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Obama's Job Plan: What We Can learn from the New Deal

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Omaha Steve Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 11:43 PM
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Obama's Job Plan: What We Can learn from the New Deal

Frank Stricker Jan.22, 09

For the first time in many years, federal officials may soon directly create several million jobs. Such an effort can be difficult; some think it is counterproductive. The history of the 1930s, when job programs were common, can help us think about how to do things right.

The first thing we need is a balanced view of Roosevelts New Deal. Right wingers Tyler Cowan and Amity Shlaes claim that the New Deal did not bring recovery. True enough as far as it goes: despite eight years of federal programs, employment and output had not fully recovered by 1941. But clinging to that stale bit of news, critics ignore the fact that the New Deal was a vast improvement over Hoovers quasi-laissez-faire. Over 1929-1933 (Hoover), output and employment fell by 30%. Beginning in 1933 (FDR), investment began to recover and millions of jobs were created. In 1937 real output was 44% over the 1933 level and back to its 1929 level. That was not full recovery and unemployment was still very high; but the record is not one of utter failure. We can say that the New Deal promoted recovery, but that the limits of its ideology and fierce conservative opposition restricted spending adequate to the crisis.

The Bush administration spent eight years proving that the federal government cannot work efficiently and humanely. It does not have to be that way. The Hoovers and Mellons opposed direct federal aid to the unemployed, even as unemployment soared above 50% in some cities. Then New Deal programs began offering cash and jobs to the jobless. Over the winter of 1933-1934, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) employed four million people on public projects. The CWAs director, Harry Hopkins, and many of the officials who worked for him were compassionate, anti-bureaucratic, and energetic. Roosevelt created the CWA on November 9 and a million workers received paychecks on November 23. The CWA was phased out in the spring of 1934, but in four months its employees built or improved 500,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, and 3500 playgrounds. They restored every park in New York City, they compiled accurate lists of historic American buildings, and they accomplished a hundred other useful tasks.

In 1935, Roosevelt began the Works Progress Administration. The WPA typically employed 2 million Americans, most in construction, but many also in the arts and services. WPA employees built bridges; thousands more worked as teachers; librarians delivered books to the backwoods by car, boat and horse. Some 200,000 WPA workers were mobilized to help victims of a massive flood in the Ohio Valley. Artists produced murals for public buildings and others gave free concerts.

Despite the need to spend quickly, Hopkins generally ran the WPA efficiently. He sometimes favored local Democrats, sometimes Republicans. Occasionally he turned a blind eye to corruption at the local level, but dozens of people who misused WPA funds were caught by WPA investigators. Some were brought to trial. On balance both the CWA and the WPA were relatively free of corruption.

Some credit for New Deal job programs goes to Roosevelt who, despite a preference for balanced budgets, was willing to borrow to keep people from starving. But much credit goes to Hopkins, one-time social worker, and a staff drawn from business, social work, and engineering. These people, some of them Republicans, showed remarkable ability to get the job done. Roosevelt could have said to Hopkins, "Heck of a job, Harry," and he would have been right about the whole WPA staff.

FULL story at link.

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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 12:37 AM
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1. the stimulus as it stands now -- invests in only 18% infrastructure --
we'll have to wait for the next part.

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