WPA for Today?


forgingIn the State of the Union speech last month, the President asked Congress to prepare a new jobs bill for his signature asap. What should it include? The powers that be seem bereft of ideas. Obama has dropped all his talk of ‘weatherization’ creating the jobs to bring us out of the recession, thank goodness. Not that it’s a bad idea, you just can’t put millions of people to work caulking. Obama is now lobbing the problem over to Congress. Wonder what they will come up with? Pork perhaps? Earmarks already identified? Road projects to repair our crumbling infrastructure, especially in states such as Texas that pride themselves more on tax cuts than taking care of people?
I shudder to think.

I’ve been wondering though, since all this ‘jobs’ talk started way back at the beginning of the recession. Back when we weren’t even calling it a recession yet. I admit to being a bit excited at the prospect of what the government could do, since I have always admired the work done during the WPA era. Those great Arts & Crafts designs for public works buildings, bridges, parks, schools. Almost every community had something constructed by the agency. It also operated large arts projects, including drama, media and literacy, fed children, and redistributed food and clothing.
It was a wheel that could be reused, instead of creating a new one.

The jobs paid the prevailing wage in their community (this was before minimum wage). WPA jobs were limited to 30 hours per week, and only one adult of an unemployed couple could get one, to spread the jobs among as many breadwinners as possible.We need to encourage our representatives to think along these lines. It seems as though without vision, they are happy to take federal money to complete projects their state has underway anyway, then take credit for ‘cutting taxes’ since they didn’t use that state money after all. We need to shore up the arts, provide help for theater companies who visit schools, provide a place for communities to connect, and a reason to go out for an evening, maybe eat out, too, and increase the local restaurant business.

Live theater is expensive to produce, and if we don’t want our viewing choices to be limited to only blockbuster films that Hollywood beancounters know will be a success, we need to go, see, and do, if we can, but definitely send a message to our representatives that we don’t want a jobs bill that leaves out the arts. Wouldn’t it be great to fund artists to create at least visiting art and music programs in schools where they’ve been cut?

In spite of mounting pressure to cover only the social programs that fill the holes left by corporations so that they can stay alive to move more jobs offshore, we need to look up again, not just over our shoulders.

Author: Reba Saxon

Reba Saxon finds it hard to write a short concise bio. She has had at least a dozen jobs in her life, and has three current businesses in addition to writing: real estate broker, auctioneer, and apartment locator. She has been in sales and publishing for 25 years, loves to teach anything, and wishes she could be paid for just driving around and describing it. She has driven a minimum of 30,000 miles annually since she had a license 40 years ago. Over a million miles is a meditation style.

1 thought on “WPA for Today?”

  1. The problem with the federal government funding arts is that nothing comes without strings. The last thing we want is for the government telling the arts — the place where a large part of the creativity of human kind lies — what and what not they can express. Caulking, maybe. Arts, no. In the 30s, the government kept a tight rein on what could be produced, drawn, sung. We’ve moved past that and I, for one, do not want to go back to that sort of governmental control. Freedom does not come without sacrifice but I have to come down on the side of freedom.

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