The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII
WORK VERSUS UNEMPLOYMENT

"JOBS FOR THE JOBLESS"

REPEATEDLY President Roosevelt has insisted that the only decent way to treat the unemployed is to give them employment.

"The able-bodied unemployed," the President once declared, "need work and should have it."1"This Administration," he has said, "recognizes that total defense of our shores, our homes, our institutions, cannot be complete until all Americans willing and able to work have a job and a decent standard of living. . . ."2

The same note was struck in the Democratic platform for 1940:

By public action, where necessary to supplement private re-employment, we have rescued millions from idleness that breeds weakness and given them a real stake in their country's well-being. We shall continue to recognize the obligation of government to provide work for deserving workers who cannot be absorbed by private industry.

The Republican platform, by contrast, said nothing about government's responsibility for providing jobs when other means failed. Although the Republicans proposed "to re-create opportunity for the youth of America and put our idle millions back to work in private industry, business and agriculture,"3 details and working plans by which it was expected that this could be effected were not given.

Though proud of what his administration had accomplished in giving jobs to unemployed workers, President Roosevelt has clearly recognized that government employment is no ideal or final answer to the problem of unemployment. Of this he said, in 1940:

While the number of the unemployed has decreased (very greatly), while their immediate needs for food and clothing--as far as the Federal Government is concerned--have been largely met, while their morale has been kept

____________________
1
As quoted in the New York Times, March 12, 1938.
2
Ibid., August 19, 1940.
3
Ibid., July 21, 1940.

-775-

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