It took eight years for America to pull itself out of the Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929. By 1932, unemployment had risen to more than 23 percent.
With the election of Frankin D. Roosevelt as president, the federal government began a series of counter-measures that came to be known as the “New Deal.” Among them were the creation of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), established in 1935 and dissolved in 1943 amid World War II. In those eight years, the WPA built 650,000 miles of roads, 78,000 bridges, 125,000 buldings and 700 miles of airport runways.
Through its projects, the WPA employed hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans. Thousands more worked on projects launched by the Public Works Administration (PWA), which contracted private construction firms that hired workers in the open market.
In recent years, Washington has conceived “economic stimulus packages” designed to bust the Great Recession by supposedly expediting “shovel-ready projects” across the U.S. Yet for all the hype and money invested in this movement, there’s little to show for it.
Billions in stimulus money have been appropriated, but so far it hasn’t built or repaired much of the infrastructure that holds this country together.
However, there are two industrial efforts in the news which some project could employ thousands of people while also decreasing the dependency of this country on products from other nations—and others claim will ruin our environment.
One is called hydro-fracking, a drilling process whereby natural gas is taken from huge underground shales across portions of this country, including in upstate New York. The other project is the proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to seaports in Texas.
The companies behind these projects claim that they will result in immediate economic benefit to thousands of Americans; land owners will also profit from leasing or selling their properties to drillers or pipeline developers. But environmental groups claim that the projects will have a hazardous effect on wildlife and even local water supplies.
Both arguments have plenty of merit, and there have been plenty of studies conducted regarding these projects. But is this the solution to our economic troubles, or are we setting the table to bring more problems to our country?
On one hand, we have ineffective stimulus packages approved by the government; on the other hand, we have private industry offering solutions that may prove to be hazardous to our health. Meanwhile, our economic problems continue to fester, with no end in sight—and we’re more interested in the reasons why some celebrity’s marriage ended in 72 days than we are in finding a fix to this giant mess.
Our priorities are out of whack here. Millions are out of work, paychecks aren’t going as far as they used to and nobody in power seems to be willing to take responsible actions to end the recession. And we’re too satisfied with the bread and circus that we’re given to distract us from our problems.
We can fix this mess just as we fixed previous economic woes; we just need to be awake to do it.
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