It has been about 70 years since the WPA closed down due to low unemployment during WWII. I thought about the WPA as I watched Ken Burn’s presentation on PBS of The Dust Bowl Sunday evening. If you missed it, part 2 will be shown Monday evening at 8 PM. It is interesting to note that the section of the United States hit hardest by the drought of the 1930’s- in and around the panhandle of Oklahoma- is today one of the most anti-Federalist regions of our nation even though our Federal government sent huge resources to that area, attempting to help the farmers survive after the natural devastation and the precipitous drop in wheat prices. In the 2012 election, every county in the area of focus of the documentary voted for the Romney-Ryan ticket. Apparently the people there have short memories.
During the last 4 days of this year’s presidential election, the GOTV [Get Out the Vote] effort, UptheFlag and his wife drove to Ohio to help our team in that GOTV effort. In the infrequent down time, he and I naturally discussed politics and history. The standard line spewed by Mitt Romney- the magical creation of 12 million jobs- sparked our imaginations and we began to think about how such a goal might actually be accomplished. We of course knew that Romney had no ‘plan’ to create those jobs, but was it possible- for real?
The Obama political line in connection with job-creation concerned infrastructure, although the candidate didn’t mention that as often nor as forcefully as did his opponent’s magical job creation promise. My friend and I spoke of the power of government in the context of history, specifically in and around the years of the Great Depression, and how that power literally saved our nation from wide-spread devastation. Franklin Roosevelt was the right man at the right time. Sadly, those on the right-side of the political spectrum kicked and screamed all throughout FDR’s set of New Deal proposals. Fortunately for America, they were only an irritating minority and were summarily ignored.
In the next few days, the mysterious and vacuous ‘fiscal cliff’ is to be discussed in Washington. This cliff, unlike the real one over which our nation was plunging in late 2008, is make-believe and was erected by those on the right-side of the political spectrum to scare the dickens out of the ordinary citizen. Imagine if you will what might have happened to our nation in the 1930’s if we had listened to those of the Right as FDR was proposing federal relief programs for the tens of millions of Americans suffering from both the Great Depression as well as the natural disasters on the western plains.
In January, President Obama has the opportunity to address the nation at his 2nd inauguration. It will be a golden opportunity for him to lead our nation forward for the next four years. What will he say? What hope will he inspire? What vision will he hone? Will that speech match the speeches of FDR or John Kennedy? Will President Obama ask The People to agree to a second-generation WPA project, a proposal to put millions of our citizens back to work fixing our infrastructure? The highways, bridges, canals, ports, electrical grid, pipelines, airports, water resources, waste water, landfills, Broadband, parks, urban centers, rail and light rail.
Just imagine such a dual benefit- fixing America’s infrastructure needs and putting people back to work. It is clearly a win-win proposal. Unless we listen to the whining Right. FDR rolled right over them because his vision was much broader than theirs and much more inclusive. Will President Obama have the same fortitude as FDR? Will he be bold or tepid?
Seventy years is a lifetime- mine! Some of the bridges I drive over were built when I was babbling incoherently back during their construction. We Americans need a new mission. We always rise to the challenge if someone inspires us to do so. Can President Obama take charge and ask our citizens to rise up [over the perennial whine of the Right] and move our nation forward in a new direction? Forward for progress? Perhaps towards an Infrastructure Reconstruction Act of 2013.
Will he? Will Congress? Will the People?