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Economic collapse in the Western nations-On the Edge with Max Keiser-01-27-2012


WEEKEND REPOST: Banking Wasn’t Meant to Be Like This


...If governments are to underwrite bank loans, they may as well be doing the lending in the first place – and receiving the gains. Indeed, since 2008 the over-indebted economy’s crash led governments to become the major shareholders of the largest and most troubled banks – Citibank in the United States, Anglo-Irish Bank in Ireland, and Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland. Yet rather than taking this opportunity to run these banks as public utilities and lower their charges for credit-card services – or most important of all, to stop their lending to speculators and gamblers – governments left these banks operating as part of the “casino capitalism” that has become their business plan.

There is no natural reason for matters to be like this. Relations between banks and government used to be the reverse. In 1307, France’s Philip IV (“The Fair”) set the tone by seizing the Knights Templars’ wealth, arresting them and putting many to death – not on financial charges, but on the accusation of devil-worshipping and satanic sexual practices. In 1344 the Peruzzi bank went broke, followed by the Bardi by making unsecured loans to Edward III of England and other monarchs who died or defaulted. Many subsequent banks had to suffer losses on loans gone bad to real estate or financial speculators.

By contrast, now the U.S., British, Irish and Latvian governments have taken bad bank loans onto their national balance sheets, imposing a heavy burden on taxpayers – while letting bankers cash out with immense wealth. These “cash for trash” swaps have turned the mortgage crisis and general debt collapse into a fiscal problem. Shifting the new public bailout debts onto the non-financial economy threaten to increase the cost of living and doing business. This is the result of the economy’s failure to distinguish productive from unproductive loans and debts. It helps explain why nations now are facing financial austerity and debt peonage instead of the leisure economy promised so eagerly by technological optimists a century ago.

So we are brought back to the question of what the proper role of banks should be. This issue was discussed exhaustively prior to World War I. It is even more urgent today....

The Pathology of Inequality in the US: Our National Dementia About Work and Wealth



Inequality is a disease of society, a cancer growing out of control at one end of the body while the rest of it withers away.

It's not just about the money, although income and wealth inequality have never been worse in the United States. It's also the pathological adherence to free market principles that have not worked for most of the country. And a bizarre idolization of the 'innovators' who have rigged the financial system in their favor. High-priced schemers and swindlers and scoundrels roam free on Wall Street, while the downtrodden are condemned for trying to survive. "If you steal $10 from a man's wallet," observed former Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel, "you're likely to get into a fight, but if you steal billions from the the commons, co-owned by him and his descendants, he may not even notice."

If you steal $10 from a man's wallet...

  • Leandro Andrade is serving a life sentence in California for stealing five videotapes from a K-Mart. He was convicted under the state's three strikes law, after convictions for petty theft, burglary, and possession of marijuana. Justice David Souter noted that Andrade "committed theft of trifling value...with no violent crimes against the person."

  • Sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott received double life sentences in 1994 for an $11 armed robbery, the first criminal offense for either of them. They spent 17 years in jail.

  • As of 2003 in California there were 344 individuals serving sentences of 25 years or more for shoplifting as a third offense, in many cases after two non-violent offenses.

If you steal billions from the commons...

  • The savings and loan fraud cost the nation between $300 billion and $500 billion, about 100 times more than the total cost of burglaries in 2010. The financial system bailout has already cost the country $3 trillion.

  • Goldman Sachs packaged bad debt, sold it under a different name, persuaded ratings services to label it AAA, and then bet against it by selling it short. Other firms accused of fraud and insider trading were Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Bank of America, Countrywide Financial, and Wells Fargo.

  • The New York Times reported in 2008 that the Justice Department had postponed the bribery or fraud prosecutions of over 50 corporations, choosing instead to enter into agreements involving fines and 'monitoring' periods.

America is suffering from a "pathology of inequality," a term coined by Chilean economist Fernando Fajnzylber with regard to third-world Latin American countries that seemed autocratic and poverty-stricken at the time, but many of whom are now less unequal than the United States. One percent of our body doesn't feel the pain. American Psychological Association research indicates that wealthier people "may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven't had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives."

As the body gets sicker, thinking becomes incoherent:

"The financial system led us into the crisis and it will lead us out." -- Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein.
"Western-style private enterprise...will lead the world out of the mess it led the world into." -- Chicago Tribune.
"If capitalism is perceived to not be working in America...it's because the system isn't capitalist enough." -- Rachel Marsden

And dementia sets in.

Weekend Economists Get a Little Drunk January 27-29, 2012

Harper's Weekly (Sept. 30, 1865), p. 613. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)

Caption, "View of Darlington courthouse and the sycamore tree where Amy Spain, the Negro slave, was hung by the citizens of Darlington, SC". Amy Spain's crime was that she had yelled, "Bless the Lord, the Yankees have come!" The author of the Harper's Weekly article hailed her as a martyr to the cause of freedom for her people.


America was built on the backs of slaves, people stolen from their homes and families, pressed into labor for the duration of their natural lives, and their children after them, with abuse and privation always in their faces. They were powerless.

This is nothing special. I will look, but probably all nations were founded on the forced labor and abuse of the laborers. But this is the 21st century. We are above that, aren't we? Have we not evolved beyond such brutality?

While I'd like to reassure people that we ARE better people, I don't think we are there yet. In fact, I think the human race is slipping back into the bad old times, by trick and fraud and and massive indifference for one's fellow man on the behalf of the most successful predators, pirates and hypocrites yet produced. And I'm not referring to the former Third World nations alone. I'm referring to the United States of America.

Today's title comes from that Broadway standard, "Ole Man River", the hit from "Showboat". It's a terrible lovely, melancholy ballad, but we will look at slavery in art in general, not just this one show.

Since February is Black History Month, we will get a head start on it, but broadening the subject to all people around the world. You don't have to be black to be enslaved. And you don't have to be white to be an oppressor.

Paul Robeson - Ol' Man River (Showboat - 1936) J.Kern O. Hammerstein II

Do Progressives Have to Be Loser Liberals? By Dean Baker


Last week Thomas Edsall had a column in the New York Times where he directly stated that the difference between conservatives and liberals is the extent over which they are willing to reverse market outcomes to redistribute money from winners to losers:

“...the two sides are fighting over what the role of government in redistributing resources from the affluent to the needy should and shouldn’t be."

This was annoying not only because it is so seriously wrong, but also because this statement came from one of the more astute observers of American politics alive today. Anyone trying to understand the role of the government in the economy should know that whatever it does or does not do by way of redistribution is trivial compared with the actions it takes to determine the initial distribution. Rich people don’t get rich exclusively by virtue of their talents and hard work; they get rich because the government made rules to allow them to get rich.

To take an obvious example, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services we spend close to $300 billion a year on prescription drugs. If drugs were sold in a free market, without government-granted patent monopolies, we would spend around $30 billion a year. The difference of $270 billion a year is more than five times as much money as is at stake with extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. By making us pay far more for drugs, the government’s patent policy is redistributing a huge amount of money from ordinary people to the shareholders and top executives of the drug companies. We need a way to finance drug research, but there are far more efficient mechanisms than patent monopolies that don’t redistribute income upwards in the same way.

In a similar vein our policy on labor unions is incredibly one-sided in management’s favor. If a company illegally fires a worker for trying to organize a union, the complaint would go to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It is likely to take months and possibly years before the complaint is settled. Even if the worker can prove their case (employers rarely admit that they fired someone because they were organizing a union) the fine to the company is trivial. As a result, breaking the law and getting rid of agitators can be very profitable for the company....On the other hand, if workers stage a strike that violates the law, for example a wildcat strike at a time when a contract is in force or a secondary strike in support of other workers, a company can typically get an injunction immediately. If the workers continue their strike, their assets will be seized and their leaders thrown in jail....Needless to say, this incredible asymmetry tilts the field in management’s favor. It is difficult for workers to organize unions and it is often difficult for organized workers to push for better wages and working conditions. That is not just a market outcome; this is the result of deliberate government policy.

The downturn we are currently suffering through is also the result of government policy. This is for two reasons. First, we got here because of the ineptitude of top policymakers in failing to recognize the housing bubble and the risks that it posed to the economy. The Federal Reserve Board just stood back and let the housing bubble grow to a size where its collapse would inevitably wreck the economy. Furthermore, once the bubble burst, the Fed, Congress, and the White House have opted not to take the actions needed to restore full employment. While the Fed has taken steps to boost the economy, it certainly could have done more. Similarly, Congress did not approve a large enough stimulus package to offset the hit from the collapse of the housing bubble. And, President Obama and the Fed have not tried to push down the value of the dollar to make U.S. goods more competitive in world markets. A lower-valued dollar could create millions of new jobs, most of which would be in manufacturing. However, because an over-valued dollar benefits powerful interest groups, like the financial sector, policy makers have been willing to allow the dollar to remain over-valued at the cost of millions of jobs for ordinary workers.

There are many other ways in which government policy has acted to redistribute money from ordinary workers to the 1 percent. This was done through the setting of the rules. And the amount of money at stake in designing these rules dwarfs the amount of money that we might fight over when we talk about tax policy that redistributes “resources from the affluent to the needy.” If progressives restrict ourselves to fighting over the tax code, then we are playing in the sandbox. This is classic “loser liberalism.” The real battle is over setting the rules, not shuffling around a few crumbs after the fact. The issue is not, as some have put it, leaving our neighbor by the side of the road. The issue is that our neighbor has been thrown off the bus. The first step toward getting him back on the bus is to say as loudly and clearly as possible exactly what happened.

How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the ‘1 Percent’ by George Lakey


While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They “fired” the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different.

A march in Ådalen, Sweden, in 1931.

Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn’t find oil, but that didn’t stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls “an enviable standard of living.”

Neither country is a utopia, as readers of the crime novels by Stieg Larsson, Kurt Wallender and Jo Nesbro will know. Critical left-wing authors such as these try to push Sweden and Norway to continue on the path toward more fully just societies. However, as an American activist who first encountered Norway as a student in 1959 and learned some of its language and culture, the achievements I found amazed me. I remember, for example, bicycling for hours through a small industrial city, looking in vain for substandard housing. Sometimes resisting the evidence of my eyes, I made up stories that “accounted for” the differences I saw: “small country,” “homogeneous,” “a value consensus.” I finally gave up imposing my frameworks on these countries and learned the real reason: their own histories.

Then I began to learn that the Swedes and Norwegians paid a price for their standards of living through nonviolent struggle. There was a time when Scandinavian workers didn’t expect that the electoral arena could deliver the change they believed in. They realized that, with the 1 percent in charge, electoral “democracy” was stacked against them, so nonviolent direct action was needed to exert the power for change.

In both countries, the troops were called out to defend the 1 percent; people died. Award-winning Swedish filmmaker Bo Widerberg told the Swedish story vividly in Ådalen 31, which depicts the strikers killed in 1931 and the sparking of a nationwide general strike. (You can read more about this case in an entry by Max Rennebohm in the Global Nonviolent Action Database.)

The Norwegians had a harder time organizing a cohesive people’s movement because Norway’s small population—about three million—was spread out over a territory the size of Britain. People were divided by mountains and fjords, and they spoke regional dialects in isolated valleys. In the nineteenth century, Norway was ruled by Denmark and then by Sweden; in the context of Europe Norwegians were the “country rubes,” of little consequence. Not until 1905 did Norway finally become independent.

When workers formed unions in the early 1900s, they generally turned to Marxism, organizing for revolution as well as immediate gains. They were overjoyed by the overthrow of the czar in Russia, and the Norwegian Labor Party joined the Communist International organized by Lenin. Labor didn’t stay long, however. One way in which most Norwegians parted ways with Leninist strategy was on the role of violence: Norwegians wanted to win their revolution through collective nonviolent struggle, along with establishing co-ops and using the electoral arena.

In the 1920s strikes increased in intensity. The town of Hammerfest formed a commune in 1921, led by workers councils; the army intervened to crush it. The workers’ response verged toward a national general strike. The employers, backed by the state, beat back that strike, but workers erupted again in the ironworkers’ strike of 1923–24.

The Norwegian 1 percent decided not to rely simply on the army; in 1926 they formed a social movement called the Patriotic League, recruiting mainly from the middle class. By the 1930s, the League included as many as 100,000 people for armed protection of strike breakers—this in a country of only 3 million!

The Labor Party, in the meantime, opened its membership to anyone, whether or not in a unionized workplace. Middle-class Marxists and some reformers joined the party. Many rural farm workers joined the Labor Party, as well as some small landholders. Labor leadership understood that in a protracted struggle, constant outreach and organizing was needed to a nonviolent campaign. In the midst of the growing polarization, Norway’s workers launched another wave of strikes and boycotts in 1928.

The Depression hit bottom in 1931. More people were jobless there than in any other Nordic country. Unlike in the U.S., the Norwegian union movement kept the people thrown out of work as members, even though they couldn’t pay dues. This decision paid off in mass mobilizations. When the employers’ federation locked employees out of the factories to try to force a reduction of wages, the workers fought back with massive demonstrations.

Many people then found that their mortgages were in jeopardy. (Sound familiar?) The Depression continued, and farmers were unable to keep up payment on their debts. As turbulence hit the rural sector, crowds gathered nonviolently to prevent the eviction of families from their farms. The Agrarian Party, which included larger farmers and had previously been allied with the Conservative Party, began to distance itself from the 1 percent; some could see that the ability of the few to rule the many was in doubt.

By 1935, Norway was on the brink. The Conservative-led government was losing legitimacy daily; the 1 percent became increasingly desperate as militancy grew among workers and farmers. A complete overthrow might be just a couple years away, radical workers thought. However, the misery of the poor became more urgent daily, and the Labor Party felt increasing pressure from its members to alleviate their suffering, which it could do only if it took charge of the government in a compromise agreement with the other side.

This it did. In a compromise that allowed owners to retain the right to own and manage their firms, Labor in 1935 took the reins of government in coalition with the Agrarian Party. They expanded the economy and started public works projects to head toward a policy of full employment that became the keystone of Norwegian economic policy. Labor’s success and the continued militancy of workers enabled steady inroads against the privileges of the 1 percent, to the point that majority ownership of all large firms was taken by the public interest. (There is an entry on this case as well at the Global Nonviolent Action Database.)

The 1 percent thereby lost its historic power to dominate the economy and society. Not until three decades later could the Conservatives return to a governing coalition, having by then accepted the new rules of the game, including a high degree of public ownership of the means of production, extremely progressive taxation, strong business regulation for the public good and the virtual abolition of poverty. When Conservatives eventually tried a fling with neoliberal policies, the economy generated a bubble and headed for disaster. (Sound familiar?)

Labor stepped in, seized the three largest banks, fired the top management, left the stockholders without a dime and refused to bail out any of the smaller banks. The well-purged Norwegian financial sector was not one of those countries that lurched into crisis in 2008; carefully regulated and much of it publicly owned, the sector was solid.

Although Norwegians may not tell you about this the first time you meet them, the fact remains that their society’s high level of freedom and broadly-shared prosperity began when workers and farmers, along with middle class allies, waged a nonviolent struggle that empowered the people to govern for the common good.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License


George Lakey is Visiting Professor at Swarthmore College and a Quaker. He has led 1,500 workshops on five continents and led activist projects on local, national, and international levels. Among many other books and articles, he is author of “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” in David Solnit’s book Globalize Liberation (City Lights, 2004). His first arrest was for a civil rights sit-in and most recent was with Earth Quaker Action Team while protesting mountain top removal coal mining. E-mail: glakey1@swarthmore.edu

Mic check! Occupy Wall Street offers a rebuttal to State of the Union


Everybody’s got a response to the State of the Union these days — including Occupy Wall Street. Or at least a branch of Occupiers in D.C. do. They were supposed to deliver it live post-State of the Union in McPherson Square in Washington.

(By the way, in yet another sign that the Occupy movement is maturing — or at least is becoming more mainstream media friendly — we received this text from their publicist, marked “embargoed” until after the SOTU. Really.)

The following was designed to for Occupiers to take turns reading a couple lines at a time, then the crowd repeating them, “People’s Mic”-style.

Mic check! [mic check] Mic check! [mic check]
Fellow Americans, good evening! [Fellow Americans, good evening!]

We are men and women of the 99 percent
Many of us have spent many months at Occupy Wall Street

and at other Occupations across the country and around the world
We are here tonight to report on the State of the 99 percent in America

Of course most Americans know the state of the 99 percent very well
But sometimes the one percent, on Wall Street and in Washington, need a reminder

Financially, the state of the 99% is not strong
That is an understatement.

Never in our lifetimes have so many hard-working Americans
Faced so many difficulties, so many uncertainties, so many indignities

In Occupy camps around the country
We find Americans from all walks of life

[3 personal story couplets]

Some of us have had it rougher than others
And it turns out living in camps is no picnic either

But we do not give up easily
And we take inspiration from the brave Americans who came before us

From Dr. King, who gave his life fighting for economic justice
From the Suffragettes, who insisted the voice of women be heard

From all of those brave or foolish enough to believe in America’s defining idea

theidea of democracy

That we are all created equal

And we all have an equal voice in shaping the laws we all live by

Let’s be honest.

When our courts tell us corporations have more right to speak than we the people do
That’s not democracy.

When pepper spray and midnight raids make a joke of the 1st Amendment right to assemble.
That’s not democracy.

When defrauding clients, blowing up our economy, forging thousands of documents and seizing people’s homes illegally is not a crime
but protesting all that is a crime

That’s not democracy.
Our America is not a democracy, not yet.

We all know why: Wall street owns Washington.
Bribery is legal, and the laws we live by are for sale to the highest bidder

That is why our government serves the very rich and powerful
at the expense of the rest of us

It protects the bonuses of bankers and Wall Street executives,
while failing to keep hard-working families in their homes;

It shields offshore tax havens for the very wealthy,
while letting our bridges, schools, and infrastructure fall apart;

There have been dark periods in our nation’s history, when corruption became the norm
when grave injustices stood in the way of America living up to its best ideals.

But time and time again, Americans stepped up to take back their government and correct our course.
Today Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement step into this proud American tradition.

But fear not, one percent!
We are not here just to help the 99% at your expense.

We are here to help you too.
For when you’ve begun to think rigging the game is fair game

When you regard hard-working Americans as undeserving of a middle-class life
and unworthy of the profit their own work creates

When you treat the people who build your buildings and serve your food and raise your children and patrol your streets
without respect

You have not only lost touch with our humanity
You have lost touch with your own humanity

You need to find it again, for everyone’s sake
Real democracy will do you good

We are the 99%
We are here to create the democracy we have all been promised.

We are the 99%.
Our finances are weak, but our spirit is strong.

We are the 99%.
Our spring is coming.

Saw a bumper sticker that said "Refudiate Socialism"

on an urban assault vehicle with handicap plates....

It's a mental illness.

Does US Senate Commit Treason with NDAA Bill? By Jeanine Molloff


December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street. Ironically, the abuse of civilian Iraqis by our military and by military contractors is coming to a locale near you. Theoretically, armed squads of US soldiers might be knocking on your door in the dead of night to take away Auntie Mame for her alleged ‘terrorist’ activities—at the ACLU. This bill potentially allows for the blatant political prosecutions of any dissenter using the military as a bully club to instill deep fear in any who dare to question our government’s motives.

No proof of wrongdoing is required and those accused are denied the due process right of trial by their peers, or the services of an attorney– and are subsequently relegated to the ‘military commissions justice system.’ As a result–the accused are reduced to the status of ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ and are subject to the following actions: ‘extroardinary rendition’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ procedures, ‘indefinite detention to possibly a life sentence, and ‘presidential assigned extermination of target’ . These powers are then ‘given’ to the President to use at will, fully codified in law,while requiring in reality no proof other than presidential whim.

It is at this juncture that I find the timing of this bill suspicious–coinciding with the exponential growth of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the recent implosion of both EU and US economies, the emerging body of proof documenting Wall Street’s enormous crimes, and the Super Committee threat to cut military funding. It almost looks like the robber barons of Wall Street ‘circling the wagons’ in a fit of legislative revenge against the rabble, namely you and I.

History of NDAA 2012 Sections 1031, 1032, and 1033-35…another AUMF
This bill was co- written by the powerful Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Carl Levin (D) and the Senate Minority Leader John McCain, with Senator Lindsey Graham assigning himself as main cheerleader. The deliberations were kept secret and any debate was forbidden. Crafted under the auspices of keeping our nation ‘safe from terrorism’—the entire world including the US is now classified as a battlefield with indefinite timelines. Anyone broaching the question of due process rights is shouted down as ‘soft on terrorism’—mainly by Senator Graham. In fact, here is an example of how Senator Graham views the issues of due process rights:

”If you’re an American citizen and you betray your country, you’re going to be questioned about what you know,” …”and you’re not going to be given a lawyer if our national security interests dictate that you not be given a lawyer and go into the criminal justice system, because ‘we’re not fighting crime, we’re fighting a war.”

John Henry: A Federally-Funded Jobs Program? Lessons from the WPA


...it might prove helpful to review some aspects of the Works Progress Administration (renamed in 1939 as Work Projects Administration). While the WPA was not a “job guarantee” program, it nevertheless points to a number of issues that are under current discussion, including those of the nature of the projects undertaken, impact on the larger economy, concerns surrounding bureaucratic impediments, etc. Let’s begin with an introductory statement pertaining to the political and economic orientation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (and his Administration)....Roosevelt was not a progressive. He ran on a balanced budget platform, and initially attempted to fulfill his campaign promise of reducing the federal budget by slashing military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934, including a 40% reduction in spending for veteran’s benefits which eliminated the pensions of half-a-million veterans and widows and reduced the benefits for those remaining on the rolls. As well, federal spending on research and education was slashed and salaries of federal employees were reduced. Such programs were reversed after 1935. And one might recall that Roosevelt attempted to return to a balanced budget program in 1937, just as the economy appeared to be slowly recovering. The result was a renewed depression that began in the fall of that year and ran through 1938.

Thus, the Roosevelt Administration was forced into progressive activism because of massive—and organized—popular discontent based mainly in working class and small farmer organizations. The union movement was rejuvenated through the formation of the CIO, farmers organized to prevent the forced sales of their properties (and this often included the threat of armed action), rent strikes were rampant, etc. Chicago, New York, other cities saw massive demonstrations. “Riots” shook the Kentucky coal fields. One must remember that the communist party was large (as these parties go), active, and popular. The specter of revolution was in the air and some politicians responded. Hamilton Fish Jr. instructed his fellow Congressmen, “(i)f we don’t give (security) under the existing system, the people will change the system. Make no mistake about that.”

The WPA was one of several programs developed to respond to this supposed threat. Initially, the Roosevelt Administration authorized the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works in 1933 (renamed in 1939 as the Public Works Administration). The PWA allocated over $6 billion to private firms that actually undertook the large scale projects ordered by government. Dams, including Grand Coulee, hospitals, bridges (the Triborough Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel in New York City), etc. In the same year, the Civilian Conservation Corps (ostensibly Roosevelt’s favorite such program) was organized. Exceptionally active in erosion control, reforestation, the creation of public parks, etc., the CCC hired 2 million young men over the course of its history. The fundamental difference between the CCC and the PWA was that workers on CCC projects were hired directly by the government. And this funding relationship served as the model for the WPA.

The WPA was under the direction of Harry Hopkins, a notable figure in his day. While the program was officially terminated in 1943, U.S. entry into WWII effectively ended its existence. On average through 1941, the WPA employed about 3 million people each month. If we include employees in the CCC and the National Youth Administration (a separate program under the WPA), total employment in government contracted work came to roughly 4.3 million per month. This represented 8-9% of the U.S. labor force. Originally, the WPA was an extension of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration—the first federally-funded welfare program in the U.S. One rationale for the WPA was that it was better to put people to work performing useful tasks rather than merely receiving assistance: off the dole and on the job...The WPA was not intended as a “full employment” program. Only one household member could be employed under the program (it was usually males), though one does find female heads of households so employed. It should also be noted that state and local governments were required to contribute 10-30% of the costs of the various projects undertaken. Over its life, total spending on WPA projects amounted to about $13.4 billion, roughly 2% of GDP over those years.

And what were those projects? Was this simply a “make work” program that made little difference in the long run? Or, was the WPA integral to the larger economy and its contributions socially useful? A truncated tally follows. (See below for a slideshow of projects under the WPA)

560,000 miles of roads built or improved
20,000 miles of water mains, sewers constructed
417 dams built
325 firehouses built; 2384 renovated
5,000 schools constructed or renovated
143 new hospitals, 1,700 improved
2,000 stadiums, grandstands built
500 landing fields; 1,800 runways (including participation in the construction of LaGuardia Airport, NYC)
State and municipal parks, including the foundation of the extensive California state park system.
100 million trees planted
6,000 miles of fire and forest trails created
Education: Through 1941, 1 million enrolled in adult education courses, 37,000 children in classes and nursery schools; 280,000 received music instruction, 67,000 art instruction.
Libraries were built. These were especially directed toward poor and rural communities.
Zoo buildings constructed

In addition to the above, one should note the WPA’s contribution to the cultural life of the country....MORE AT LINK

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