The WPA and Federal Relief Policy

By Donald S. Howard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXX
FEDERAL VERSUS STATE AND LOCAL FINANCING AND CONTROL

IN SHARP CONTRAST with the situation prevailing in 1932, the necessity for at least some degree of federal responsibility for relief needs had by 1942 won the all but unanimous support of the American people. There still remained, nevertheless, many knotty questions: How far should this principle be carried? How much of the costs of relief and employment should the federal government bear? How much administrative control should it exercise? What justification was there for assuming relatively heavy responsibilities for one kind of program, like that of the WPA, and washing its hands of others, such as that for general relief?


THE CASE FOR FEDERAL CONTROL OVER A WORK PROGRAM

To the question of how much responsibility the federal government should assume for various types of public welfare programs, there is no easy answer. All that is attempted in this chapter and the next, therefore, is an enumeration of various considerations that need to be taken into account in any attempt to say how far the federal government should go in financing and controlling a program like that of the WPA. Upon the weight given to one as opposed to another of these factors will depend the answer to the problem at hand. Various arguments offered by supporters of one side, interestingly enough, have also been advanced by protagonists in the opposite camp in favor of their position.

Before embarking upon this discussion it may not be amiss to point out that the many difficulties militating against effective administration of relief measures have undoubtedly contributed to the ever-recurring interest in giving some new authority a chance to try its hand. Dissatisfactions over the way relief has been administered have not usually been analyzed in terms of fundamental causes, but have sometimes been attributed both in this

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