Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Democratic Establishment calls for a new WPA-type program. Sincere or subterfuge?

Above: "Employment in Public Works," an oil painting by Tom Lea (1907-2001), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the New Mexico Museum of Art.

The Democratic Establishment, through their think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), recently proposed "a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment - similar to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression but modernized for the 21st century" (Neera Tanden, et. al., "Toward a Marshall Plan for America," Center for American Progress, May 16, 2017). CAP was founded by John Podesta, and is currently presided over by Neera Tanden - both of whom are high-level operatives in the Obama and Clinton political machines.

CAP's call for a new WPA-type program is (seemingly) a positive development, but there are a few items of concern:

1. Only for noncollege graduates? It appears that CAP is developing this idea solely for "noncollege graduates." If that's true, it's a grave mistake - for two reasons: (a) because many college graduates are struggling too (a college degree is not a vaccine against unemployment and struggle); and (b), it sounds too paternalistic and condescending. It seems to say, "We, the college-educated and elite, will show you, the people who can't seem to figure things out, the path to success." A new WPA-type program should be open to anyone who needs a job but can't find one. Period.

2. A commission of the elite? CAP tells us they're "putting together a new commission to help design a national 'Marshall Plan' to rebuild hard-hit communities through increased economic growth; more jobs with better wages; and rising opportunities and increased security for families... The commission will be composed of national, regional, and local leaders who can provide direction and visibility to its work. It will call upon the expertise of urban and rural leaders who represent labor, business, education, health, faith, community and economic development, and racial justice to help understand the problem; lift up promising practices; and develop bold new ideas, particularly for people who did not attend college." 

Okay, but CAP also needs to put a few non-elite people on their commission, e.g., people who have experienced long-term unemployment, as well as the financial victimization that occurs during such long-term unemployment. The experiences and observations of these people will help craft the best possible jobs program.

3. Why no mention of the New Deal or Roosevelt? The article / proposal makes no mention of the New Deal or Franklin Roosevelt. Also, why is the title, "Towards a Marshall Plan for America," instead of "Towards Another New Deal for America?" Perhaps I'm being too nit-picky here, but considering the Democratic Establishment's abandonment of the New Deal, I find their terminology (or lack thereof) a little problematic. Well, at least they had the courage to say "WPA".

4. Too concerned with getting votes. Throughout CAP's proposal, heavy emphasis is put on election results, both past and future. For example, they suggest: "with President Obama not on the ticket to drive voter enthusiasm, it is quite possible that lingering job and wage pressures in more urban areas with lots of young people, and in areas with large populations of African-Americans, yielded similar, if distinct, economic anxiety in ways that may have depressed voter turnout among base progressives. The combined effect of economic anxiety may have been to drive white noncollege voters toward Trump and to drive down voter engagement and participation among base progressives. Either way, issues related to lost jobs, low wages, high costs, and diminished mobility played a critical role in setting the stage for a narrow populist victory for Trump." 

Well, if the main driver behind CAP's jobs program is election results (i.e., more than, let's say, empathy) what happens if / when the voters described above are considered less vital? Bye-bye jobs program! As journalists Alex Shephard and Clio Chang have noted, Neera Tanden "repeatedly steers discussion of policy into political directions, judging proposals like the $15 minimum wage by their perceived political impact, not by their merits" ("How Neera Tanden Works," New Republic, October 28, 2016). To be fair though, Tanden is hardly the only one. And it's not that political impact is unimportant but, my God, have some fire in your belly, fight for what's right; that's why the Bernie Sanders movement gained momentum so fast. People want heart, and authenticity, and fight.  

5. How far will corporate donors and billionaire philanthropists allow them to run with this idea? CAP is funded by Corporate America and super-wealthy individuals, i.e., people who rely on a steady pool of unemployed, financially devastated workers to build their profits (unemployment = desperation = willingness to work for low wages = higher profits for wealthy investors and executives). Given this reality, just how far do you think the donors will allow CAP to develop a new WPA-type program? At the end of the day, I think we can be fairly certain that it will be shut down or watered down.

Above: "CWA Workers at the Stadium," a black ink linoleum by Sheffield Harold Kagy (1907-1989), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. A predecessor to the WPA, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) employed millions of jobless Americans between 1933 and 1934. We still use many of their infrastructure projects today, as documented by the Living New DealImage courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Detroit Institute of Art.

Sincere or Subterfuge?

I hate to sound so cynical about CAP's WPA-type proposal (after all, we do want positive change, right?) but the Democratic Establishment has been so disappointing over the last few decades that it's hard to believe they're really going to fight hard for this, or even get it right. For example, in 2011, when many unemployed Americans were crying out for a public jobs program, the Obama administration dismissed the idea of a WPA. When U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to create a new WPA, also in 2011, he received no support from the Democratic Establishment and the bill died a lonely death in committee. When Bernie Sanders proposed a massive public works program to rebuild our infrastructure, during his 2016 campaign, he and his supporters were dismissed by the Democratic Establishment as delusional, pie-in-sky dreamers. And when Jill Stein ran on a campaign that included "a WPA-style public jobs program to secure the right to decent paid work through public jobs for the unemployed" she was dismissed altogether, not even permitted to debate Hillary Clinton.

So, is the Democratic Establishment's proposal for a new WPA-type program sincere, or subterfuge? Well, I hope they prove me wrong but, at this point--after so many heart-wrenching let-downs--I can't even give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe it's a subterfuge, designed to gain votes in the short-term, and I think they also know full-well that their corporate & super-wealthy donors will crush any WPA-type program before it has a meaningful, wide-scale, and positive impact for the unemployed and poor.

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Deal Art: "Monitor and Merrimac"

Above: "Monitor and Merrimac," a wood engraving on paper by Charles Ernest Pont (1898-1971), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Did you know that Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War? See, "A Historical Perspective of Memorial Day," NPR, May 30, 2005. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

New Deal Art: "Preaching to the Fishes"

Above: "Preaching to the Fishes," a wood engraving on paper by Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1937. In a 1964 oral history interview, Eichenberg recalled the troubles of the Great Depression and his start in the WPA: "I made the rounds and I was received by most people with kindness but they said, 'We are all in trouble now. We can't take any chances. We can't give you any work'... [and then a friend asked] 'Have you tried the WPA?'... I went there with a few of my wooden engravings, or prints and asked him what I could do... He said, 'Oh, this is marvelous work. Go ahead and do what you want to do.' It was that simple... I got box wood, which is very hard to get - the WPA had kind of a supply room and everything we needed. You had to say what you needed, and you got it. They bought the tools. They bought the gravers and they sharpened the gravers and you took your material home with you. You just picked it up there -- beautiful wood blocks, any size." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Friday, May 26, 2017

New Deal Art: San Francisco lithographs by David P. Chun

The following are lithographs by David P. Chun (1898-1989), created while he was in the art programs of the New Deal, ca. 1935-1943. They depict life, places, and scenery in San Francisco. 

Above: "San Francisco Pier 43." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Above: "Alcatraz Island." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Institute.

Above: "Embarcadero." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Above: "S.F. China Town." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Above: "San Francisco Wharf." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Above: "Lake of Nation and Pacific House" [at Treasure Island, Golden Gate International Exposition]. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Deal Workplace Safety

"All works projects shall be conducted in accordance with safe working conditions, and every effort shall be made for the prevention of accidents."

--President Franklin Roosevelt, 1935, Executive Order No. 7046

Above: A safety trophy awarded to the WPA, ca. 1935-1943. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

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

Above: A nurse checks a WPA worker at the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana, 1937. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

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

The New Deal helped improve workplace safety in America. Here are just a few examples:

Public Works Administration (PWA): Reporting on its oversight of the thousands of large construction projects it funded, the PWA noted that, "Failure of contractors and owners to maintain proper safety devices for workers has also been subject to investigation," and gave an example of workers getting the bends because a contractor tried to save money by using faulty decompression chambers. (America Builds: The Record of PWA, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1939, p. 88.)

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): A member of the CCC recalled decades later: "There was an intensive safety program in the CCCs. We were taught how to carry and use tools safely in all phases of our work. The forester in charge of our safety program did an excellent job in making us safety conscious in the way we worked and lived. This safety training has never left me. This was over 45 years ago when most businesses had not recognized the value of safety programs." (Perry H. Merrill, Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Montpelier, VT, 1981, p. 56.)

Civil Works Administration (CWA): "With four million employees on its rolls working on a hundred different types of projects, the Civil Works Administration was early forced to follow the example of other large employers of labor and set up an extensive Safety Program... As it developed finally, this program proved to be the most extensive ever undertaken in the United States... More than one thousand eight hundred safety directors gave their full time to the work..." (Henry Alsberg (ed.), America Fights the Depression: A Photographic Record of the Civil Works Administration, New York: Coward-McCann, 1934, p. 16.) 

Work Division of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA, or ERA): "The ERA safety program continued the methods initiated by the CWA, which had established a record low accident-frequency rate for construction work... Those responsible for safety were empowered to remove workers from any project on which unsafe conditions persisted. Safe practice rules were brought vividly to the attention of the workers through safety bulletins. Goggles, safety-belts, first-aid materials and other safety supplies were specified for various projects, and checked by inspection. Thousands of foremen and workers were given training in first aid through the cooperation of the American Red Cross, the U.S.Bureau of Mines, and similar  organizations." (The Emergency Work Relief Program of the F.E.R.A., April 1, 1934  - July 1, 1935, p. 15.)

Works Progress Administration (WPA): "The WPA safety program reached all projects and activities by means of an intensive and continuous education campaign which was intended to stimulate interest in accident prevention at each level of supervision and among the project workers themselves. Conferences and meetings were held to instruct supervisors and foremen in safe methods and safety procedures, and workers were taught safe practices by their foremen on the jobs. Appropriate safety posters were prepared and distributed for display on all work projects, and a Nation-wide safety contest was conducted to stimulate and measure improvements in accident trends." (Federal Works Agency, Final on the WPA Program, 1935-43, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946, p. 75.)

National Youth Administration (NYA): With respect to resident work centers (where unemployed youth could train, work, and live together), "Safety regulations were rigorous, and no resident project could be 
started until the physical facilities had been inspected and approved by a representative of the State safety consultant of the WPA. These embraced water supply, sewage and sanitation, and structural condition 
of buildings." (Federal Security Agency, War Manpower Commission, Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years, 1936-1943, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944, p. 182.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WPA Broomball

Above: The description for this photograph, ca. 1935-1943, reads: "Broomball is popular with girls at Nicollet Field [Minneapolis, Minnesota], where Henry Sampson and Mrs. Martha Bates are the WPA Supervisors. In this picture, Shirley Elvig has taken a tumble in the midst of a play with Jean McDonald and Elizabeth Evans." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Another scene from the WPA Broomball game. During the New Deal era, the WPA helped run thousands of adult recreation projects for men and women. Wouldn't it be great if we did the same thing today, especially considering the tremendous problems of obesity and type 2 diabetes that America is struggling with today? (See the CDC's notes about both at "Adult Obesity Facts"). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Broomball seems to be a fairly popular sport today, and USA Broomball describes the history of the game: "While the history of broomball is rather vague, a few main facts have been widely reported. Broomball as we know it was first played in Canada in the early 1900's by street car workers using a small soccer ball and corn brooms. The sport evolved and was brought down to the United States. The first games were reportedly played in Minnesota, the birthplace of USA Broomball, beginning in the 1930's. Leagues, however did not blossom until the 1960's..." 

USA Broomball also describes how the game is played today: "Broomball is a winter sport played in ice arenas and community parks throughout the country. It is a game very similar to hockey in its formation and rules, but also incorporates some soccer strategies. The game is played on a hockey rink with two teams consisting of six players on each side (a goalie, two defensemen and three forwards). Similar to hockey and soccer, the object of the game is to score more goals than the opposing team. A player uses a stick (a shaft with a molded broom-shaped head) to maneuver a six-inch diameter ball up and down the ice. Instead of skates, players wear spongy-soled shoes to gain traction when running on the slippery surface."

Notice that the game began to gain popularity in the United States "beginning in the 1930s." Could the WPA have played a vital role in the establishment of this new sport?

"But it seems pretty clear that we must plan for, and help to bring about, an expanded economy which will result in more security, in more employment, in more recreation..."

--President Franklin Roosevelt, "Excerpts from the Press Conference, December 28, 1943

Sunday, May 21, 2017

New Deal Bridge Art (5/5): "The Bridge" (plus, the New Deal's 200,000+ bridge projects)

Above: "The Bridge," an oil painting by Raymond Breinin (1908-2000), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. According to his obituary in the Chicago Tribune, Breinin "was known for painting with a dark, brooding palate during the Great Depression, a time when contemporary work from many American artists evoked optimistic images... Breinin didn't set his hand to major works until the advent of the the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. But once involved in the program, he began making a name for himself... He died while painting a theater curtain being drawn back from a stage. On the curtain is the image of a prince on horseback; in the background, the play is beginning ("Painter Raymond Breinin," April 8, 2000). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: Some of the bridges built during the New Deal were large, like the Triborough Bridge in New York City; others were small, like the bridge you see above, near Frostburg, Maryland. During the 1930s, an enormous investment in bridges was made. Here are the approximate number of bridge projects for the major New Deal work & construction programs, between 1933 and 1943: PWA - 388 (usually, very large bridge projects); CCC - 57,424; CWA - 7,000; FERA Work Division - 16,590; WPA - 124,011; NYA - 9,973. This totals a little over 215,000 bridge projects. Some were horse bridges, or foot bridges, or vehicle bridges. Some were new constructions, or repairs, or improvements. Some were overlaps where, for example, a project begun by the CWA was completed by the FERA Work Division. But one thing was consistent: a commitment to American infrastructure - a commitment that, unfortunately, has been replaced in the modern era with endless & fruitless military adventures, as well as gigantic & wasteful tax cuts for the rich. So, is it any wonder that our bridges have consistently scored poorly on the report cards of the American Society of Civil Engineers? Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Friday, May 19, 2017

New Deal Bridge Art (4/5): Manhattan Bridge(s)

Above: "Manhattan Bridge," a gelatin silver print photograph by Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project (FAP), 1936. According to the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum, "In February of 1935, Abbott sent a [photography] proposal to the FAP, a division of the Works Progress Administration that financially assisted certain art projects... Finally in September she received funding for her Changing New York project. She was approved $145 per month, total artistic freedom and was given a 1930 Ford Roadster" (Abbot most likely made her proposal in conjunction with a museum, school, or government agency; or perhaps a history, art, or civic organization). Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Manhattan Bridge," a lithograph by Louis Lozowick (1892-1973), created while he was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. Lozowick's "preferred medium was lithography. He made nearly 300 prints, using this method. 'He was making prints when they weren't popular,' Mrs. Lozowick said. 'He liked the bold and powerful black and white effects of the lithograph'" ("The Urban Legacy of Louis Lozowick," New York Times, November 15, 1981). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Deal Bridge Art (3/5): Harlem Bridges

Above: "Bridges Over Harlem River," a lithograph by Moses Oley (1898-1978), created while he was in one of the New Deal art programs, ca. 1934-1943. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Harlem River Bridges," a screenprint by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project. According to her Wikipedia biography, "From 1935 until the early 1940s, Olds was a nonrelief employee for the Works Progress Administration-Federal Art Project (WPA-FAP) in the Graphic Arts Division in New York, where she helped younger artists in the silkscreen unit." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New Deal Bridge Art (2/5): "Bridge Over River"

Above: "Bridge Over River," a watercolor by Dong Kingman (1911-2000), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1936. A biography of Kingman can be found on Wikipedia. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Deal Bridge Art (1/5): "Ogden Avenue Viaduct"

Above: "Ogden Avenue Viaduct," a gouache painting by Aaron Bohrod (1907-1992), created while he was in the WPA's art program, 1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

After destroying our livelihoods and retirements, and after constant attacks on unions and the social safety net, the super-wealthy want us to pee into cups, so they can determine what’s "wrong" with us

"Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself."

--Herman Cain, Republican candidate for President, 2011 ("Hermanomics: Let them eat Pizza," Washington Post, October 15, 2011.

Above: New Dealers didn't think poverty shaming or assumptions of drug abuse were the best way to deal with unemployment. Instead, they thought useful public jobs could preserve skills and restore dignity. For example, the WPA workers you see above are renovating the historic Pontalba Buildings in New Orleans, 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

For decades now, super-wealthy Americans have sent millions of jobs overseas; have cut job benefits and resisted wage increases; have demonized unions; have committed wide-scale financial fraud; and, through their network of think tanks, advocacy groups, media outlets, and political puppets in federal and state governments, they have engaged in perpetual attacks on the social safety net - unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. (see, e.g., "Peter Peterson Spent Nearly Half A Billion In Washington Targeting Social Security, Medicare," Huffington Post, May 15, 2012).

All of these activities have killed the American Dream. Our wages have stagnated; job security has gone the way of the Dodo Bird; our retirements have been put in jeopardy; student loan debt is over $1.4 trillion and growing; you're much less likely to earn more than your parents; "Fifty-seven percent of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $500 unexpected expense"; and the list of damage done by the 1% goes on and on.

Meanwhile, the super-wealthy are enjoying record wealth, and their citizen-marionettes gleefully declare that we can't afford to fund any domestic programs. If it isn't military spending or tax-breaks-for-the-rich, then conservatives cry out like banshees, "We can't afford it!!" And Republicans like Herman Cain (see the quote at the top of this blog post) feel that no matter how much fraud is perpetrated on the American public, it's still the individual's fault. Apparently, personal responsibility only applies if you're middle-class or poor.

Above: In this WPA Workers Education class in Calumet, Minnesota, ca. 1935-1943, issues facing unions are discussed. New Dealers understood the value of unions, and took many steps to strengthen them. Republicans, before they were completely commandeered by super-wealthy Americans, also promoted and understood the value of unions (see, e.g., the Republican Party Platform of 1956). Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

As if their destruction of the American Dream was not bad enough, the super-wealthy--through their political puppets across the nation--are feverishly trying to get us to pee into cups, to determine what the heck is "wrong" with us - after they've taken our jobs away and we need unemployment benefits - or when we are so poor (thanks to their greed) that we need cash assistance, food stamps, or Medicaid. Consider just a few examples:

"House GOP Reopens Push to Drug Test the Unemployed," U.S. News & World Report, February 14, 2017.

"Republicans are allowing states to drug test people applying for unemployment benefits," Salon, May 11, 2017.

"Wisconsin seeks to mandate drug tests for Medicaid recipients," Boston Globe, April 25, 2017.

"Food Stamp Drug Testing Could Become A Thing: A senior Republican says it’s the compassionate thing to do," Huffington Post, February 12, 2016.

As you can see, the rich are desperate for our pee. They think--since we're not rich like them--there MUST be something wrong with us. We MUST be on drugs. So, they send orders to their political puppets: "Test them!"

Above: President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935. New Dealers did more for the retirement security of Americans than any other policymakers in American history. In addition to Social Security, they strengthened labor unions - unions which, in turn, fought for and obtained better fixed-pensions. They also created FDIC, which protects savings accounts. In modern times, the rich have launched assaults against both fixed-pensions and Social Security (in the future, they'll probably try to dismantle FDIC). As a result, America is facing a retirement crisis. In his Second Bill of Rights speech, Roosevelt advocated for "The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age" (State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944). Unfortunately, the American people forgot about Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the Second Bill of Rights. Instead, they've been vacillating between neoliberalism and fascism for decades now, unaware of other alternatives. And now they're paying the price for that New Deal amnesia. Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Here's the funny thing about drug testing and public benefits: The rich use illegal drugs too. See, for example, "Heroin use rising among women and wealthy" (CBS News, July 7, 2015). And, like everyone else, the rich receive public benefits, for example, preferential tax treatment at the state level, and also for capital gains (i.e., rich people income); free money for the banks they own; oil subsidies; a generous mortgage interest tax deduction for up to two homes; preferential treatment in the criminal justice system; a military whose primary purpose is to protect (and enhance) their worldwide assets and dividend income; and so on. These enormous benefits save them loads of money - money which they can then use to purchase cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and other illegal drugs. So... shouldn't they be drug-tested too, since they're receiving public benefits? Why should the federal and state governments subsidize their illegal drug use?

This hypocrisy, of course, is an abomination - promulgated by the rich, and excused by tens of millions of voters who have mindlessly put their faith in the rich to manage and supervise their lives via campaign donations, lobbying, fraud, captured regulatory agencies, and the revolving door between Wall Street and government. These millions of voters, no doubt, also see no problem with peeing for the wealthy. Can't you just hear them now? "I don't mind, I've got nothing to hide! Do you??" - privacy, fairness, and constitutional protections be damned.

What a debacle. What a scam. What a hideous outcome of crony capitalism. The super-wealthy crush people's lives, in order to enrich themselves, and then try to order the people they've crushed to pee into cups to determine what's "wrong" with them. Wow!

To restore the American Dream, and basic justice, it's clear we need New Deal II.

Friday, May 12, 2017

WPA climate science vs. right-wing climate science dismissal

The following photos show the WPA's Ocean Climate Survey Project in Louisiana, ca. 1935-1943, sponsored by the U.S. Weather Bureau. All photos courtesy of the National Archives.

In 2013, Donald Trump (our current Republican president) said "Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!"

In 2015, it was alleged that the administration of Florida Governor Rick Scott (a Republican) "ordered [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] employees, contractors and volunteers not to use the terms 'climate change' and 'global warming' in official communications."

In 2015, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a Republican) asked President Obama not to talk about climate change during an upcoming Obama visit to his state.

In 2016, it was reported that "References to climate change, rising temperatures and the human activities that cause them have been removed recently from a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources web page." Wisconsin is led by Governor Scott Walker (a Republican).

Last month, President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, led by Scott Pruitt (a Republican), "removed most climate change information from its website."

Isn't it amazing that, 80 years after the WPA engaged in climate science, the political right dismisses climate science as useless and a scam; and also tries to forbid any discussion about climate change and global warming? This is in-your-face devolution.

Most of this climate science dismissal and suppression has been done to curry favor with fossil fuel billionaires, in the hopes of securing campaign donations. And, in return for those donations, Republicans create public policies that pamper the billionaires and burden the rest of us (clean-up costs, higher incidences of cancer, contaminated water, mercury in fish, etc.). This part of the global warming equation is easy to understand; at its core, it's simply bribery that benefits both parties - a game that has existed for thousands of years. The harder part to understand, is why tens of millions of Americans are going along with it, perpetually voting for billionaire-backed candidates year after year... essentially submitting to the billionaires and saying, "Yes, master. Whatever you say master. I worship you master. I will drink contaminated water for you master."

Of course, the Democratic Party isn't helping matters much by boldly declaring, "We'll fight for the little guy!" while simultaneously receiving truck loads of money from white collar criminals, corporate slime balls, and Wall Street sociopaths. A lot of people, understandably, aren't inspired by that sort of two-faced behavior.

What a mess. We desperately need New Deal II.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New Deal Shellfish Art (5/5): "Blue Crabs"

Above: "Blue Crabs," a drypoint by George Constant (1892-1978), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Above: "Chris's Carry Out," a gelatin silver print photograph by Elinor Cahn, 1978. This was part of a project called the East Baltimore Documentary Survey. For long time, steamed blue crabs have been a delicacy in Maryland. They are usually sprinkled with Old Bay (or similar) seasoning, and salt, and then steamed over water and vinegar. When I was a kid, in the 1970s and 80s, my family went crabbing many times on the Chesapeake Bay, near the Chester River. We'd often come back with a bounty of crabs, like the ones you see above. In recent decades, crabs have suffered from over-fishing and pollution. However, in its 2016 report card for the Chesapeake Bay, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science highlighted the blue crab's revival - a revival that resulted, in part, from common sense regulations to protect pregnant female crabs. Looks like "big bad government" isn't always so bad after all. Imagine that. (See, for example, "Chesapeake Bay female crabs at their most plentiful since at least 1990," Baltimore Sun, April 19, 2017). Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New Deal Shellfish Art (4/5): "Oyster Shuckers"

Above: "Oyster Shuckers," an oil painting by Catherine M. Howell (1892-1975), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Did you know that WPA workers planted 8,000,000 bushels of oysters between 1935 and 1943? Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, May 8, 2017

New Deal Shellfish Art (3/5): "Lobsterman"

Above: "Lobsterman," a watercolor painting by George Shellhase (1895-1988), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts (ca. 1940). Shellhase's New York Times obituary reads, "Mr. Shellhase was born in Philadelphia. He briefly attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Students League in New York. His affectionate and gently comic illustrations of American life appeared in publications like the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, The New Yorker and The New York Times." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

New Deal Shellfish Art (2/5): "Clams"

Above: "Clams," a drypoint by George Constant (1892-1978). According to information provided by the Newark Museum (see area titled, "Labels/Stamp"), Constant created this while in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Deal Shellfish Art (1/5): "Shrimp Shacks"

Above: "Shrimp Shacks," a wood engraving on paper by Charles Surendorf (1906-1979), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Farm-to-Market Roads, courtesy of the New Deal

Above: The description for this WPA photograph, ca. 1935-1943, reads: "Night shots of Farm-to-Market Road Proj. in Pottawattamie County [Iowa] - This project worked four, six-hour shifts a day in order to clear and grade as many miles as possible before the winter frost set in. Machinery was furnished by the county." Though the WPA sometimes discouraged the use of machinery--in order to employ the maximum number of unemployed men--various photographic records of the WPA show that there were also plenty of projects that did utilize machinery. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

During the New Deal, there were major initiatives to build Farm-to-Market roads. For example, by the middle of 1939, WPA workers had engaged in over 3,000 projects involving "Farm-to-market and other secondary road projects" (Report on Progress of the WPA Program, June 30, 1939 edition, p. 16). Also, before the WPA, workers in the Federal Emergency Relief Administration created 41,000 miles of new Farm-to-Market roads and repaired or improved another 194,000 miles (The Emergency Work Relief Program of the F.E.R.A.: April 1, 1934-July 1, 1935, 1936, p. 39). 

Farm-to-Market road projects were intended to (a) provide job opportunities for unemployed rural Americans, (b) help farmers get their produce and goods to market, and (c) get more nutritious food flowing to various parts of the country. In other words, the roads were intended not only to improve the economy, but also to quickly provide for the common good. New Deal policymakers thought this would be a great thing to do, especially since the U.S. Constitution both promotes and provides for the general welfare (preamble and Article I Section 8, respectively).

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

Such a massive project as Farm-to-Market roads would be impossible to do today. You see, our public policy calculus is quite different now. Instead of looking to the Constitution for guidance, we more frequently look towards the super-wealthy for approval. Many Americans cast their sad, lazy eyes towards the billionaire class and ask: "Is this okay, sir? Is it okay if we do something for the common good?" And if someone like Charles Koch or Betsy DeVos says, "No, I want more money. Give me a tax break," then that's what we do. Make no mistake about it, over the past many decades we've subverted government (i.e., "We the People") to the will of the super-wealthy. This is why, for example, you see the White House administration now littered with sociopath billionaires and Goldman Sachs alumni. 

Hopefully--someday in the not-too-distant future--Americans will wake up, and stop lazily relying on millionaires and billionaires to manage and supervise their lives. I'm not holding my breath for this to happen... but I am hoping.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A New Deal for Fort Raleigh

Above: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is located on Roanoke Island, near Manteo, North Carolina. It's the birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first English person born in the New World. Photo by Brent McKee, 2013.

Above: Every year at Fort Raleigh's outdoor theater, the Lost Colony play is performed. It began in the 1930s, with the assistance of the WPA's Federal Theatre Project. Photo by Brent McKee, 2016.

Above: President Roosevelt attended a 1937 performance of the Lost Colony. Photo by Brent McKee, 2016.

Above: In the mid-1930s, WPA and CCC workers (and perhaps also workers of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration) did extensive work at the park, in an attempt to re-create the colony. Photo taken ca. 1936, courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The description for this photo, ca. 1936, reads, "Entrance to Fort Raleigh, Roanoke Island, North Carolina." Note the WPA work sign in front of the right pillar. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Residence of Sir John White, Roanoke Island, N.C." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Fort Raleigh restoration - Block House - with monument to Virginia Dare in foreground. Taken 9/15/36." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "The Chapel, Fort Raleigh, Roanoke Island, N.C." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: Inside the chapel. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: "Fort Raleigh State Park, Roanoke Island." Note that Fort Raleigh was a "State Park" at the time of the WPA and CCC work. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A WPA project information card for some of the Fort Raleigh work. Found at the National Archives.

Above: Another WPA information card for a project that, unfortunately, was never carried through. It reads, "At Fort Raleigh, Dare County. Build three Elizabethan period ships to be in appearance and rigging, as exact a full-scale duplication of the originals employed by Sir Walter Raleigh in the colonization of Roanoke Island as available historical data make it possible. Also as faithful in details of construction as historical data and available (?) make it possible. These ships to supplement the Fort Raliegh work of historical restoration. State Historical Commission owned property. The County Board of Commissioners of Dare County have full authority from the State Historical Commission to proceed with this project." As you can see from the left-hand side of the card, the project appears to have received full WPA approval. My guess is that local funds did not materialize as expected. The WPA usually required about 20% of total funding to be provided by the local government. In this case, Dare County may have been unable to produce the funds or perhaps decided they wanted to put the money towards other projects instead.