A New Deal for Germany & France

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Germany and France are to tackle mass youth unemployment that is gripping southern Europe with a ‘New Deal’ aimed at curbing the mounting anger threatening to tear apart the eurozone.

The ‘New Deal for Europe’ will provide European Union funds to pay for language courses and flights around the continent for jobseekers. …”

Curious?


Read more here

cinco-dias_0
‘New Deal’ contra el paro :: ‘New Deal’ against unemployment
Cinco Dias is one of many newspapers that has been carrying headlines about a New Deal for Europe.

June 2013 Newsletter

With record youth unemployment, Germany and France have announced a plan to invest billions in education, training, and jobs. They call it the “New Deal for Europe.” Ironically, the U.S., home of the original New Deal, remains mired in recession, worsened daily by “sequestration.” Some 26 million Americans are without full-time work. Half of those unemployed are under the age of 34.  Meanwhile, our nation’s infrastructure is crumbing; post offices are being sold; labor unions are under attack. If ever there were a time for a New New Deal, it’s now.

By teaching about the New Deal, The Living New Deal is showing the way to the kind of economic recovery we need now—one that nurtures communities and builds the foundation for the future. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.  Thank you.

A new CCC and WPA could help fight our record-setting wildfires

On his blog, Brent McKee is chronicling the many ways that a new set of New Deal agencies could support health and welfare of the nation:

National Park Service photo


National Park Service photo

 

A recent Huffington Post article reports: “A dry winter and early warming has created conditions for a fire season that could begin earlier than usual and burn as much as last year, where states like New Mexico and Oregon posted new records for burned acreage.” Meanwhile, “the U.S. Forest Service alone will hire 500 fewer firefighters and deploy 50 fewer engines this season.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “We are going to be faced with a difficult fire season. The bottom line is we’re going to do everything we can to be prepared. But folks need to understand … our resources are limited and our budgets are obviously constrained. We will do the best job we possibly can with the resources we have.”

During the New Deal, the WPA and CCC fought forest fires, created firebreaks, built fire lookout towers, and planted trees.

Today, there are 26 million Americans who would like a full-time job but can’t find one (http://www.njfac.org/). Today, the Labor Force Participation Rate is the lowest since 1979. Today, suicide is rising due, in part, to “financial stress.”Today, “Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither in school nor in the workforce.”

But instead of connecting the dots of unemployment and record-setting fires (in other words, offering jobs to the unemployed to directly fight fires or fill support roles) we will ignore the unemployed and let our natural areas burn.

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal.

Find more of Brent McKee’s words here. 

Guest Essay: ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world

By Stephen Seufert

“We cannot continue to deny and postpone the demands of our own people while spending billions in the name of freedom elsewhere around the globe. No nation can exert greater influence or power in the world then it can exercise over the streets of its own capital” –Robert F. Kennedy

In Washington, the focus has been about cutting spending and balancing the budget. We’re told by politicians on both sides of the aisle that the United States has to start “living within its means.” I believe that narrative is throwing gas on a raging fire and must be extinguished for the nation to see shared prosperity again.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost at least $2.4 trillion by 2017. Couple this with the Bush Tax cut, which total over $2.8 trillion in lost revenue, plus an additional $3.4 trillion lost in revenue over the last ten years due to slow economic growth and it’s clear why there’s fiscal instability.

The effects of this fiscal instability can be seen in cities such as Camden, Trenton and Reading. Unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and poverty rose steadily in these cities over the last decade while hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on wars halfway around the world. Their education system is in shambles, emergency services are overburdened and buildings are becoming increasingly dilapidated due to neglect or abandonment.

During the Great Depression, $32 billion(about $500 billion today) was spent by FDR’s New Deal to combat unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and poverty. The New Deal contributed substantially to ending the Great Depression, even though it took World War II to restore full employment. However, the New Deal served the general welfare of the nation with projects that still stand to this very day. Conversely, the Federal government spent $288 billion($3.4 trillion today) to fight World War II. Massive spending by the Federal government propelled the American economy into unprecedented post-war power and wealth.

Source: Lawrence History Center -- http://www.lawrencehistory.org/exhibits/newdeal. Artist unknown.

WPA Categories
Source: Lawrence History Center — http://www.lawrencehistory.org/exhibits/newdeal. Artist unknown.

Whether fighting overseas, working in a factory or paying higher taxes, the American people shared the burden of war. The same could not be said for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the burden was left to the troops on the ground. Lets be honest with ourselves, nothing was asked of the American people. We continue to live in a bubble, unaware or indifferent to suffering at home or abroad.

The 2009 stimulus, totaling $787 billion, allocated $126 billion for infrastructure over a two year period. The vast majority of the stimulus was tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class. Thus, to claim the 2009 stimulus was a massive spending bill is simply untrue. Let me put that infrastructure spending in perspective. In 2012 alone, the United states Army requested $215 billion in funding. That’s more then the entire military of both China and Russia combined!

The 2013 ASCE report card for America’s infrastructure estimated the cost to rebuild and restore the infrastructure of the United States was $3.6 trillion. If the Federal government spent $3.4 trillion to fight World War II and $2.4 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, then it can surely invest the same amount on infrastructure here at home.

The president offers a weak plan on infrastructure and Republicans in Congress offer next to nothing. The only way the nation’s infrastructure is going to be restored is by annually investing at least an additional $100 billion over the next twenty to thirty years. Link the Army Corps of Engineers with the Department of Labor to create a 21st Century Works Progress Administration. In order to make the WPA a fixture in the Federal government, a WPA academy should be created similar to that of a West Point or Annapolis. Build the WPA academy within a poor city and make it the template for future renewal and growth across the nation. Once WPA officers complete their training, send them to various parts of the nation to assist in infrastructure projects and disaster relief.

This much is clear, the current policies in place by the Federal government are not serving the general welfare of the nation. This nation, if it is to endure, must realize challenges are ahead. Nearly every generation of Americans had a challenge, some greater then others. While a majority of Americans see failure and decline, I see prosperity. Reaching that prosperity won’t be easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. Bobby Kennedy once said, “Tis’ not too late to seek a newer world.” Let’s reach that newer world together as citizens united in common cause.

 

Stephen Seufert, Fairless Hills, has a bachelor’s degree in government and political affairs from Millersville University in Pennsylvania. He was the communications director of the Pennsylvania College Democrats and president of the Millersville Chapter of College Democrats from 2010-2011. He is currently the president of the Lower Bucks Young Democrats.  

Another version of this essay was published on PhillyBurbs and in the NJ Times. Reprinted here with permission of the author.

Happy Birthday, WPA! From Garrison Keillor:

Garrison KeillorPublic radio icon Garrison Keillor celebrated the birth of the WPA this morning with this story: “On this day in 1935, Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration, the New Deal’s largest and most ambitious agency. During its run, which ended in 1943 and cost about $11 billion, the WPA employed 8.5 million out-of-work people on 1.4 million individual projects; it built 651,000 miles of roads, streets, and highways; constructed or repaired 124,000 bridges, 125,000 public buildings, more than 8,000 parks, and nearly 900 airport runways. The projects had to provide a real and lasting contribution, and could not take business away from private companies.

It wasn’t always the most efficient operation, however, and its critics gave it nicknames like ‘We Poke Along,’ ‘We Play Around,’ ‘We Piddle Around,’ and ‘Working Piss Ants.’ WPA employees were derided as ‘shovel-leaners,’ an accusation John Steinbeck addressed in his essay ‘A Primer on the ’30s’: ‘It was the fixation of businessmen that the WPA did nothing but lean on shovels. I had an uncle who was particularly irritated at shovel-leaning. When he pooh-poohed my contention that shovel-leaning was necessary, I bet him five dollars, which I didn’t have, that he couldn’t shovel sand for fifteen timed minutes without stopping. He said a man should give a good day’s work and grabbed a shovel. At the end of three minutes his face was red, at six he was staggering and before eight minutes were up his wife stopped him to save him from apoplexy. And he never mentioned shovel-leaning again.’ ” –Writer’s Almanac, May 6, 2013

Guest Essay: Educating Its Workforce: The CCC at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, 1938-1942, 1938-1942

While working on his Ph.D dissertation, Mark Barron has pulled out some great stories from his research to share with the Living New Deal. Enjoy:

While conducting research in my hometown of Marietta, GA for an upcoming dissertation that looks at metropolitan politics in the 1930s and 1940s, I was reminded of the intersecting qualities education and employment play in the lives of young people.  Taking a break from scouring local archives, I spent a spring morning hiking the trails of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  I grew up in the shadow of the mountain and learned the site’s local history at a young age – both as a place of battle during the Civil War and as a former campsite for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the late 1930s.  It is that latter history that always seems to resonate with me when I get the chance to revisit the miles of trails that wind though the park – most of which were cut by CCC workers over seventy years ago.  I am certainly not alone in enjoying the labors of those who enrolled in the camp during the New Deal.  Each year, the park has an annual visitorship of over a million persons.

Camp members at Kennesaw Mountain placing a cannon to aid in the historical interpretation of the park.


Camp members at Kennesaw Mountain placing a cannon to aid in the historical interpretation of the park (date unknown).

While many of us are familiar with the story of how the corps put young men to work on lands owned by federal, state, and local governments, the role the program played in educating those who served in its ranks is a surprise to many.  At the Kennesaw Mountain camp, for instance, the CCC had a remarkable success rate in giving its young men the equivalent of a high school education, as well as offering them instruction in woodworking, agricultural science, and automotive mechanics.  The emphasis placed on providing camp enrollees with a basic education supplemented with vocational skills was an important objective in the CCC’s tenure.  The history of education at Marietta’s camp was not necessarily exceptional in these regards, but documents found in the National Archives and the recollections of former enrollees do help illuminate how the CCC enacted education policy into its program and demonstrates the ways in which the policy benefited the camp’s volunteer enrollees.

The CCC established Camp NP-4 at Kennesaw Mountain in June of 1938. [1]  Though the National Park Service had obtained the site from the War Department a few years earlier, little to no infrastructure improvements had been made to the site located approximately 20 miles northwest of Atlanta.  Originally consisting of a handful of supervisors and enrollees housed in military surplus tents, the campsite steadily grew over the next two and half years into its own mini-city, with barracks, mess hall, recreation center, library, and educational facility designed to serve its full complement of 225 young men.  Early project reports for the camp indicated that its primary focus was to involve road construction, fire suppression measures, erosion control, tree planting, and seed collection. [2]  Over the course of the camp’s tenure, however, its mission came to include constructing a park headquarters and providing guided tours to interested visitors, locals and dignitaries alike.  Enrollees received 30 dollars a month, with 25 dollars of that amount going to their families back home.

 

As was common with CCC sites, Camp NP-4 was racially segregated with enrollment limited to whites only. [3]  Yet even within the ranks of its all white volunteers, the camp was socially diverse.  Because the CCC offered good wages to unemployed young men, enrollees came from nearby cities, as well as from farms, with members of both groups demonstrating varied skills in regards to their educational abilities.  In Georgia during the 1930s, public schools only operated on an eleven year system, with college-bound students often having to take additional, privately-funded courses prior to entering a university.  For young adults from the state’s urban areas, an eighth grade education was often the accepted norm for someone planning to enter into an industrial-type position at a textile mill or furniture factory.  Within farm families, however, the level of education acquired at the time adulthood varied greatly.  Throughout Georgia, most rural schools only operated on a seventh month academic calendar – a recognition of the importance farming responsibilities played in rural communities.  Many farm children, including those found in the countryside around Marietta, may have only received an elementary level education, if that. [4]

The organization of the CCC began in the early days of Roosevelt’s presidency and constituted a key component of FDR’s plan to put Americans back to work.  From the very beginning, CCC officials acknowledged the educational discrepancies of its enrollees.  Looking back on the formation of the CCC and other New Deal programs a few years prior, a 1941 symposium on reading skills in America highlighted the problems federal programs and agencies faced upon entering the southeast.  An “overwhelming percentage of [the country’s] illiteracy is found in the South, where the schools are often destitute,” stated the symposium’s published remarks. [5]  Indeed, even though New Deal money had erected or improved school buildings across Georgia, county and municipal governments often faced hardships in finding money for operating costs and teachers salaries.  In many public school systems, including Marietta, students had to purchase their own textbooks. [6]  As the CCC expanded its enrolled workforce during the Great Depression, its director noted that nation-wide, up to five percent of the young men who joined the CCC “were totally unable to read or write” upon first entering the corps, with a “much higher percentage” having very limited literacy skills. [7]

Aerial view of CCC camp from atop Kennesaw Mountain


Aerial view of CCC camp from atop Kennesaw Mountain (date unknown).

 

In an effort to combat its illiteracy problem, the CCC initiated a tiered educational evaluation of its enrollees.  Realizing that some may have no ability to read or write, while others may have only marginal skills, the CCC created the term “functional illiteracy” to describe those in the latter category.  Based on the number of school years a person completed and an assessment of their educational skills, the CCC designated that “functional illiteracy” described a person who had completed no more than three years of school.  A designation of “illiteracy,” conversely, was given to individuals with less than three years of formal education. [8]  By the mid to late 1930s, CCC camps across the country were submitting “educational reports” to the director’s office in Washington, D.C.

The education reports from the Kennesaw Mountain camp illustrate the positive effects of the CCC’s commitment to education.  By the end of 1938, some six months after first opening, 140 young men of the camp’s complement were attending night classes five times a week in academic subjects such as literacy, history, arithmetic, penmanship, and spelling.  Where many public schools were still struggling to fill teacher positions, the CCC brought in instructors from the WPA to conduct its courses.  Additionally, the Kennesaw Mountain camp offered vocational classes and job training courses to prepare enrollees for futures outside of the CCC.  In an effort to keep its enrollees engaged in academic pursuits, the camp featured a library stocked with 871 volumes comprised of books, magazines, and daily newspapers.  At the end of the 1938 report was an astonishing claim.  “All illiterates are enrolled in courses and are making satisfactory progress.  The number of illiterates in this company has been reduced from sixty-five to eleven.” [9]

Two years later, the camp’s education reports continue to show the progress of the CCC’s literacy campaign.  By June of 1940, for instance, all but one enrollee could read and write.  In the September report of that year, the library had grown to well over 900 volumes, with the camp stating that sixty percent of its company could read books, with all enrollees being able to read at least a magazine or newspaper.  In the “results of educational work” section of the report, the filing administrator notes that “enrollees are leaving camp as better citizens, some as semi-skilled craftsmen and others have been instructed in new and efficient methods of farming.”  “All enrollees,” the field report continued, “are receiving basic academic training up to and including the eighth grade.”  Three members of the camp’s company had even decided to continue their high school education to the eleventh grade level and the report noted that they would graduate within a year. [10]

Once the United States entered World War Two, many of the Kennesaw Mountain camp’s enrollees either entered the service or went to work in the defense industries.  In either respect, the young men who labored and studied with the CCC took their newfound knowledge and skills with them.  Oral history interviews from World War Two veterans, for instance, often discuss the impact vocational and education classes from the CCC and other New Deal programs such as the National Youth Administration (NYA) had in helping them complete their military service.  In 1942 and 1943, the War Department constructed an aircraft assembly plant in Marietta, GA, where people with experience in mechanics, such as were taught within the CCC, were in great demand.  Many of those employed in the defense industry would later work at Marietta’s Lockheed assembly plant or at Atlanta’s expanding civil airport.

After the war, the effects of an education acquired from the CCC continued to resonate with its former enrollees.  At a fiftieth anniversary camp reunion for NP-4 held at Kennesaw Mountain in 1988, a former member of the company recalled arriving at the camp at seventeen years of age with “no job and no money.”  “I got…experience out of this,” the man said, going on to discuss how he went on to work for, and eventually retire from, Lockheed’s aircraft division.  Another of the camp’s company remembered spending nearly four years with the CCC at Kennesaw Mountain, re-enlisting every six months to continue studying stonemasonry.  “I would have stayed longer if I could,” he said, “but the CCC helped me and I got good jobs afterwards.” [11]

Morning flag raising at Kennesaw Mountain CCC camp (date unknown).


Morning flag raising at Kennesaw Mountain CCC camp (date unknown).

As we enjoy the products of CCC labor in our visits to parks across the country, it is good to remember that the New Deal did more than affect the physical landscapes of our communities; it shaped the lives of its workers and their descendants.  The CCC through its education policy filled a void that was not being met by traditional methods.  The enrollees of CCC Camp NP-4 not only learned valuable skills that influenced their future careers and livelihoods, they also extended the benefits of a good education onto their children, many of whom probably went to college thanks to the “helping hand” the New Deal gave their parents in the late 1930s and early 1940s.


[1] The camp was initially designated NM-3 in 1938, but was changed shortly after to NP-4.

[2] “Work Project Supplementary Report, November 15, 1938”; Camp Inspection Reports/ GA-Marietta, NP-4; Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Record Group 35/ Box 47; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

[3] More information on the segregation policy of the CCC can be found online at http://newdeal.feri.org/aaccc/index.htm and in Olen Cole Jr., The African American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps (Gainsville: University of Florida Press, 1999).

[4] Georgia’s public education system in the 1930s is discussed in an oral history interview with a former principal of Marietta High School. Cobb County Oral History Project, Shuler Antley, Interview conducted by Thomas A. Scott, 25 October 1978.  Georgia Room, Cobb County Public Library.

[5] “What Shall We Do About Reading Today? A Symposium,” The Elementary English Review, Vol. 19, No. 7 (November 1942), 242.

[6]Cobb County Oral History Project, Shuler Antley, Interview conducted by Thomas A. Scott, 25 October 1978.  Georgia Room, Cobb County Public Library.

[7] “What Shall We Do About Reading Today? A Symposium,” The Elementary English Review, Vol. 19, No. 7 (November 1942), 241.

[8] In World War Two, the United States military adopted the CCC’s educational assessment program.  John Folger and Charles Nam, Education of the American People. United States Department of Commerce (1960), 126.

[9] “CCC Camp Educational Report, November 17, 1938,” Camp Inspection Reports/ GA-Marietta, NP-4; Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Record Group 35/ Box 47; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

[10] “CCC Camp Educational Report, June 11, 1940 & September 9, 1940,” Camp Inspection Reports/ GA-Marietta, NP-4; Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Record Group 35/ Box 47; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

[11] All quotes taken from “Eyes Sparkle at CCC Camp’s Reunion,” Marietta Daily Journal, 2 October 1988.

****

Mark Barron is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park.  He presently resides in Pasadena, CA.

An Open Letter on the Proposed Sales of US Post Offices

Dr. Francis O’Connor penned this open letter in protest of the sales of post offices across the country — and the public art contained therein. Dr. O’Connor is the dean of New Deal art studies, and is largely responsible for the rediscovery and scholarly study of federally-sponsored art programs of the 1930s when they were much out of fashion in the 1970s. His letter counts for a great deal, not only in protecting those endangered PUBLIC possessions but in bringing their plight to the attention of the art press and the mainstream media, which have so far been entirely MIA as the USPS and CBRE have been hastily selling off our heritage with no cop on the beat.

 

Francis V. O’Connor, Ph.D.
Independent Historian of Art / Consultant in the Fine Arts
250 East 73rd St., Apt. 11C – New York, NY 10021-4310
Tel/Fax: 212-988-8927 — E-mail: [email protected]

AN OPEN LETTER ABOUT THE U. S. POSTAL SERVICE’S PLANS TO SELL OFF SOME OF ITS POST OFFICES — TO WHOMEVER IT MAY CONCERN:

The recent announcement by the United States Postal Service to sell off a number of old post office buildings around the country has raised serious concerns about the preservation of their architecture —and the murals and sculptures they contain. It is important to protest this policy, and to monitor any and all sales in respect to their impact on our artistic heritage.

These murals constitute a pictorial history of our country that was created by the Treasury Department’s several art programs on a national scale between 1934 and the mid-1940s, when the last contracts were completed after the war. Selling off old post offices is thus selling off part of this national heritage, and ought to be done — if it has to be done at all — with great care and awareness of both the history of our mural art, and of our Art Deco architecture.

I would urge all those presently engaged in assessing and protesting this move by the USPS, to consider landmarking important post offices and mural cycles. This has already been done in certain cases. But landmarking agreements must stipulate that the interiors of these buildings and their murals and sculptures be protected along with their exteriors. In those cases were agreements exist to protect art work, their implementation must be carefully monitored.

It would also be useful to approach any and all buyers of the post offices to alert them of their obligations in respect to these monuments from the past, and to inform them specifically about the murals in their buildings and the artists involved in their creation.

I regret that I cannot any longer take part in the campaigns foreseen, but I remain available to guide research into specific sites as necessary. I would urge you to read the material about the New Deal visual art programs and murals in my book The Mural in America, that was published as a website in 2010 at the address above. See Part Seven’s introduction, and at sections B and G. It re-tells the history of these 1,100 murals and gives a few pertinent case histories about Ben Shahn’s murals at the Bronx Central PO in New York (at B), and the Anton Refregier murals at the Rincon Annex PO in San Francisco (at G). — A list of the 1,100 New Deal murals in post offices can be found in Marlene Park & Gerald Markowitz, Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, Philadelphia:Temple University Press, 1984, pp. 201-35.

Thank you for your concern, and make sure the USPS hears from you loud and clear about it.

Urgently,

dr o connor sig

http://www.muralinamerica.com
http://www.fvoconnorsbooks.com/index.htm

Post Office mural, Decatur, IL, Edward Millman
Post Office mural, Decatur, IL, Edward Millman

 

A Treasure Trove of New Deal Posters

11-weaponsFrom the Aerogramme Writers’ Studio, a blog on books and writing, comes this lovely collection of 35 New Deal posters, along with a link to the Library of Congress, which has a collection of more than 900 items:

“Between 1936 and 1943 thousands of boldly coloured and graphically diverse posters were produced by the Work Projects Administration, established as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. These posters were designed to publicise health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. Here is a selection of the posters produced to promote libraries, books and learning.” Here are a few… click here for more.

07-greater-knowledge35-dull

 

New CCC Museum in Alabama

There’s a new museum in Alabama, focused on the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Writes Alabama.com: 

The museum building is “not new to DeSoto State Park. It was built in 1940 by Company 472 of the CCC as a contact station for the original entrance to the park one year after its founding in May 1939. After the CCC was disbanded in 1942, the building became a storage area for decades until recently when the park’s staff received two grants for renovations to turn it into a museum.”

IMG_0598The museum staff has a blog where staffers have tracked development of the project for some time. “For over a year, DeSoto State Park staff and volunteers have been hard at work with the goal of opening a Civilian Conservation CorpsMuseum in DeSoto State Park. Many long hours have been put into the maintenance and planning of this effort to present this often overlooked part of history. This museum has long been a dream of many of our staff members here at DSP, and the dream is finally coming true. …”

In California, the Living New Deal team is hard at work on our concept plan for a national New Deal museum. More on that effort soon…