Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Denying the New Deal contributions

Andrew Leonard at Salon has an interesting article criticizing the WSJ for their "increasingly shrill declarations that the New Deal absolutely, positively did not work," and he took particular exception with economists, Harold L. Cole and Lee. E. Ohanian, who made the following claim.
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.

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.
Not too shabby for a bunch of unemployed people who didn't count, eh?


abi said...

I think I've heard enough jive talk in my life that pretty much nothing shocks me anymore. But this blatant lie about the failure of the New Deal that is suddenly cropping up from the muck (like the WSJ) is pretty stunning. The last time I heard such a bizarre distortion of facts like this was out of the mouth of Michelle Malkin, the first time I ever heard of her, when she was on some talk show defending the US imprisonment of Japanese civilians in the US during WWII.

Ok, Malkin's a wackjob and only other wackjobs listen to her. But the WSJ has a lot of influence, and it's scary to see them so willing to flat-out lie about something like this.

K. said...

Those guys are shameless. It's like they revel in their intellectual dishonesty.

Abi, Malkin has been riding that hobby horse since her days as a mere columnist for the Seattle Times. Not to excuse her, but she is of Filipino descent, which probably explains her antipathy to the Japanese of WW II. Of course, what that has to do with Japanese-Americans, I dunno.

Kathy said...

Abi, except for Faux News, I used to think the media made an (imperfect) effort to be fair and balanced, but I no longer believe that. It's gotten so bad that I can barely read an article without having to resort to verifying their facts. They don't even make an attempt to be accurate anymore.

K, I agree that they revel in their intellectual dishonesty. As I told someone yesterday, Republicans can't dazzle us with their brilliance, so they have to resort to baffling us with bullshit.

Sadly, too many people accept what they say as the truth.