Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Revive the WPA

Bring Back the WPA
I argued for this in 2009. It is still sorely needed. Better late than never.
The Works Progress Administration started in 1935 and ran all the way until the WWII jobs boom rendered it unnecessary. It was essentially a huge national jobs program. It covered the entire nation. It focused on public works projects, but also put tons of needy artists and writers on the public payroll. It was meant primarily to relieve unemployment (and it did), but the legacy of the artwork and writing and countless construction projects that were completed under its auspices lives on today. A great time to resurrect such a national jobs program would have been in 2009, in the very depths of The Great Recession. Instead, the government chose to pour most of its money directly into the banking system. Five years later, Wall Street is booming, but the "real economy" has not completely kept pace with the rising stock market. Long term unemployment, particularly among minorities and young people, persists. The Obama administration, and the Fed, have provided many forms of economic stimulus—but they have not tried a large-scale, nationwide employment program that comes close to the WPA.

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