The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVI
FEDERAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR
MEETING RELIEF NEEDS

THE FEDERAL government, especially since 1933, has accepted more or less responsibility for aiding needy persons of many types. While disclaiming responsibility for certain kinds of need, it claims to have assumed a special degree of responsibility for aiding needy persons who are employable. Yet, the federal government has neither met effectively the need of the employable unemployed nor has it maintained a completely aloof attitude toward relief needs for which it has disavowed responsibility.1


INCREASED RESPONSIBILITY FOR RELIEF ONLY ONE
ASPECT OF THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT

Federal responsibility for relief cannot properly beunderstood apart from consideration of the increasingly important role of the national government in a number of fields which vitally affect the American people. As Aubrey Williams once stated, the development of a national program of public work for the unemployed was but one result of the belief that, since our economy is national in character, problems growing out of that economy should be solved by federal action.

The recent growth in the importance of the federal government, so greatly accelerated during the 1930's, got its start soon after this nation was founded.2

____________________
1
This issue is further discussed in the succeeding chapter. Except when otherwise specified, the term "federal responsibility," as used in this chapter in connection with the role various observers have thought the government should play in aiding needy persons, connotes no particular degree of participation and implies nothing as to whether the federal government should bear all, half, or any other specified proportion of the cost of such assistance. Neither does the term connote any particular type of responsibility as, for example, that the federal government should or should not itself control and operate assistance programs. Problems regarding degree of administrative and financial responsibility for various relief programs are discussed in chaps. 1, 30, 31.
2
This is clear in what H. S. Commager has said of the long history of the growth of federal power in the United States: "The efforts of the present Administration [i.e. that of President Roosevelt] to extend national supervision over such matters

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