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Put America back to work!

August 16, 2010

In this 75th anniversary year of the WPA, it’s time!

by Dave Welsh

Aaron Douglas, a leading Harlem Renaissance painter, traces the history of Blacks as Master Builders in “Building More Stately Mansions” (1944). His murals in the library in Harlem were funded by the WPA. Let’s put Blacks back to work in construction and raise up a new generation of Master Builders!
Seventy-five years ago, on April 8, 1935, Congress passed legislation creating the largest public works program in U.S. history. A month later, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order founding the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which created 8.5 million jobs during the Depression of the 1930s.

But the WPA didn’t just happen because of the kindness and concern of President Roosevelt. It was a response to a tremendous mass movement in the streets and workplaces all over the U.S. – from the World War I soldiers’ Bonus March and the Ford Hunger March of 1932, to the San Francisco general strike and large industrial actions in Toledo and Minneapolis in 1934, to later sit-downs in the auto plants of Michigan, to militant actions by Unemployed Councils in hundreds of cities.

It was this pressure from below that got us the WPA, which put millions of people back to work. It’s also what got us New Deal programs like Social Security, which many of us depend on for daily survival to this very day.

Today’s economic crisis is much worse than the media lets on. Unemployment in manufacturing is almost at Great Depression levels. What we have now is an economy based on permanent high unemployment and low wages … a political and economic system that provides trillions of dollars in bailouts for Wall Street and trillions of dollars for war but nothing for large numbers of workers and the poor, who face growing joblessness, foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, low wages, hunger and homelessness.

The money is there! It’s just a question of who gets it.

It seems the bankers and war profiteers are always first in line to get paid! But when it comes to money for jobs or housing or schools – anything that will benefit workers and their families – better forget it! I found a good explanation of this problem in a recent article by Fred Goldstein, author of the eye-opening new book, “Low Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay.” He points out that public education is being brutally cut back, and the reason given is that city and state governments face declining revenue due to the bad economy. Their reasoning: “Budget cuts must be made. It is a matter of arithmetic. You cannot spend what you don’t have.”

“But that is capitalist arithmetic,” Goldstein continues. “If you cannot spend what you don’t have, then how can the federal government write a $750 billion check to the biggest banks, buy up their bad debts and guarantee their loans to the tune of $10 trillion while handing the Pentagon more than $700 billion each year?

“Apparently you can spend what you ‘don’t have’ when it is going to the super-rich” – the top 1 percent of the population that owns 42.7 percent of all the financial wealth in the country. But the money is suddenly unavailable when schools are being closed and teachers laid off. Class sizes are going up and our children suffer. “Meanwhile, hundreds of billions of dollars that these state and city governments owe to banks and bondholders in interest payments are going to be paid out on time,” writes Goldstein.

“So there is money. It is just a matter of who is going to get it.” His proposal? – spend the money wisely for real needs like schools, jobs, health care and housing, and cancel the debt to the banks and wealthy bondholders!

To get what we need, there’s no substitute for huge throngs of people in the streets, shaking the established order.

Yes, the money is there to put America back to work. But where is the mass movement that will be necessary to make this a reality?

The AFL-CIO has a worthy five-point Jobs Plan, but unless we can generate a lot more “street heat” it’s going nowhere in Congress. Many local and state unions have proposed a massive labor-community march on Washington, and the Oct. 2, 2010, “One Nation” march in the nation’s capital is a step in the right direction.

Look around you. Our infrastructure is falling apart. Schools and health care facilities are understaffed. Houses sit vacant while homelessness spreads. We need the same kind of bold, sweeping jobs program that people demanded – and got – in the 1930s.

There are between 20 and 30 million unemployed and underemployed people in the country today. We need a real WPA-type program that is big enough to ensure that those who need work get work – work that is socially useful and paying union wages and benefits – a real jobs program fully funded by the government.

Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated the final months of his life to starting a movement for the right of everyone to a job or a guaranteed income – and we need a movement like that now. The issue of jobs is on the front burner: All it needs is a flame. And as in the 1930s, only a massive movement in the streets and workplaces will bring about a real public jobs program like the WPA.

In this 75th anniversary year of the WPA, which created 8.5 million public jobs during the Depression of the 1930s, we need to call on community, church and women’s organizations, the AFL-CIO and all of organized labor to do two things:

1) Fight for a real WPA-type program that is big enough to ensure that those who need work get work – work that is socially useful and paying union wages and benefits – a real jobs program fully funded by the government.

2) Organize a massive labor-community march on Washington and regular actions in cities and towns all over the U.S., with the urgent demand: Put America back to work!

David Welsh is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council. He was a writer and senior editor for Ramparts Magazine in the 1960s, edited “Soul on Ice,” the prison essays of Eldridge Cleaver; and served for many years as executive vice president of the Letter Carriers Union in San Francisco. He can be reached at

4 thoughts on “Put America back to work!

  1. Wingnut


    Author, do you know what a 'job' IS? Do you realize its a servitude slot aboard a pyramid scheme?

    You DO see the pyramid scheme symbol on the back of the USA one dollar bill, right? You DO see the servitude infestation in capitalism, right? And do you see the "pay up or lose your wellbeing" Chicago mob-like felony extortion widespread within capitalism? Do you see the "join or starve" felony extortion done to the 18 year olds… by this ugly competer's church called capitalism? See how forcing competer's religions onto 18 year olds… kills membership in the cooperator's church (Christianity/socialism)?? Do you understand that AmWay (American Way) (New World Order) got "the exclusive" (legal tender) on the TYPE of survival coupons (money) accepted in supply depots (stores) and leverages 18 year olds into the organization via that felony activity as well? (It puts AmWay-coupon slaving requirements called price tags… on all the survival goods). Do you understand how farmyard pyramids work… from your childhood?? Remember?? Upper 1/3 are "heads in the clouds" while the kids on the bottom ALWAYS GET HURT from the weight of the world's knees in their backs? Still with me? Do you see anything illegal, immoral, or just plain sick… in any of this pyramid scheme's activities?

    Us American Christian socialists are still patiently awaiting the natural fall of the pyramid-o-servitude, or the busting of the free marketeers felony… by the USA Dept of Justice. Us Christians are VERY CLOSE to issuing a cease and desist order until the servitude and inequality goes away… which means it turns into a commune. Commune is a word we LOVE when used in the word "community"… but its one the caps HATE when used in the term "commune-ism". Go fig. PROGRAMMED!!

    Do a Google IMAGE SEARCH for 'pyramid of capitalist' to see a full color picture made way back in 1911, when capitalism was first discovered to be a con/sham instigated by the Free Masons/Illuminati. Folks sure bought into the thing… hook, line, and sinker just the same. The caps didn't even check if a string was attached! Now THAT'S easy fishing, eh?

    Time to level the felony pyramid scheme called capitalism. Abolish economies and ownershipism worldwide, and hurry. Economies just cause rat-racing, and rat-racing causes felony pyramiding. BUST IT, America! Look to the USA military supply/survival system… (and the USA public library system) for socialism and morals done right. Equal, owner-less, money-less, bill-less, timecard-less, and concerned with growth of value-criteria OTHER THAN money-value. Quit doing monetary discrimination immediately, and make it illegal. There are MANY measurement criteria of "value"… not just dollars. Try morals, efficiency, discrimination-levels, repairability, etc etc. Economies are cancerous tumors, and to cheer for their growth… is just insane. Profiting causes inflation, so if caps LIKE inflation, and if they LIKE a terrible time in afterlife when they meet the planet's ORIGINAL OWNER before caps tried to squat it all with ownershipism, then keep it up with the felony pyramiding. I dare you. While us Christians are finally bulldozing that pyramid scheme back to level, lets make servitude and "join or starve" (get a job or die) illegal in the USA, and lets level the architecture seen in USA courtrooms, too. Right now, USA courtrooms are church simulators or "fear chambers", by special design. Sick.


  2. Wingnut

    (continued from previous post)

    Isn't that back-of-the-dollar pyramid… a Columbian freemason symbol? And WHERE is the USA gov located? District of Columbia? (Not even part of the USA!) How much more blatant can ya get? The "Fed" runs a pyramid scheme called the free marketeers. If you're using the "federal reserve note" certificates, or using no-other-living-thing-on-the-planet entitles of ownership, you're bought into a servitude/slavery con/sham… called capitalism. Pyramiding 101.

    Fight the correct incorrect system, my friend. Fight for the abolishment of economies/ownershipism. Not a single other living creature on the entire planet uses them. Its a man-made-up thing… and monetary discrimination is/should-be a felony. Any use of "OR ELSE" and "OR STARVE" is blatant felony extortion. Seeing any of that going-on in capitalism? RAMPANT. Look at the USA military's commune. See ANY fear for survival from not being able to attain survival supplies? No. They use discriminationless requisition forms instead of rationed AmWay greenpapers, and they use custodianship instead-of ownership.

    See any fear for survival on the civilian side? Again, RAMPANT. Jobs = servitude (working FOR others instead of WITH others, and HAVE TO go to work instead of GET TO go to work.) Get a 'job', and you've joined, condoned, and promoted…. the competer's church (that ate a nation). Stick with the cooperator's church. (Amish, Quakers, Mennonite, communes, USA military supply system, USA public library system). They are not perfect communes, but with some help, they could be. Be good.

    Larry "Wingnut" Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain't Right
    Bessemer MI USA

  3. Kamacho Jones

    Basically, this is all part of gorge bushs plan to hate on black people. we need the government to give the people all of whiteys money, cuz whitey doesnt deserve it. time to put whitey to work in the cotton fealds. time to make whitey our b1tch.

  4. Wingnut

    I wonder if the first half of my post will ever be released from moderation? The second part wasn't moderated and showed up instantly. Goofy.

    KJ, some of us whiteys have been fighting for equal rights for all… since we first found out there wasn't any. Believe you me, SOME of us see the discrimination, and are working on eliminating it to the degree that our tools allow. The people pulling the strings… aren't listening. They are starting to chew on their own body parts, now, having already forsaken their own young. But race isn't the core problem. Racing is. Rat-racing… no matter the color… is the problem. And racing comes from enjoyment addictions… one of them being addiction to the enjoyment of being served (services). A servitude addiction is one of the worst addictions to have, and its pretty sick, morals/fairness-wise. Some of us are working on it.


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