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Who Says Government Can't Create Jobs?

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Who says, Mr. Speaker, that government can't create jobs? The greatest need of the American people today is jobs, but the question before them is this: Who is responsible and how should jobs be created?

Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, liberals, moderates, and conservatives all agree that the private sector is the primary source of jobs. However, with 9 percent official unemployment--the reality is it's much higher--and 25 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed, it's self-evident that the private sector has not supplied enough jobs and either can not or will not create enough full-time jobs today to employ the 25 million people who need them.

So what do we do? Throw our hands up and say, ``Nothing can be done,'' Congress?

Democrats generally believe in ``priming the pump,'' through deficit spending if necessary, to create jobs and stimulate the economy in order to put the overall economy back on track during these times when the private sector has obviously failed us. In the past, many Republicans have generally agreed; but this current Tea Party-Republican Party, all of whom have government jobs and employ government staffs, doesn't agree and generally argues that the government can't create jobs. Really?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we are reminded by Michael Hiltzik in his new book ``The New Deal: A Modern History,'' reveals a different truth, which is the source of the following information:

FDR was sworn into office on March 4, 1933. He came up with the idea himself of a Civilian Conservation Corps on March 13, the first jobs program of the New Deal. He presented his idea to a White House aide, Raymond Moley, on March 14--an idea that he had just come up with the night before. The idea was to put platoons of young unemployed men to work in the forests and the national parks. That very afternoon, a memo and a skeleton bill went out to the four Secretaries who would be involved in implementing his CCC plan--Frances Perkins, Labor; Henry A. Wallace, Agriculture; Harold L. Ickes, Interior; and George H. Dern, War--the first interdisciplinary agency of the New Deal.

The next day, on March 15, the four Secretaries returned a joint response proposing a wider relief program, encompassing not only a Civilian Conservation Corps, but a public works program and a grants-in-aid to States and municipalities for relief. On March 21, FDR sent a message to Congress involving, among other things, his idea of a CCC. In his message, he observed ``more important ..... than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work ..... We can take a vast army of these unemployed out to healthful surroundings.''

Congress debated and passed the Civilian Conservation Corps program in 8 days, on March 29. By early April, the CCC was open for business. The first registrant was 19-year-old Fiore Rizzo of New York, who arrived on April 7 in a cab with three of his friends at an Army recruiting station in downtown Manhattan. Rizzo belonged to a family of 13, whose father had not worked in 3 years.

So how did these government-created jobs work out?

The average enrollee signed up at the age of 18 1/2 , stayed for 9 months--6 months was the minimum tour, 2 years the maximum--and gained up to 30 pounds during his term, thanks to three square meals a day served up by the Army quartermasters as fuel for daily labor.

The program ramped up quickly. By July, there were 1,300 camps housing 275,000 enrollees, already working vigorously on projects that would rank among the most notable legacies of the New Deal. Before the CCC ended and with the coming of war mobilization in 1942, the CCC built 125,000 miles of roads, 46,000 bridges, more than 300,000 dams to check erosion, planted more than 3 billion trees, and strung 89,000 miles of telephone wire.

The camps instilled in many of these young men the concept of an American identity. No doubt the comradery was fostered by a shared resentment of the camps' martial regimen, the rising with the bugler's call, the mandate to keep their bunks and footlockers in order, and the heeding of senior officers without discussion. Mr. Speaker, I can only imagine that, today, these Army quartermasters would demand that our young men pull up their pants. The Army, too, found the experience valuable. As War Secretary George Dern confided to Frances Perkins a year into the program, his officer corps had had to learn ``to govern men by leadership, explanation and diplomacy rather than discipline. The knowledge is priceless.''

The CCC would serve as a model for national service programs of a later era, such as the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and VISTA.

``There was pride in the work,'' one former boy still recalls 60 years later. ``We built something, and I knew I helped ..... It was something you could take pride in, and there wasn't a lot of pride available in those days.''

Among the New Deal programs, the CCC would inspire almost universal affection, even more so than Social Security.

Mr. Speaker, the Federal Government can create jobs.

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