Home » Money » Works Progress

Works Progress

A lot of us fear turning the clock back about 70 years to another Depression.  While it would have been a good idea to avoid it, people like me who spread the alarm were largely ignored because too many people made too much easy money off of nothing.  In a certain sense, it was all inevitable given the fact that no one was willing to do anything else.  What makes it all good in a certain sense is that we have, in fact, been through this before and know what we have to do.  The government is acting quickly, the Federal Reserve is firing up the presses, and the Democratic candidate for president is proposing a return of the WPA.

The Works Progress Administration was not just a part of the “alphabet soup” of programs that FDR quickly passed through Congress.  This was the most important thing going, and Roosevelt put his personal secretary Harry Hopkins (who had a room in the White House) in charge.  They employed 3.8 million people at the height, building infrastructure all around the nation.  Our city hall here in Saint Paul was built by the WPA, as was much of our State Fairgrounds.  If you visit rest stops on the Pennsylvania Turnpike or Garden State Parkway you’ll see some of their classic architecture.

This came from the Obama campaign after a small conference with advisors, including Warren Buffet.  It’s more than just a copy of what worked last time, it’s targeted at the kind of infrastructure the nation needs.  From the Obama-Biden website:

Create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will address the infrastructure challenge by creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity.

This could include a high speed rail initiative, and is similar in size to what I proposed as a starter program in that area.  I hope that’s just what they have in mind, especially since it has the potential to solve our energy dependence while creating jobs and jump-starting the economy.

Just as before, the idea is that a handout is less useful for everyone than a job.  We have work to do and we have people who can do it.  So why not get it going?  It worked before and it can work again.  I’d also like to note that it’s less than 10% of the cost of the bailout plan and a similar fraction of the cost of the war in Iraq, both of which haven’t produced anything of value.

It’s about work and it’s about progress.  The new WPA can accomplish a lot, and the Obama administration will give it another chance.  At least we already know that it works.

21 thoughts on “Works Progress

  1. A lot of boardwalks here at the Jersey Shore are WPA “products.”

    It’s amazing, what this country can do when it wants to.

    PS: Keep on illustrating, Wabbitoid! It can be addictive. (Er, I’m actually restraining myself from adding illustrations to individual chapters in my WIP…)

  2. I think you mentioned this once a long time ago. It is a good idea.
    So if your right about so many things, tell us something you’ve been wrong about, Erik! 🙂

  3. Maris: I might illustrate more, I dunno. I love WPA art, is all. And “My Life as a Teenage Robot” on Nick. 🙂

    Janine: I think this came up before when talking about my fave reform of all, which is 5-year capital budgeting. It’s too long to explain in the comments.

    I’ve been off on a number of things. I knew the actors and the magnitude of this crash, but the timing has always eluded me – I first thought it was in Feb, then this summer, and then Oct when results for 3Q08 came out. Oh well. I also said that Hillary would have an easy run for President back last December – Ouch!

    Those two come to mind quickly, but there are a few others, I’m sure.

  4. Jeanne: Yes, politics is largely tribal. People go along with their “people” as much as anything, and I guess you’ve just joined another tribe. Mine, I think. Welcome! We’re not a very orderly lot, but fun. Well, when we’re not cynical. We’re all full of hope now. I’ll go hit your blog right now.

  5. Come to think of it, Wabbitoid, wouldn’t it be something if photographers went around taking Walker Evans-type photos of people enduring Depression-like hardships these days?

  6. Pingback: Bennies « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  7. We’d better not bail out the auto industry, that’s all I have to say! That would be like rewarding them for making bad business decisions. What ever happened to a market economy?

  8. When I first learned about FDR’s alphabet soup of programs as a teenager, they seemed genuinely heroic. The programs to get Americans working and improve the infrastrucure worked because they were not merely make work for idle hands, but made long-lasting contributions to increasing productivity and quality of life.

    I have often wondered why they weren’t recuscitated in subsequent recessions. The confluence of economic woes of today are well suited to give those solutions a second look.

  9. Pingback: On the Margin: Work « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  10. Pingback: The Wheel « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  11. Pingback: Overhead or Head Count? « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  12. Pingback: A Fireside Chat « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  13. Pingback: 100 Days « Barataria - the work of Erik Hare

  14. Pingback: “Re” Words « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  15. Pingback: A Matter of Priority « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  16. Pingback: Platform « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  17. Pingback: First Job « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  18. Pingback: Popular Front « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  19. Pingback: State of the Union: Serious « Barataria – the work of Erik Hare

  20. Pingback: Party on the Jobs Report! | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

  21. Pingback: Urbi et Tweeti | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

Like this Post? Hate it? Tell us!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s