We Need a New WPA, to “Bridge” Workers with Hope

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The Problem: Unemployment, is just supposed to keep getting worse:

U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Rose More Than Forecast

By Shobhana Chandra

Oct. 22, 2009  (Bloomberg) — More Americans than forecast filed claims for unemployment benefits last week, a reminder that the labor market will be slow to recover.

Initial jobless applications rose by 11,000 to 531,000 in the week ended Oct. 17


Economists project the unemployment rate will reach 10 percent by the first quarter of 2010, underscoring the risk to consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. Companies cutting costs remain reluctant to hire, even as they’ve eased dismissals from levels seen earlier this year.


I heard a news Report this weekend that the +10% is expecting to last throughout most of 2010 too … Uh Oh!

One possible Solution, from the lessons of History:

When America was facing record unemployment in the 30’s a unique solution was put in place. A Works Progress Administration (WPA) program was started by FDR, who’s primary goal was to match up “People who needed a Job”, with the “Jobs that America needed to get done”.  

If 10% of workers are going to collect an Unemployment Check anyways, Why not pair up our Routine Maintenance with the Dignity of Meaningful Work:

Why We Need A New Works Progress Administration [WPA]

Joel Kotkin, Forbes —  Mar 24, 2009


To really revive the economy, learn from New Deal programs that worked.

Unemployment today may not be as extreme as in the 1930s, but for whole segments of the population–notably young workers under 25–it is on the rise. Already young workers with college educations suffer a 7.7% jobless rate, while employment is nearly twice that among young workers overall. Hardest hit, in fact, are young people without college educations, whose real earnings already have dropped by almost 30% over the past 30 years, according to one study.

Tapping the energies of this new “millennial” generation–those now entering their teens and early 20s–would make enormous sense both for economic and social reasons.


In the 30’s the WPA have many, many concrete accomplishments, not least among them was giving idle hands an opportunity to build something of lasting value:

The Works Progress Administration (WPA).

This government office hired unemployed Americans to work on various government projects. Many of these projects were similar to ones sponsored by the Public Works Administration.

During its existence, the WPA constructed:

more than 600,000 miles of roads and

built or repaired more than 124,000 bridges,

125,000 public buildings,

8,000 parks, and

850 airport runways.

In addition to hiring people from traditionally working-class backgrounds, the WPA also created programs for academics, actors, and artists.


The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was instituted by presidential executive order under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935, to generate public jobs for the unemployed. The WPA was restructured in 1939 when it was reassigned to the Federal Works Agency.

By 1936 over 3.4 million people were employed on various WPA programs. Administered by Harry Hopkins and furnished with an original congressional allocation of $4.8 billion, the WPA made work accessible to the unemployed on an unparalleled scale by disbursing funds for an extensive array of programs.

Hopkins argued that although the work relief program was more costly than direct relief payments, it was worth it. He averred, “Give a man a dole, and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit.


The Need for investing in America:

It’s not like there’s no shortage of things that need to be fixed, or built in this country.  For instance most Bridges have an expected life time around 50 years.  Guess how old most of them are? … over 50 years!


It’s like your roof was leaking, and everyone, just keeps rotating buckets under the leak — instead of doing the hard work of actually fixing the roof!

Sooner or later SOMEONE needs to do the Routine Maintenance! It only costs more to put it off, and fix it later.

Structure in 10% of U.S. bridges is deemed faulty

August 3, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS – More than 70,000 bridges in the United States are rated structurally deficient, as was the one that collapsed in Minneapolis on Wednesday, even though such bridges carry more than 300 million vehicles a day. But fixing all of them, which amount to about 10 percent of all bridges in the country, would take at least a generation and cost more than $188 billion, transportation specialists and engineers said.


“A failure like this is a real wake-up call,” he said. “It reminds us that we can’t take our infrastructure for granted. We need to consistently invest new money into what we’ve already built.”


So why is it so hard, for America to invest in those things that NEED to be done?

Why is it so hard, for America to invest in Ourselves?

Here is a Video summarizing the many “civilized” problems, America needs to face as a “civilized” nation: CNN Video  Poor infrastructure fails America, civil engineers report – Jan 29, 2009

The Reporter in that clip summarized the Infrastructure need:

$2.2 Trillion needed is roughly 3X the size of the entire Obama Stimulus Package.

As I recall only about a 1/3 of the total Stimulus Package Bill ($800 Billion) was actually targeting “Infrastructure” projects.  Much of it went to more Tax Cuts (funny how those Cuts, didn’t trickle down into MORE Jobs!)

The latest American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report says actually $2.2 Trillion is needed, to “fix our Infrastructure”:

the 2009 ASCE Report Card:

So you can see there IS NO “Shortage of Work”

Only a shortage of the Proactive attitude to Fix what needs to be Fixed — to invest in OUR collective futures! … and if you factor in the long run need for a Green Infrastructure, this “meaningful work” could last a lifetime!

A new Talking Point Frame that Dems and Progressives may want to turn their attention to, sometime soon:

“Big Govt can’t get anything Right!”

The GOP is sure to raise that canard in the next Election Cycle.

And if Insurance Premiums are still going up,

and Wall Street’s still running an Open Casino,

and our Infrastructure is still Crumbling,

and Unemployment is still Going Up …

Well they just may have a “faux” Point,

one, that gets them the Votes they need, anyways.

If we don’t get some sort of Modern WPA, and soon,

the ire of the Unemployed Displaced Workers,

will be very hard to counter.

(blaming W. still doesn’t give them a job, btw)

This is another WHY —

Why we need a New Deal on a New WPA!

These issues, and this Frame of a “Questionably Successful Govt” will be in our future — count on it:

“Is Govt part of the Problem, OR part of the Solution?”

This is an argument that we should all ponder …

If Govt can’t even fix its own roof — If America refuses to invest in Ourselves, even when so many of our People go begging for a Job  

— Well then maybe the GOPhers may just have a Talking Point that they can sell.

Maybe they CAN cast Govt as “Part of the Problem” ???

Afterall if your one of the +10% out of work for a over year, I’m sure you’ll be itching for SOMEONE to blame!

Sooner or Later America needs to take the long run perspective, and realize “we’re all in this together” — Enough of the Mentality of “Every person for themselves” — this isn’t an episode of Survivor — this is REAL Life!  

Real Life, where the issues of ‘Survival’ play out …for REAL, everyday, for millions.

also posted on dkos


Skip to comment form

    • jamess on October 26, 2009 at 03:16

    some say Meaningful Work

    IS the Meaning of Life.

    (but I would guess,

    that Monty Python might have

    a different take on the subject, lol)

  1. would be a massive, Architecture 2030 like, effort surrounding energy efficiency in America’s homes and schools.

    The challenges re bridges / such is that this is far from the ‘quick’ give someone a shovel and they are working tomorrow.  Far faster, I think, to get people working insulating, green roofing, etc than getting bridges fixed.  Plus, we have the issue of whether (even with buildings) we want to reinforce the existing, energy inefficient system or invest for something better. (Reality is both but question is balance.)

    But, we need to push for a capital investment based recovery rather than consumption based.

    We need to be setting the stage for riding the growing storm of climate change while driving down emissions to such a level that we have create the potential for driving below 350 within the century.

  2. …was appointed by Obama to do just this…green the planet with ecological jobs and put folks back to work.  But, alas, ‘they‘ didn’t protect Van from the Beck Dog Attacks.

    Just one more disappointment and sell out to fear.

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