The goal of the New Deal was to get Americans back to work. But the New Deal didn't restore employment. In fact, there was even less work on average during the New Deal than before FDR took office.Leonard questioned how they could make this claim since unemployment, which reached 25 percent in the Great Depression, fell steadily until World War II. The answer: They didn't count as employed those people in temporary jobs in emergency programs via the Works Progress Administration (WPA) or Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), or any other of Roosevelt's popular New Deal workfare programs.
Three and a half million people were employed through these programs, which helped them buy food, pay for shelter and maintain some self-respect. My grandfather was one of those people, as I commented here earlier, and a stretch of pine trees he helped plant along US-41 between Houghton and Calumet (in Michigan) still stands today.
These workers made phenomenal contributions to our country. (h/t economist Marshall Auerback via James Galbraith)
The government hired about 60 per cent of the unemployed in public works and conservation projects that planted a billion trees, saved the whooping crane, modernized rural America, and built such diverse projects as the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, the Montana state capitol, much of the Chicago lakefront, New York's Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge complex, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the aircraft carriers Enterprise and Yorktown.Not too shabby for a bunch of unemployed people who didn't count, eh?
It also built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country's entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.