Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Broken Pipes and Mass Robberies: The San Francisco Bay Area Needs a New Deal
Above: "San Francisco from Russian Hill," an oil painting by Ray Strong (1905-2006), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The San Francisco Bay Area has many problems that another New Deal could solve or mitigate. For example, it's aging water infrastructure could be replaced by WPA-type workers and/or with PWA-type funding, and most of its homeless encampments could be replaced with work camps where residents could receive shelter, health care, good meals, social services, public works job experience, and a modest paycheck. And many, no doubt, would eventually regain their footing and independence. During the New Deal, there were camps for unemployed women, transient camps for homeless and outcast workers, and CCC camps for young men who had been hopping trains and wandering around the countryside looking for jobs.
The San Francisco Bay Area is also having problems with its teenagers and young adults, for example, dirt bike gangs that cause traffic and harassment problems; and, this past Saturday, up to 60 youths committed a mass robbery on the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART).
From 1935 to 1939, Anne Treadwell was the director of the National Youth Administration (NYA) in California. The NYA was a New Deal program that hired millions of struggling young men and women across the country, to perform various public works jobs. In the 1990s, during an oral history interview, Treadwell spoke about the benefits of the NYA and CCC: "I have thought over and over that we should have a program of that sort during this current period when youngsters are joining gangs and buying guns and all this sort of thing. There was nothing like that in those days. I mean, youngsters didn't feel they were totally abandoned or that nobody gave a thought to what they did with their lives. It seems to me that was an extremely valuable thing... I think they were extremely valuable programs. And I think we should have them in any situation where the social condition is deteriorated."
Over the past many decades, we've tried trickle-down economics, mass incarceration, cutting the social safety net, deifying the rich, and also the demented philosophies of Ayn Rand - a philosophy that can be summed up as: "Don't give a sh%t about anyone but yourself." Instead of doubling-down on these failed policies, which congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration are attempting to do, isn't about time we tried something else... like another New Deal?