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Archived Posters Remind Us of When Government Worked for the People

Thanks to the WPA, Posters for the People, and Berkeley for this image.

WPA Poster Image from Posters for the People and Berkeley.edu

I was reading an old magazine—one that I hadn’t read at the time it came out. The cover asked, Tired of the Doom and Gloom? I could give you the same answer then as I would now. Yes, I am tired of the doom and gloom.

This slice of timely irony encapsulated by an Utne Reader from September/October of 2008 came out at a not-so-great time for many of us. It reflected my feelings perfectly, then and now. So much so that I couldn’t even read what it had to offer at the time, but now it was one of the my last mags left to keep or recycle. This one was a keeper.

Halfway through the magazine, I came upon The Art of the New Deal by Joseph Hart who was touting socially responsible posters from the Works Progress Administration, a part of FDRs New Deal. The WPA was responsible for putting people to work, including construction workers, miners, office workers, but also artists, actors, and writers. It was a true slice of progressive Americana.

The article advised that these historical posters would be available online through an organization called WPA Living Archive. I kept repeating the phrase in my mind until I got to my laptop. (It was early morning; I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee, and my brain requires java for memory.) I entered the address, and came up with nothing. I searched the words and found Posters for the People, and an incredible collection took over my screen—remnants saved from a bygone era when government, at the very least, seemed to care.

For those of you who aren’t aware, we wouldn’t have Mount Rushmore, the Hoover Dam and bridges like the Golden Gate without the WPA. It was a socially responsible program to get people back to work after the Great Depression. I know the concept sounds foreign, especially after dealing with a congress that can’t even pass a jobs bill.

To be blunt, it’s a shame we can’t find that kind of determined love of country in our government now because we would be in a heck of a lot better shape if politicians put workers first, so I say the American citizenry needs to demand it. Only then is it possible for a new congress to emerge—a congress that actually cares to do its job, and do it well.

Change will only happen if we do our job. We need to call our elected officials out, and if that doesn’t work, vote them out. And on that note, I raise my second cup of mud with a toast, “Here’s to a new deal for us all.”

 

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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