Those Who Don’t Remember History . . .
While Republicans seem determined to take us back to the Gilded Age, it helps to remember how we escaped that era and became a great country. Two pieces in the past few days reminds us of the Depression that came out of the laissez-faire policies that dominated political discourse and the New Deal that helped remake the country. Joe Nocera discusses the classic book Since Yesterday.
Allen makes the surprising point that, while small business suffered terribly during the Great Depression, big corporations did well. When large companies needed to lay off workers to maintain profitability, they did so ruthlessly. Bursts of economic growth, however, were rarely accompanied by an increase in employment. Why? Because new technology allowed companies to increase productivity at the expense of workers. Just like today.
The New Deal physically reshaped the country. To this day, Americans still rely on its works for transportation, electricity, flood control, housing, and community amenities. The output of one agency alone, the Works Progress Administration, represents a magnificent bequest to later generations. The WPA produced, among many other projects, 1,000 miles of new and rebuilt airport runways, 651,000 miles of highway, 124,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, and 18,000 playgrounds and athletic fields; some 84,000 miles of drainage pipes, 69,000 highway light standards, and 125,000 public buildings built, rebuilt, or expanded. Among the latter were 41,300 schools.
The New Deal remade the country for the better. And it did so in response to the worst economic crisis this country has ever faced. As Republican presidential candidates talk about getting government off our backs, it is good to remember this.Click here for reuse options!
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