WPA & WPA-type News
6-12-2012: Why the Economy Can't Get Out Of First Gear. In this op-ed, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich highlights the incredible income inequality that existed right before "the bubble popped and we fell into the Great Depression." He then points out the various programs that helped America reverse the negative economic trends that had been snowballing since the stock market crash of 1929: "...then came the Wagner Act, requiring employers to bargain in good faith
with organized labor. Social Security and unemployment insurance. The
Works Projects Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps. A
national minimum wage. Taxes were hiked on the very rich. And in 1941
America went to war -- a vast mobilization that employed every
able-bodied adult American, and put money in their pockets."
4-16-2012: Participatory Democracy: From Port Huron To Occupy Wall Street (no link, article in the April 16, 2012 edition of The Nation magazine). Tom Hayden--an editorial board member for The Nation Magazine--writes: "After waiting several years for Wall Street to self-correct, the people of the 1930s began demanding what became the Wagner Act, Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Writers Project, which made life better for generations to come."
3-28-2012: The Budget For All: A Technical Report on the Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget For Fiscal Year 2013. On March 26, 2012 the Congressional Progressive Caucus released its proposed 2013 national budget, titled the "Budget for All" (see budget highlights here). Among other things, the budget calls for New Deal style work programs for the unemployed, e.g., a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, and a Student Jobs Corps. On March 28, the Economic Policy Institute wrote a favorable analysis of the budget and also wrote: "The last time the United States faced un- and under-employment as widespread and prolonged as what has been experienced in the last four years, the federal government successfully put millions of Americans back to work through the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Works Progress Administration."
2-3-2012: Veteran Unemployment Rate Falls As Obama Announces New Jobs Program. President Obama proposes a Civilian Conservation Corps-type program for unemployed veterans. Obama states: "They've already risked their lives defending America. They should have the opportunity to rebuild America."
10-18-2011: New Jersey Sen. Lautenberg Says It's Time For A New WPA. This is an article about Senator Frank R. Lautenberg's (D-NJ) legislation, "21st Century WPA Act," introduced on September 7, 2011. The article reports that Lautenberg's proposed WPA would put unemployed people to work on "a variety of projects, including the construction of water treatment plants, schools and firehouses, highway repairs and maintenance, building weatherization and trail maintenance." The legislation also has a "WPA fellowship program," where an unemployed person would get paid to retrain while working for an employer for 12 months. You can read the text of the bill, as well as get updates regarding its progress, here.
10-18-2011: The Meagerness of the GOP Debates, The Smallness Of The President's Solutions, And The Need For A Progressive Alternative. Robert Reich--former U.S. Secretary of Labor writes: "The nation needs a real jobs plan, one of sufficient size and scope to do the job--including a WPA and a Civilian Conservation Corps, to put the millions of long-term unemployed and young unemployed to work rebuilding America."
9-28-2011: A New, New Deal for the Missouri River is needed. Author and consultant Robert K. Schneiders calls for a public works project along the Missouri River for the unemployed. He writes: "A large-scale public works project along the Missouri would alleviate unemployment in the Midwest and help stymie the drift toward political radicalism among certain elements in society." (Schneiders explains how the New Deal of the 1930s was geared, in part, to pull people away from both extreme left and extreme right radicalism)
9-7-2011: Obama's Job Speech: Democrats Fear It's Too Late. In this article, it is reported that Congressional Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) "wants Obama to endorse and Congress to appropriate $16 billion immediately for a civilian conservation corps that would be led by unemployed military veterans."
9-2-2011: The Zero Economy. Responding to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that there were net zero jobs created in August, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich writes: "So what does a sane nation do when the consumers and businesses can't boost the economy on their own? Government becomes the purchaser of last resort. It hires directly (a new WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, for example)."
9-1-2011: Job Creation: Obama, Government Can Do Much More Economists Say. Huffington Post Business Editor Peter S. Goodman reports "At the top of many (economist's) to-do lists is government spending into the tens of billons of dollars to finance large-scale public works projects, a strategy that could address a gaping mismatch: Nearly 14 million Americans are officially out of work, yet a great deal of work needs to be done, from repairing dilapidated roads and bridges, to retroftting government office buildings with energy-efficient infrastructure." Shades of the Works Progress Administration.
8-29-2011: President Obama's Job Creation Mirage. Economist Dean Baker argues that the president should put at the top of his job creating list "a jobs programme for young people that would be modelled on the Civilian Conservation Corps. There are many parts of the country where the unemployment rate for young people is 40-50%."
8-22-2011: Time for the jobless to march on Washington. In this op-ed piece, professor of history Richard Striner, of Washington College, argues that the unemployed should demand action from the federal government. He writes, "They would naturally invoke the great precedent of the New Deal's Works Progress Administration, an agency that under the leadership of Harry Hopkins created jobs for the jobless almost overnight, thus providing some desperate and innocent people with a way to save their families and homes."
Back to Work: A Public Jobs Proposal For Economic Recovery. This is a work written by Dr. Philip Harvey, and published on the website of the public policy research and advocacy organization Demos. Dr. Harvey writes, "There is, in fact, a far less expensive way to create jobs than the strategies adopted so far to combat the Great Recession." Harvey highlights that, "...the WPA and other direct job creation programs provided work for an average of a third of the nation's unemployed...this strategy was pursued mainly for social welfare purposes, but the economy also benefited."
Jan Schakowsky Announces New Budget Plan With Focus on Jobs. In this article, it is reported that Congresswoman Schakowsky (D-IL) is introducing a plan to put millions to work through direct government job creation. Considering the details of the plan, and Schakowsky's previous statements, it is clear that the WPA is a motivation behind her proposal.
The American Debate: Deal Traps Obama Into Helplessness on Jobs Creation. The author of this article--Dick Polman, political columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer--argues that the current jobs crisis requires "more government spending, not less," and notes: "The Works Progress Administration put eight million people to work. (You have surely driven on roads and flown from airports built by WPA workers.) The Civilian Conservation Corps hired 2.7 million."
7-25-2011: Vicious Cycles: Why Washington is About to Make the Jobs Crisis Worse. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues that the federal government should take a more pro-active role in job creation, e.g., "through a new WPA or Civilian Conservation Corps..."
: Put 15 Million Back to Work Fixing $2.2 Trillion in Infrastructure: The Works Progress Administration. In this article, Dr. Barbara G. Ellis summarizes the history and accomplishment of the WPA, and then outlines how a modern WPA could be operated and administered.
: We Need a New WPA. Houston-area radio show host Geoff Berg reports that the American Society of Civil Engineers has recently given America's infrastructure a grade of "D." Berg argues that a WPA-type jobs program could help strengthen our infrastructure.
6-27-2011: Video of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsy calling for a new WPA. I believe this is from a speech she gave in early June, 2011.
6-21-2011: Ohio State Representative Mike Foley introduces a bill to create an Ohio Works Progress Administration, H.B. No. 271.
5-30-2011: Shoulds Versus Coulds. Economist Jared Bernstein--former Chief Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden--writes "There will be no WPA-type programs in our near future. There was no appetite for them in the Obama admin in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and there's a lot less now...it ain't happening."
5-29-2011: Against Learned Helplessness. Economist Paul Krugman writes "...we could have W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads--which would also, by raising incomes, make it easier for households to pay down debt."
5-6-2011: The WPA That Built America Is Needed Once Again. Professor of History David Woolner asks, "Isn't it time we rebuilt our nation and put people back to work? Time for a new WPA?" Woolner details some of the the accomplishments of the WPA during the 1930s and 40s: "...572,000 miles of rural roads, 67,000 miles of urban streets, 122,000 bridges, 1,000 tunnels, 1,050 airfields, 4,000 airport buildings...500 water treatment plants, 1,800 pumping stations, 19,700 miles of water mains, 1,500 sewage treatment plants, 24,000 miles of sewers and storm drains, 36,900 schools, 2,552 hospitals, 2,700 firehouses, and nearly 20,000 county, state, and local government buildings."
5-6-2011: Getting America Back to Work Remains the Singular Challenge for the Obama Administration. In this article, market analyst and Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Marshall Auerback, observes that "in spite of the historic successes of programs such as the WPA, the current government cannot seem to even begin to replicate it." Auerback discusses how modern analyses of the WPA are not very comprehensive, e.g., not properly calculating the full effect that the WPA had on the unemployment rate.
4-13-2011: Colorado creates a new CCC-type program, the Colorado Youth Corps Association.
3-26-2011: New WPA Guides to LA. This article reports on the re-issue of the WPA city guides for San Francisco and Los Angeles. Recall that the WPA also enlisted the efforts of unemployed writers in the 1930s and 40s.
3-14-2011: Recession in Rear View? Visitors spending more at, around state parks. This article, from the Cumberland Times-News, notes that Maryland "State park visitors spend $567 million annually, producing an economic impact of $650 million a year." This is interesting since the state parks in Maryland were created or vastly improved by the Civilian Conservation Corps. At the end of the article, it is reported that "Mike Gregory, retired superintendent of Savage River State Forest and New Germany State Park...asked (Governor Martin O'Malley) to create something akin to the Civilian Conservation Corps..."
2-7-2011: Revisiting the WPA to Remind America of its Potential. Dr. Gray Brechin, a historical geographer, writes a very strong and passionate piece here, about the accomplishments of the WPA, and the subsequent cultural forgetfulness. For example, he writes: "Few in the most Republican-voting states know that their most beloved parks date from the New Deal, or that farmers still deliver their produce on all-weather farm-to-market roads built by WPA or CCC workers. Few know, when they are inspired by patriotic images of the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument, that these were restored by the WPA and the PWA."
1-31-2011: Tourism Office Asks for Improvements to the Old Ellicott City Post Office Building. This article mentions some murals in the post office that need some restoration. It is said that the murals were made by the WPA; and this may be the case. However, many post office buildings, and the murals inside them, were commissioned by the U.S. Treasury, not the WPA; so one has to be careful when researching the history of murals.
1-20-2011: Works Progress Administration II. Former SEC Commissioner Bevis Longstreth advocates for the creation of a new WPA. He starts his article with the following statement: "The country needs another Works Progress Administration (WPA II) to lift employment and the beaten-down spirits of some 25 million un- and under-employed workers and their 50 million and more dependents."
1-10-2011: Onion WPA Joke Would Be Funnier If Krugman Wasn't So Serious. In this blog comment, Conn Carroll--Senior Editorial Writer for the Washington Examiner--reponds to Paul Krugman's advocacy for a new WPA by writing "Unfortunately there are just too many people in Washington who still believe that paying people to dig ditches in the name of 'economic stimulus' is good public policy. It's not." This highlights a common misconception about the WPA, i.e., that the workers performed meaningless work. But the WPA built airports, new roads, bridges, schools, etc. And when they did "dig ditches," it was to install water mains, sewers, and storm drains.
11-16-2010: The Right's Rotten History. Professor Harvey Kaye, of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, argues that some people from the political right distort 1930s history and "ignore how the New Deal, by way of the CCC, WPA, and PWA, dramatically transformed and improved the American landscape..."
10-21-2010: Time for Another WPA? New Deal's largest public works program left behind an enduring legacy. This editorial, from BuffaloNews.com, notes that "more than 300 WPA projects during the Great Depression transformed the Buffalo Niagara region while providing jobs and self-respect for 40,000 blue- and white-collar workers and artists from the relief rolls."
10-8-2010: "Job Creation Idea No. 8: Time For A New WPA." Dan Froomkin, who writes for the Huffington Post, suggests a new WPA for the nation's jobless population.
7-31-2010: "What Would Roosevelt Do?" Yale professors of economics Robert J. Shiller asks "Why not use government policy to directly create jobs--labor-intensive service jobs in fields like education, public health and safety, urban infrastructure maintenance, youth programs, eldercare, conservation, arts and letters, and scientific research?"
7-30-2010: A DIY, Modern-Day WPA Program. This is an article/interview of a man who created a small-scale WPA program.
7-12-2010: The Case for a New WPA: Why many are calling for a modern incarnation of the Depression-era program. Writer and advocate Kate McCormack writes "It is difficult to quantify the priceless legacy of WPA projects; the highest honor that could be paid to the visionaries of the past would be to repeat their efforts. Maybe the time has come to 'introduce America to Americans' all over again."
12-1-2009: This is Not Your FDR's Federal Government. Megan McArdle, senior editor of the The Atlantic magazine, argues that a modern WPA would be problematic because of union opposition and government red tape. Kevin Drum, political blogger for Mother Jones concurs with McArdle in his op-ed piece A New WPA? While McArdle and Drum point out valid concerns, I don't think the roadblocks that they discuss are necessarily deal-breakers. Certainly a new WPA could not be a mirror image of the original WPA, and new avenues for administration and work projects would have to be explored. For example, an expansion of existing federal and state internship programs--as well as federal funding for private sector internships--could be one possibility.
11-30-2009: The Economic Policy Institute puts for a job creation plan that includes "Public Service Jobs" component, writing "During the Great Depression, public job programs employed millions of people and left a legacy of improvements in the national parks and forests, more than 100,000 miles of new roads, 35,000 public buildings, urban art and murals, soil conservation, and many other valuable contributions to national life and prosperity."
11-6-2009: Why not a WPA? Economist Paul Krugman points out that simple politics is a major roadblock to creating a new WPA or CCC.
10-9-2009: Igniting the growth of jobs. Journalist/columnist Bob Herbert writes, "The lessons of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s are right in front of us, ready to be studied, analyzed, updated and applied to the present-day needs of the country."
6-5-2009: Bridge to Somewhere: Works Progress Administration. This article, part of a larger PBS project, is a good summary of the WPA. One interesting thing it reports is that "Many historians say that the benefit of some WPA projects were not evident until the United States entered World War II. Infrastructure built by the WPA helped defense industries. WPA roads and airports allowed troops to move more efficiently."
4-15-2009: W.P.A. Projects Left Their Stamp On The Region. This article examines the WPA's work in the New York area, and also highlights the diversity of WPA work, e.g., golf courses, murals, and outdoor sculptures. Hofstra University Professor of History Natalie A. Naylor is quoted: "There's this stereotype that people who worked for the W.P.A. were all raking leaves. That's not really accurate at all. You had music programs and art programs in addition to construction projects."
3-24-2009: Why We Need A New Works Progress Administration: To really revive the economy, learn from New Deal programs that worked. The author of this piece, columnist and Chapman University Presidential Fellow Joel Kotkin, notes that the "WPA and CCC were all about building useful, tangible things that made the country stronger and more competitive." Kotkin also offers some very insightful thoughts as to why a new WPA has not been created (hint: it's not just Republican obstructionism).
2-9-2009: Shuster, Alter debunk conservative myth that New Deal was a "failure." In this 4 minute video, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) is seen on the Senate Floor saying, "...we know for sure that the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work." Host David Shuster (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) highlights statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that show unemployment dropping and GDP rising after Roosevelt took office. He also reports that the Dow Jones Industrial Average went up significantly after the New Deal policies went into effect. Journalist and author Jonathan Alter adds many points as well. For example, Alter highlights how the most oft-quoted jobless numbers from the Great Depression don't even include the employment of people in the CCC and WPA. If they did, then the unemployment rate dropped even more significantly during the New Deal.
2-8-2009: New Deal Architecture Faces Bulldozer. "Hundreds of buildings commissioned by the Works Progress Administration and Roosevelt's other 'alphabet' agencies are being demolished or threatened with destruction, mourned or fought over by small groups of citizens in a new national movement to save the architecture of the New Deal."
1-11-2009: Republicans' Latest Talking Point: The New Deal Failed. Author and lawyer Adam Cohen argues that Republicans who claim that the New Deal made the Great Depression worse are wrong and that "The difference that the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Works Progress Administration and other New Deal public works programs made in people's lives is incalculable."
12-9-2008: F.D.R. Knew How to Spend Carefully. Author Nick Taylor suggest that if President Obama "wants to avoid the disorganized hodgepodge that the financial bailout seems to be so far, then he should look to the structure created for the W.P.A. in 1935 to select the best plans for renovating the country's outdated infrastructure."
11-14-2008: Building a New WPA: Great architects need a great canvas. New York needs infrastructure. And a lot of people need jobs. A proposal. A writer for New York Magazine writes: "A new New Deal, equipped with an Obama-era version of the Works Progress Administration, could put millions back to work, modernize the country, nudge the economy towards recovery, and produce a barrage of working monuments. It would be a stimulus package that keeps on stimulating long into the future."
4-14-2008: Politically Incorrect Solutions: What About a New Deal-Style Jobs Program? University of Missouri-Kansas City Ph.D. student Ryan A. Dodd advocates for the government to act as an employer of last resort, and argues that the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps were "woefully inadequate" to address the unemployment problem during the Great Depression "largely due to their limited scale."
: Public Works: When 'Big Government' Plays Its Role. Adam Cohen, in the New York Times, highlights how "The New Deal public works programs have largely faded into history. Most people who use their handiwork...are unaware of how they came to be built."