Hey Uncle Sam, What Changed?

My grandfather, were he still alive, would be glad to share numerous stories of his work with the CCC during the hard years of the 1930s. His mother got 90 cents out of every dollar he earned (sent directly to her by the camp). He got to work hard, play hard and sleep in conditions which would be considered cruel and unusual punishment by today’s prison inmates.

Walter Russell Mead notes something interesting about that time:

In the Depression, shovel ready still meant something. No OSHA inspectors, no EPA paperwork: if the government wanted to open a camp and put 1,000 untrained young men to work clearing brush and draining the local swamp, it could do it without tripping over red tape — and without armies of trial lawyers looking to sue on behalf of any temp workers hit by falling trees, bitten by snakes, or scared by spooky bats.

The federal government has become its own worst enemy with regard to infrastructure projects. The state governments are not far behind, though they lack to funding (in most cases) to pull off the really big messes like The Big Dig.

If progress is paperwork, we have reached the end goal. If progress means that real work gets done on time and under budget, then those who are currently in power may only hypocritically claim that mantle.

2 thoughts on “Hey Uncle Sam, What Changed?

  1. It was also hard, manual labor. I don’t believe those are the government jobs the unemployed want.

    **Editors note: Moved your comment to correct post. Nothing changed. Comment link is upper right on post, not lower right.**

    1. You are correct about the difficulty of the labor. However, as is the case with those who lived during the depression, people may find that they will do even hard things to stay alive and to care for family.

      I am reminded of Walter Russell Mead in talking about the cities and minorities and unemployment: “Think of the path to successful middle class living as a ladder; the lower rungs on that ladder are not nice places to be, but if those rungs don’t exist, nobody can climb. When politicians talk about creating jobs, they always talk about creating “good” jobs. That is all very well, but unless there are bad jobs and lots of them, people in the inner cities will have a hard time getting on the ladder at all, much less climbing into the middle class.”

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