Saturday, August 19, 2017

West Virginia votes right-wing... and gets duly clobbered at the Department of Motor Vehicles (among other places)

Above: New Deal federal funds helped create the Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston, West Virginia, 1940. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Self-flagellation: Middle-class & poor West Virginians opt to pay more, so the rich can pay less

West Virginians have gone solidly right-wing: they voted for Trump; four of the their five members in Congress are Republicans (and the fifth, Joe Manchin, is a lukewarm Democrat); both houses of their state legislature are controlled by Republicans; and their governor, Jim Justice, recently switched back to the Republican Party, after a short, two-year stint as a billionaire corporate Democrat.

But there's a price to be paid for voting right-wing, and West Virginians are now paying that price. This year, right-wing politicians in West Virginia raised a number of taxes and fees. For example, the vehicle registration fee went from $28.50 to $50 per year, a 75% increase. The vehicle sales tax went from 5% to 6%, a 20% increase. The state fuel tax was raised by about 3.5 cents per gallon.  And vehicle inspection stickers have gone from $5 to $10, a 100% increase. Further, the West Virginia Legislature has set the stage for increased usage of toll roads. And these are just a few of the many increased state & local taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates that West Virginians must now pay. The increases vary by location, but higher water rates and higher 9-1-1 emergency call fees are some other examples of how West Virginians are now paying more. (See, "Justice signs bill to increase gas tax, DMV fees," The Herald-Dispatch, June 23, 2017.)

All of these tax & fee increases are regressive, meaning, the less you make the more you pay. To put it another way, suppose Governor Jim Justice and a poor West Virginian go to the DMV together to renew their respective car registrations. The poor resident will have a much higher percentage of his or her income taken by the state to satisfy the fee than will be taken from Justice.    

Meanwhile, as right-wing politicians are busy imposing more regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates on West Virginia's middle-class & poor, they're also working to eliminate the state's income tax - which will disproportionately benefit the state's super-wealthy residents, like Governor Justice, and almost certainly require another round of regressive increases on the non-wealthy. To make matters worse, right-wing politicians at the federal level are also feverishly trying to reduce taxes on the super-wealthy, by scaling back health care for the poor, by reducing top marginal and capital gains taxes, and by completely eliminating the estate tax. The latter will fortify America's caste system, ensuring that descendants of the wealthy will always be served by descendants of the non-wealthy.

Above: A mural study of a West Virginia mining village, created by Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994) while he was in the New Deal's Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture, 1937. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tax breaks for the rich, and the downward-shifting revenue burden

I (and many others) have tried to explain, for years, that when taxes are cut for the rich at the federal level--as has been done for the last 40+ years--the federal government becomes less willing & able to help states, cities, and towns with their needs (e.g., infrastructure), than if it was bringing in more revenue. And when this happens, the revenue burden shifts downward, forcing middle-class and poor Americans to pay more regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates at the state & local level. It's true that state & local taxes could be raised on wealthy residents too, but may politicians are hesitant to do so, either out of ideology ("oh my God, we can't tax the job-creators!") or because they fear that their super-wealthy residents may move to another state - a much less likely scenario for middle-class and poor residents, since the middle-class and poor are usually tied to their jobs and/or can't afford all the costs associated with moving - in effect, they are a captive population, much less able to escape burdensome and regressive revenue increases.

During the New Deal West Virginia received massive federal assistance, thanks, in part, to increased taxes on the wealthy. The Civilian Conservation Corps developed its parks, the Works Progress Administration improved its infrastructure, the National Youth Administration offered education & training opportunities to its young men and women, and much more. Today, right-wingers have taken over and their philosophy is quite a bit different - cut taxes on the rich, and make the middle-class and poor make up the difference with a bewildering array of revenue mechanisms at the state & local level. Amazingly, West Virginians (and most other states) have fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker. And now money is flying out of their wallets while the richest Americans are enjoying record wealth, rolling on the floor in laughter, pointing at the middle-class and poor, and gasping between giggles: "Wow! What a bunch of idiots and suckers!"     

When will West Virginians wake up? Perhaps never. I suspect, for years to come, they'll keep voting for right-wing politicians who express, in one way or another, disdain for minorities, gays, and Muslims. Right-wing politicians are experts at reeling in voters with social issues, and then battering their finances. Many other West Virginians--like tens of millions of their fellow residents across the United States--won't vote at all, and are completely uninterested in the political happenings and current events that are siphoning money out of their bank accounts. After all, there's an awful lot of reality TV programming to watch, and voting and learning about public policy would seriously interfere with that.

Sadly, the Democratic Establishment isn't helping matters any. Instead of offering West Virginians plenty of good Bernie Sanders-type choices (Bernie Sanders won every West Virginia county during the Democratic primaries), they consistently offer up corporate Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, who mouth-off about the middle-class & poor while sipping Martinis and shaping public policy with the donor class.

But hopefully, someday--perhaps when the Democrat Establishment gets its head out of its ass--West Virginia will return to its FDR roots... and stop voting to be taxed more.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How the super-wealthy are fostering a world of racism and hatred... and how New Deal-style work programs would oppose their malice

"Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart. It increases crime and insecurity, and undermines the fight to end poverty. It leaves more people living in fear and fewer in hope... The huge fortunes we see at the very top of the wealth and income spectrum are clear evidence of the inequality crisis and are hindering the fight to end extreme poverty. But the super-rich are not just benign recipients of the increasing concentration of wealth. They are actively perpetuating it."


Above: A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in California, 1933. Many CCC enrollees learned how to work with, and respect, people who were different from them. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Above: WPA workers making furniture for use in state parks in Iowa, 1938. In 2016, conservative columnist David Brooks lamented the lack of solidarity in the United States, and wrote: "Over the course of American history, national projects like the railroad legislation, the W.P.A. and the NASA project have bound this diverse nation. Of course, such projects can happen again - maybe through a national service program, or something else." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The description for this 1942 photograph reads, "Naval air base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Now an expert mechanic, Mary Josephine Farley shows an National Youth Administration (NYA) trainee the tricks of a Wright Whirlwind Motor. He will act as her helper for about eight weeks; then he'll be qualified to work on motors for the naval air base at Corpus Christi, Texas." When people of different gender and ethnicity learn & work together, they often feel more sympathy and respect for one another. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: This photograph (date and location unknown) comes from a "Miscellaneous lot of photographs by Barbara Wright. National Youth Administration (NYA), Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)." My guess is that it's from an NYA training workshop. NYA workshops, work sites, and resident training centers often brought youth from different backgrounds together. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: This photograph shows a subway project in Chicago, funded by the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA), 1940. When people have good-paying jobs, and when they can start and support families, intergroup tensions are eased and even eliminated. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The super-wealthy are creating a world of extreme income inequality, financial insecurity, and emotional turmoil

In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt told us that "government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." More recently, billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer 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. Until we address that, I don't think we're dealing with the reality Americans are facing today."

A few months ago, an editor with The Nation magazine put it more succinctly: "We live in the age of rich bullies."

The super-wealthy have created an economic hell for many Americans over the past 3-4 decades, for example, stagnant wages, reduced job benefits, suffocating and often-times inescapable debt, and pharmaceutical price gouging. The super-wealthy have effected this economic bullying through a myriad of strategies, such as enormous campaign contributions (bribes); lobbying; shipping good-paying jobs to third world labor markets; usury and financial fraud; spreading misinformation through think tanks; limiting news & information through the control of mass media; and the demonization of unions, the social safety net, and the very concept of government.

The results have been devastating: Suicides have been rising every year; deaths of despair (which include alcohol & drug abuse deaths) have been rising; millions are coping with depression and anxiety; and most Americans can't afford a $500 emergency expense. All the while, the super-rich are accumulating record wealth, indifferent to the death & destruction around them. Indeed, some might even be happy about it, since it diverts attention away from their gluttony.

The economic inequality created by the super-wealthy creates a fertile ground for crime, racism, hatred, terrorism, and gangs

The super-wealthy keep vacuuming up more and more wealth for their exclusive control and enjoyment, leaving the rest of us fighting for the left-overs and getting angry at one another.

When people are under extreme financial stress and/or don't feel that they are a part of the larger society, they may seek out other groups or ideas, and they may behave in anti-social ways. As the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein said, "I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine, and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other."

Economic stress and inequality can lead people to join gangs, terror groups, and racist organizations, or follow mean-spirited leaders. In the early 1930s, for example, the German people were suffering through great economic turmoil, caused by World War I reparations, the Great Depression, and other problems. Hitler offered a solution to their desperation, albeit a bad one... and the rest is history. 

In addition to economic inequality, lack of interaction with other races and religions can create fear and hatred

Many people have negative views towards other races and religions because they've had very limited, if any, interaction, with them. And so, if all you know about other groups is what you see on the news, when the news is almost always focused on negative stories, then you can easily develop a fear or hatred towards those other groups - especially when the political right and hate groups are offering political and economic explanations for today's problems that exploit that lack of interaction (and thus, knowledge) with the "other."

(See, "White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas, study finds," The Independent, March 3, 2014, and "5 Key Psychological Traits All Trump Supporters Seem To Share," Alternet, August 4, 2017 - see number 4, "Intergroup Contact.")

How New Deal-style work programs would reduce racism, hatred and violence

New Deal-style work programs would help reverse the trend of racism, hatred, and violence in America by (a) improving people's economic situation, and (b) bringing different races and religions together to work for the common good, for example, on infrastructure, historic preservation, and environmental conservation. Let's look at the experience of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, for example. Here is what some of the CCC boys--most of whom had come from low-income and/or troubled backgrounds--had to say about their time in the Corps:

"We lived with boys from farms, cities and small towns; every nationality and most religious denominations were represented in our camp... We had blacks in our camp - this was before integration was accepted in our country... I got to know these boys in work and play and realized that discrimination had no place in our world." (Manuel Gomez).

"You learned how to get along with people. I think it shaped my life." (Frank G. Schmidt)

"During [World War II], the CCC boys had a jump on the other boys. We had discipline, the experience of living in barracks, getting along with others." (George Beam)

"As for the benefits derived from the CCC, I believe the following... taught boys how to get along with people..." (CCC veteran in Kansas)

"Our camp had a mixture of Latins, colored and a company of enrollees from Boston, a real hodgepodge. I am over 62 and consider the CCC the happiest period of my life... We were disciplined and worked hard... and our free time was a happy association with fine youths." (Manuel R. Martinez)

"I was very anti-social at the time, but you cannot live with a whole bunch of fellows in a barracks without getting along. It can get painful. I credit the CCC with starting me out of my anti-social habit." (Robert Hartwell)

"To me, the experience in the CCC was the opening of my world, which, until that time had been limited and poor in so many ways." (Arnold M. Rennie)

"My personal opinion is that the CCC provided a lot for boys and their families... It taught some of what responsibility meant and how to associate with others. Although many were from different backgrounds, we soon became a family." (William H. Oliver)

(From: Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, 1981, pp. 56-105, emphasis added.)

In 1942, the final report on the CCC noted that "Enrollees lived two hundred in a camp. Living together in barracks with other young men taught enrollees to respect the rights of others and to be tolerant of their ideas and beliefs... The funds expended to divert the energies of idle youth to useful work in the public interest paid the Nation enormous dividends" (Federal Security Agency, Final Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps, April, 1933 through June 30, 1942, pp. 81 and 88, emphasis added).

So, why don't we have a new CCC today? Or a new WPA, PWA, or NYA?

As long as the super-wealthy control our government, New Deal-type work programs will not be created - despite their history of infrastructure improvement and character-building. The super-wealthy, as a group (there are exceptions of course), are much less interested in the common good than they are in their own personal fortunes - indeed, that's why they ship so many good-paying jobs to third world labor markets, why they crush people with debt, and why they demand tax breaks even as the nation's infrastructure falls apart. You see, as long as societal chaos remains largely on the streets of places like Charlottesville, Virginia, and not in their gated communities, or private compounds, or private islands, most of the super-wealthy are content to let things play out. They're content to let the rest of us deal with the violence and hatred they facilitate, as they rake in more and more profit.

In a 2013 study titled, "Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans," researchers at Northwestern and Vanderbilt universities found that only 8% of wealthy Americans agreed with the proposition that "The federal government should provide jobs for everyone able and willing to work who cannot find a job in private employment" (table 5, p. 57). It seems that the vast majority of wealthy Americans would rather a person be unemployed if they can't find a private sector job. And they probably feel this way because they know that poverty and unemployment (i.e., a desperate pool of people willing to work for peanuts) keeps wages down, thus increasing their investment returns and making them richer.

The super-wealthy have also made clear their distaste for public works programs through their political puppets, i.e., corporate Democrats and Republicans. In 2011, when unemployment was crushing so many millions of Americans, Barack Obama let it be known that he would not support a new WPA. And in 2012, in the midst of a veteran unemployment and suicide crisis, Republicans let it be known that they would not support a new CCC-type program to provide jobs for unemployed veterans in our national parks - even though our national parks have a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog.

Recently, the think tank for the corporate Democrats, the Center for American Progress, advocated for the creation of a new WPA-type program. However, their initial ideas are seriously flawed; the corporate media won't discuss the idea (since it would interfere with their 24-7 coverage of President Trump's tweets), and the wealthy Americans who fund corporate Democrats would almost certainly shut down any such program when it showed even the slightest possibility of negatively affecting their bloated investment returns (for a more thorough discussion on this, see my blog post, "The Democratic Establishment calls for a new WPA-type program. Sincere or subterfuge?")  

The quicksand of "private sector" lies we're stuck in - created by the super-wealthy, and their political marionettes, talking-head stooges, and think tank "researchers"

Instead of a public works program for those who fall through the cracks of capitalism, many super-wealthy Americans have inundated us with free market fairy tales and shamed us for our supposed lack of skills. They've admonished us to be rugged individuals and demanded that we practice "personal responsibility" - even as such personal responsibility is utterly crushed by Wall Street fraud, job outsourcing, and a myriad of government policies that rig the economy for the rich. The super-wealthy have convinced tens of millions of us that there's no such thing as market failure... and if we would just stop being so lazy; and just get a job at McDonald's; and work harder, Harder, HARDER; and give them tax breaks - BIG tax breaks; and let them pollute the environment like it's their personal toilet.. well then, everything will be a-okay!

It's all, of course, a bunch of horse crap - super-wealthy horse crap intended to send us wandering around blindly, while they keep monopolizing business, attacking unions, keeping our wages low, reducing retirement benefits, and pitting us against one another with layoffs, job outsourcing, and merciless debt.  

Make no mistake about it - the super-wealthy have planted the seeds of hatred and division by economically bullying and destroying so many of us. And until we confront them, stop them, and get their money out of our government, they'll continue planting more seeds... and then force us to eat their toxic harvest. They are the Johnny Appleseeds of conflict.

*****

"[Donald Trump has] loudly embraced a brand of toxic racial politics while quietly creating a narrow winner's circle of C-suite executive and inheritors of vast fortunes. And it's the loyalty of the business class, not of neo-Nazi street brawlers, that ultimately ensures Trump's position of power and is in turn receiving its due rewards."


"If the white marchers want to blame someone, they ought to point their fingers at the wealthy whites on Wall Street and in Washington."

Monday, August 14, 2017

New Deal Farm and Seafood Markets

Above: All across the United States, New Deal workers built or improved markets to connect farmers & seafood workers to consumers. The "City Market House" above, in Austin, Texas, was built with funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA), ca. 1933-1941. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A worker cleans peaches for sale at a farmer's market in Washington, DC, 1939. This photograph was taken by Marjory Collins while she was in the New Deal's Farm Security Administration. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: A farmer's market building, constructed by WPA workers in Valdosta, Georgia, 1938. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.

Above: WPA workers also repaired existing market buildings. The description for this photograph reads, "The market modernization program which began in November 1938, has resulted in the construction, reconstruction and remodeling of a number of markets by WPA. This is an exterior shot of the St. Roch Market [New Orleans], more than 100 years old, which has been completely reconditioned and is now in use." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The PWA was also active in New Orleans. The description for this photograph, ca. 1933-1942, reads, "The modern French Market which was constructed by PWA at New Orleans, LA." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Vegetable booths in the new French Market in New Orleans." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Fish and game, from which New Orleans chefs concoct world famous dishes, are proudly displayed in the New French Market, constructed by PWA, at New Orleans, Louisiana." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Wharf Markets," an egg tempera painting by Victor Hugo Basinet (1889-1956), depicting the seafood markets of Monterey, California, and created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Manhattan Fulton Fish Market," a wood engraving print by Hendrik J. Glitenkamp (1887-1946), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: "Market," a watercolor painting by Robert Franklin Gates (1906-1982), depicting a market scene in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and created while he was in the New Deal's Treasury Relief Art Project, 1936. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "The Market," a tempera painting by Virginia Darce (1910-1985), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the Portland Art Museum, and used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: "Produce Market District in Chicago," described as a "Woodcut in brown on thin cream Japanese paper," created by Adrian Troy (1901-1977) while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, and used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: New Deal workers not only built and improved market buildings, but they also built many farm-to-market roads. For example, in 1941, the following was reported: "In the course of six years, ending with June 1941, WPA workers completed the construction or improvement of more than 600,000 miles of roads. The greater part of this mileage represents work on roads in rural areas. Many of these are farm-to-market roads giving farmers all-weather access to markets, schools, and shopping centers" (Federal Works Agency, Report on Progress of the WPA Program, June 30, 1941, p. 4). The scene above shows WPA workers building a farm-to-market road in Iowa, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

New Deal Therapy

Above: "Happy Days," a watercolor by Abraham Mark Datz (1889-1969), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1940. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Stagnant wages for American workers... crushing student loan debt for college graduates... children drinking lead all across the country... perpetual war in Afghanistan and Iraq... suicide rates rising every year... white nationalists battling counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia... Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un waving their nukes at one another... and a wealthy, ruling elite--in American business and government--that happily kills & injures us for profit, with cigarettes, hyper-marketing of opioids, private prisons, huge investments in missiles & bombs, and other manifestations of their psychopathy.

Sometimes, it's just too much. Fortunately, many New Deal artworks offer therapy for these troubled times by providing immersion into beautiful landscapes, peaceful nature, and the simplicity of childhood. A respite from the madness. 

Above: "Swans in the Land of the Sky Blue Water," a watercolor by Floyd Thornton Martin (1884-1956), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1940. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Quietude," an oil painting by Edward Firn (1909-1966), created while he was in the New Deal's Treasury Relief Art Project, 1935. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Rifka Telling a Story," a watercolor by Rifka Angel (1899-1988), created while she was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Winter in the Catskill Mountains," an oil painting by John W. Bentley (1880-1951), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Deal Art: "A Nickel's Worth of Moonlight"

Above: "A Nickel's Worth of Moonlight," a color crayon, brush, and tusche lithograph by Raymond White Skolfield (1909-1996), 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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Deal trains & railroads: A photo & art story of jobs, infrastructure investment, and transportation improvement

Above: "Locomotive Standing," a lithograph by Harold Faye (1910-1980), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Program, 1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Gibbes Museum of Art.

One of the few bright spots in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card is America's rail system. While our nation's infrastructure, as a whole, received a D+, our rail system received a B. But the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) notes that there's still a lot of room for improvement: "Through both public and private investment, funding for freight and passenger rail has been growing over the past five years. But despite this increase in funding, the amount needed to maintain, modernize, and expand capacity has not been met."

Under the Trump Administration, and the Republican Congress, we should not expect comprehensive funding to happen. For example, in keeping with the central principle of the conservative movement (i.e., cut or eliminate domestic programs to fund military adventures and tax breaks for the rich), the Trump budget is calling for massive cuts to our rail systems (see, e.g., "Trump budget slashes federal aid for rail, long-distance Amtrak routes," Washington Post, May 23, 2017, "Trump budget cuts funding for security at train stations, rail networks," Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2017, and "Trump budget to cut rail services to hundreds of rural communities," The Independent, April 7, 2017). Yes, Republicans, Tea Partiers, and the plutocratic-Goldman-Sachs-Trump-Administration want to dim one of the few bright spots in the ASCE's report card.

The philosophy was quite different during the New Deal. Massive investments were made in America's trains and railroads. And the results were improved infrastructure, improved service, new jobs, and the maintenance of existing jobs. WPA workers, for example, built railroad tunnels, laid down new tracks, salvaged old tracks, and helped improve the Alaska Railroad.

(For more information on the WPA's work, see: Federal Works Agency, Report on Progress of the WPA Program, June 30, 1939, pp. 124, 127; Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, pp. 34, 47, 53, 85, 86-87, 93, 118, and 131; and Annual Report of the Governor of Alaska to the Secretary of the Interior, fiscal year 1939, p. 6).

Above: "Railroad Crossing," a lithograph by Blendon Reed Campbell (1872-1969), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Sheldon Museum of Art.

Of all the New Deal programs, the Public Works Administration (PWA, not WPA) probably played the largest role in (a) improving America's rail infrastructure and (b) maintaining rail jobs. In its 1939 report, America Builds, the PWA highlighted the hard times the railroads were experiencing during the Great Depression, and explained its role in alleviating those hard times: 

"PWA sought to help the railroads out. Being private corporations, they were not eligible for grants, but PWA made loans totaling upward of $200,000,000 to 32 railroads for improvements [about 3.6 billion in today's dollars]... The outstanding allotment was the $31,900,000 loan to the Pennsylvania Railroad for completion of electrification of its lines between New York and Washington, and $6,290,000 for purchasing electric locomotives, bringing the two cities 1 hour closer to each other. On many another railroad, the Diesel-powered, lightweight streamlined trains, such as the Rebel of the Gulf, Mobile & Northern Railroad in the South, and the Flying Yankee in New England, that daily flash thousands of people from city to city, are the results of PWA loans. Still other railroads used PWA funds to iron 'kinks' out of roadbeds, improve rights-of-way. These allotments, made in the early days of PWA, enabled the railroads, normally one of the Nation's great employers, to recall many men to their jobs. In July 1934 nearly 70,000 men were working in on-the-site employment in work financed by PWA railroad loans" (p. 189).

The following images and quoted captions, unless otherwise noted, were created by the PWA and/or the WPA (ca. 1933-1940), are provided courtesy of the National Archives, and show PWA-funded projects:

  Above: "Car construction crew put to work with PWA funds at the Baltimore and Ohio shops at Keyser, West Virginia."

Above: "A new high speed electric locomotive ready to start its run between Washington and New York. PWA funds financed the purchase of this train."

Above: "Workmen bring an old type steam locomotive up-to-date in the Pennsyvania shops. This work was financed by PWA funds."

Above: "The Rebel, crack streamliner of the Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad, slides out of the yards. PWA funds financed the construction of this train."

Above: "Assembling car frames in the shops. PWA funds financed this work."

Above: "Head-on view of one of Pennsylvania Railroad's new electric locomotives. The purchase of this locomotive was financed with PWA funds."

Above: "Scene on the Pennsylvania Railroad." (New Deal investment in trains and railroads meant better service for passengers.)

Above: "Long Island Railroad," an oil painting by Earl John Colville (1878-1970), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Gregory Halpern.

Above: "This streamline steam locomotive pulls the crack train of the Milwaukee Road - the Hiawatha. This train was purchased with PWA funds."

Above: The Flying Yankee, one of New England's crack streamliners. PWA funds financed the purchase of this train." (Recently, the Flying Yankee was restored, with hopes of public viewing).

Above: "Scene on the Pennsylvania Railroad line." 

Above: "Railroad Retirement," a sculpture by Robert Kittredge (1910-2003), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1941. This sculpture, and other New Deal art, is located in the Mary E. Switzer Memorial Building (formerly the Railroad Retirement Board Building) at 330 C Street, SW, Washington, DC. Trains and railroads provide many good jobs that can't be sent overseas - conductors, switch operators, engineers, car attendants, construction workers, inspectors, mechanics, machinists, cooks, and more. Many of these jobs provide good wages and benefits. Given this, shouldn't we be investing and promoting America's rail industry more, instead of less? What is the Trump Administration thinking? Well, considering that it's packed full of born-into-wealth plutocrats, Koch-funded Tea Partiers, Goldman Sachs alumni, and the like, it's quite clear that they're thinking more about tax breaks for the rich (i.e., themselves), and less about good American jobs that support healthy middle-class lives and sound retirements. As Trump would say, or rather, tweet: "Sad!" Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Kristen Fusselle.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A WPA bookmobile in South Dakota

Above: A WPA-operated bookmobile in South Dakota, ca. 1935-1943. On the back of the bookmobile, it reads, "The bookmobile system reaches many rural communities and citizens. Constant interchange of books between the central library and the branches and stations make any book available to any reader in the region. It serves 23 small communities. Travels about 900 miles over the circuit monthly." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.