 3D guns," The Guardian, June 6, 2016).

More recently, Wilson said: "I don't believe that access to information [Wilson wants to disseminate blueprints for 3D-printed guns] is ever tremendously negative or a bad thing. I know that people can use information for bad things. But this isn't a justification to what, stop a publisher from speaking. Is democracy dangerous or not? Can people be trusted or not?"

Wilson's statement represents two of the major mistakes in right-wing gun thought. First, they think in terms of unlimited rights, but with no regard, whatsoever, for how their unlimited rights will affect the rights of others (recall Wilson's lack of concern for potential tragedies that others may experience). In other words, they think that they should be able to utilize their first and second amendment rights, even if it's to the detriment of others. It's an extremely selfish and sociopathic worldview.

Limitations on first and second amendment rights have long been recognized. Citizens cannot fire off anti-aircraft guns, carry live hand grenades into stores, publish top secret information, etc., despite their first and second amendment rights. Why? Because it's extremely dangerous to other people. It infringes on other people's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The second mistake is a mistake routinely made by libertarians (which Wilson appears to be): His trust in people to do the right thing. Recall that he asks, rhetorically, "Can people be trusted or not?" Well, unfortunately, contrary to what Wilson and his ilk may think, the answer is: No, they can't. If history tells us anything, it tells us that people cannot be trusted with power. Too much government power has resulted in tragedies like attempted genocide, and too much private power has resulted in wide-scale murder and fraud. Americans with guns, for example, have created havoc and despair across the nation. The reality is: Both government and the people must be kept in check.

(Wilson seems to have conflicting views: On the one hand, he isn't concerned with tragedy resulting form his 3D-printed guns; on the other hand, he feels people will do the right thing. Well, if tragedies don't matter, what difference does it make whether people do the right thing or not?)

The right to bear arms should not usurp other rights

The right to bear arms is not inherently bad. But the right to bear arms, without rules and regulations, is just another form of tyranny - a tyranny that crushes our lives, our liberty, and our happiness. And the same is true of any right. Taken to the extreme, they crush and kill other rights. For example, most Americans would agree that we have a right to own property. But taken to the extreme, this might mean that a person can own another person (indeed, that is how the Confederacy felt). Most Americans would also agree that we have a right to privacy; but that doesn't give someone the right to build a nuclear bomb on their property without interference.

Where will the 3D-printed gun issue go?

I suspect that 3D-printed guns will eventually flood the nation. Americans, asleep at the wheel as usual, will ignorantly let it happen; and then, when people start dropping like flies, they'll ask: "What happened? What are 3D-printed guns??" Further, we should certainly not hold our breath waiting for political courage or leadership. The NRA is in near-complete control of American gun policy via their regular injections of cash.

We need more leaders like FDR and Cummings; not to take away guns from law-abiding citizens, but to craft and implement smart gun policy. Instead, we'll probably get more Cody Wilsons and more Wayne LaPierres - pushing America towards more reckless and more paranoid gun behavior.