The question we must ask today, as we remember the Works Progress Administration is: Why isn’t there the political will to take dramatic steps to address today’s jobs emergency?
Let’s start with the obvious; there was a far greater share of Americans unemployed in the Great Depression. In 1934, unemployment peaked at 24.9 percent. One-out-of-four people officially out of work is much more of a crisis than one-out-of ten (9.6 percent), the peak in the current recession in 2010. The impact is even greater than two-and-a-half times, as such a huge drop in consumer spending means that marginal businesses able to survive 10 percent unemployment rates were swept away in the Depression. And during the Depression – much more than now – it was impossible not to know people whose lives had been devastated.
The other obvious difference is that we have cushioned the impact on the unemployed through the establishment of New Deal programs,