2011-10-27 / Editorial

Scattering Seeds

BY JOHN A. MURPHY

Take a look around, and you will be able to spot them. I refer to the small bronze plaques bearing the “Works Progress Administration” logo. These can be found in most of our nation’s public places, affixed to civic structures, the stuff we now call “infrastructure”.

You can find these plaques in Jamestown. I have spotted them on the seawall at East Ferry, and on a retaining wall at the corner of Cole and High Streets.

The WPA was the largest and most ambitious agency of the New Deal, the name given to the plethora of federal government programs designed to foster employment, and thereby help end, at least in America, the worldwide economic catastrophe commonly known as the Great Depression. The WPA operated from 1935 to 1943, and its operations resulted in the creation of almost eight million jobs. It is well described in a Wikipedia essay available on-line. [Contact me if you want a copy.]

Now consider two points:

First, the infrastructure created under the WPA is a minimum of 68 years old. By and large, most of the WPAconstructed items have reached or are reaching functional obsolescence. That is, after many years of good service, these structures are close to worn out, or are no longer practically usable given increased demand and/or changes in our patterns of use today.

Second, there is rampant unemployment in America, the highest rates of jobless citizens seeking work since the Great Depression. There are five applicants for every job opening. The unemployed seeking work include young people hoping to enter the work force; veterans returning to civilian life after military service; and middle-aged workers whose careers have been cut short by “downsizing” or their jobs shifted to a foreign country.

It seems plainly obvious that we, as a nation, in consideration of these two converging occurrences, should use our common sense, and get to work rebuilding this country’s infrastructure.

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