National Service… WPA Style

Let’s start out with a little history lesson here.

In 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt along with a Democratic congress passed the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act which resulted in the Work Progress Administration (WPA). That organization employed millions of job-seekers during the Great Depression to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. Part of the WPA that I am most familiar with was the Civilian Conservation Corp. Their work in State Parks and other public places are still very prized today. The top photo here is from the Giant City Lodge State Park in southern Illinois celebrating their contributions.

As shown to the right the WPA had an annual budget of $1.3 billion which was about 7% of GDP. That is the equivalent of $1.5 trillion/year in today’s terms. WPA provided jobs instead of handouts or pandemic checks.

Getting back to today, there is now a vast army of young people ready and yearning to serve their country. Given our current times there will likely be no jobs for many of those currently graduating from college for some time. Most high school graduates can no longer afford the cost of college. This current generation passing into their earning years are a passionate and idealistic and are ready to serve. They want to be part of the solution of fixing what we Baby Boomers have destroyed in the last couple of decades. If our government funded a “National Service” that is similar the WPA, there would suddenly be a wealth of work for them to do.

The most immediate needs would be:

  • Contact tracing
  • bringing food to the hungry
  • supporting the elderly
  • supporting local government agencies
  • Tutoring elementary school students, so they can make up for lost time.
  • Finding creative ways to make government agencies more accountable and responsible

Besides accomplishing all these very necessary tasks, National Service would also instill a feeling of community participation among this very enthusiastic generation. And maybe most importantly it would give them a way of contributing to the country that does not involve carrying a gun. Maybe among this batch is another Jeff Bezos who would bring government agencies into the 21st century with tools that respond instantly to the needs at hand.

For anyone interesting here is a closer look at the bottom of the sculpture of the CCC worker.

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