WPA EMPLOYMENT VERSUS DIRECT RELIEF
ALTHOUGH MANY considerations advanced in support of public employment programs pertain particularly to genuine work, others relate specifically to the advantages of work relief, such as that provided by the WPA over direct assistance, in the form of commodities, store or rent orders, or cash.
Ever since the administration's earliest announcement of its proposal to establish a work program, the superiority of such a program over one of direct relief has been a most important selling point. President Roosevelt drew the issue sharply as early as January, 1935, when he declared:
I am not willing that the vitality of our people be further sapped by the giving of cash, of market baskets, of a few hours of weekly work cutting grass, raking leaves or picking up papers in the public parks. We must preserve not only the bodies of the unemployed from destitution but also their self- respect, their self-reliance and courage and determination. . . .2
Almost a year later, just as the Works Program was providing employment for some three million workers, the President told the nation:
. . . a dole would be more economical than work relief. That is true. But . . . in this business of relief we are dealing with properly self-respecting Americans to whom a mere dole outrages every instinct of individual independence.
Most Americans want to give something for what they get. That something, in this case honest work, is the saving barrier between them and moral disintegration. We propose to build that barrier high.
It was in this address that the President explained that the federal government had first established a program of direct relief "realizing that we were not doing a perfect thing but that we were____________________
See preliminary discussion of this same topic in chap. 3.