President Joe Biden’s proposed $ 2 trillion infrastructure bill “brings us one step closer to repairing, rebuilding and restoring our country,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.
“Repair, Rebuild, and Recover” reminded me of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “three Rs” of the New Deal: “Relief, Reform, and Recover.”
New Deal’s public works programs provided paychecks to millions of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the worst economic calamity in our history. The workers built roads, highways, roads, bridges, schools, parks, airports, courthouses, and other public buildings.
If all politics is local, so is history. The New Deal brought concrete streets and curbs to Bardwell, the home of Carlisle County where I live. More on that in a minute.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in massive job losses. The unemployment rate rose to nearly 15 percent this month a year ago. (It fell to 6 percent last month.)
“A job is a lot more than a paycheck,” said Biden tweeted on the campaign. “It’s about dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about being able to look your child in the eye and say that everything will be fine. ”
That rang my doorbell. The FDR also understood that gainful employment didn’t just put money in workers’ pockets. A job also offered essential dignity.
Jobs and dignity were in short supply as the president and a Democratic majority Congress brought the country back to work on federally funded construction projects, many of them in Kentucky. Regardless of the size of the project, they have all been designed for the common good.
Almost 90 years later, many of the projects are still in operation.
In the back of my neck in the woods of deep west Kentucky, courthouses built under the Works Progress Administration are still the seat of county government in Paducah and Princeton.
TVA’s Kentucky Dam still powers millions of our homes and businesses. Much of this power impulse through rural electrical cooperatives began under the Rural Electrification Administration.
In Arlington, where my wife and I live, our power comes from West Kentucky Rural Electric, where the line crews are from Paducah-based IBEW Local 816. The Wagner Act, also a milestone in the New Deal legislation, guaranteed workers the right to form trade union organizations.
Eight miles west of our house is Columbus-Belmont State Park, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the FDR’s “tree army”.
The legacy of the New Deal is visible in our region – much of it comes from the WPA, the largest and most famous public works project. For example, WPA crews built the Noble Park swimming pool in Paducah and the old fine arts building at Murray State University.
Also in Carlisle County, WPA workers drained swampy Wilson Creek to control mosquito-borne malaria outbreaks. Bardwell’s WPA concrete roads have been paved. But the curbs and concrete curbs remain.
The New Deal helped the FDR wear Kentucky on all four landslides won.
Since then, Kentucky has become one of the redest of the Republican red states. So the Kentucky Democratic Party is in the process of reviving, reorganizing, and rebuilding its own “three Rs”.
Okay, so why did the history lesson team up with historians Michael Beschloss, Joanne Freeman, Eddie Glaude Jr., and Doris Kerns Goodwin besides the fact that historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. was an advisor to President John F. Kennedy and Biden?
If I were a KDP bigwig, I’d cite ongoing New Deal projects – there are hundreds across the state – as an example of what the party has meant to Kentuckians … and what it still means. Self-employed musician, sound engineer and democratic activist Hal Linderman agrees.
Linderman, who ran for Congress last year, said New Deal-era structures are easy to spot. Many have bronze plaques on their doors. He added that the buildings “will visibly benefit the average citizen and that the Democrats can recognize them”.
I also want to encourage the Democrats to point out that most Republicans have classified the New Deal – including social security – as “socialist” and “communist”.
The GOP sings the same old tune against Biden’s Infrastructure Act. Nary a Republican backed the president’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, which will help reduce the number of unemployed – and increase Biden’s approval rating.
I’m pretty sure Biden doesn’t mind being compared to the FDR, which historians count among our three greatest presidents. (George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are the other two.)
The next time he gives a talk on his infrastructure bill, he could quote from one of the FDR’s most famous speeches, the 1936, in which he spoke about the “second” New Deal.
Roosevelt was looking for a second term. Much of the speech was addressed to his right-wing Republican enemies, the spiritual ancestors of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell’s party.
“Never in our history have these forces been so united against a candidate as they are today,” challenged Roosevelt before delivering the most frequently quoted line in the speech: “They unanimously hate me – and I applaud their hatred.”
There’s a lot more material for Biden elsewhere in the speech. Roosevelt pointed out that the Republicans who ruled the Washington Political Quarters in the 1920s and started the Depression through policies that enriched the already rich and impoverished workers “had begun to view the United States government as a mere appendix to their own affairs . We now know that organized money government is just as dangerous as organized mob government. “
We now know that organized money government is just as dangerous as organized mob government. – FDRClick to tweet
Mere appendix to their own affairs. Organized money. Organized mob. I can’t think of better words to describe the Trump GOP.
Trump and the Trumpers believed the government’s purpose was to fill their pockets. When voters gave him the boot, Trump rallied believers to storm the Capitol, terrorize lawmakers, overturn the elections and keep him in power.
Roosevelt called the plutocrats of his day “evildoers of great wealth”. They believed that only rich white matter lived. So did Don the Don, his Capo dei Capi, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republican “family”.