The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVIII
FEDERAL RESPONSIBILITY (CONTINUED)

PRECEDENTS FOR USING RESOURCES AND POWER OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO AID DISADVANTAGED GROUPS

AMONG ARGUMENTS most frequently advanced in support of federal responsibility for relief needs is that such responsibility is but a logical extension of the government's long-recognized role of using its power and resources to help groups among the American people who can convince Congress that they need special help at any given time.

Thus, the federal government has established tariffs to aid struggling and infant industries, and has made direct and indirect subsidies to other far from infant industries, including railroads, airlines, shipping companies, and publishing concerns.1 It has sometimes fostered and sometimes restricted immigration, depending upon whether the nation's labor supply needed to be increased to meet demands of expanding industry, or needed to be limited because of increasing unemployment.

Even more important, perhaps, has been the use of the public domain to help individuals to get a new start in life. Precedents most closely related to national responsibility for relief needs are found in the long list of appropriations of federal funds for disaster relief in this country and also in foreign countries.

Finally, just before the federal government went into the relief business in a really big way, there was established President Hoover's Reconstruction Finance Corporation which even during his regime lent, invested, or allocated nearly three billion dollars. Although the bulk of these funds--concrete evidence of the use

____________________
1
In a detailed report, Government and Economic Life, published by the Brookings Institution (and written by Leverett S. Lyon, Victor Abramson, and others) there are enumerated various kinds of help given from time to time to some of the nation's most important industries. According to this report, special aids have not been limited to struggling industries of a more primitive stage of America's economic development but have, with the passage of time, been extended to a "greatly increased" number of industries. Writing of tariffs, one of the forms federal aid to industry has taken, these writers termed them "a dole de luxe." Then, too, there were the many types of governmental aid to railroads. These have included freedom from restrictions upon rates, outright grants of funds and land, the latter being primarily from the federal government.--Washington, 1940, vol. 2, pp. 609-610, 751.

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