We need the work done, and they need the work, so…

Posted by By at 4 October, at 08 : 36 AM Print

Gifford Pinchot did it. In 1931, his state in the grip of The Great Depression and his state’s roads a muddy mess, Gov. Pinchot declared he would “get the farmers out of the mud.”

Pinchot was governor of Pennsylvania 1923-1927 and 1931-1935. (In those days, the state constitution prohibited a governor succeeding himself). As he took office on his second term, farmers in the mostly agrarian commonwealth were losing their farms to auctioneers’ gavels, as they found themselves increasingly unable to pay old mortgages with new, lesser-valued and harder to get hold of money.

Part of the farmers’ problem was inability to get their goods to market. Most of the state’s roads were dirt – muddy in rain and potholed in dry weather. Farmers often had to ask people living nearby to help unstick their vehicles. Pinchot campaigned on a promise to fix the rural roads that had been largely ignored by state and federal road building programs.

And fix them, he did. He convinced the state’s General Assembly to take funding responsibility for 20,000 miles of roads connecting townships with other municipalities and the rest of the county in which they were located. The money was used to pay farmers for their labor in building roads they later would travel.

Wages were not high, but they helped, and resulted in many of the paved roads on which we drive nearly a century later.

In fact, many old-timers still call them “Pinchot roads, and the “work camp” program set up in Pennsylvania became the model for the Civilian Conservation Corps established in 1933 under Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Democrat Pres Barack Obama says he wants to create jobs by building and repairing the nation’s roads and bridges. It’s obviously not a new concept, nor is its opposition. In the 1930s, unions objected because the amount of available money would not cover union-level wages. Some politicians were fearful that undeserving rich folks’ kids would work in the camps.

There are two ways government can create jobs – it can make war, always good for employment, or it can hire workers.

There’s nothing like a good war to bring folks together. George Bush the First got out of Iraq a month too early, giving people time to forget the victory and remember the economy was lousy and he that had violated his “Read my lips: No new taxes” pledge.

World War II put everyone to work (and in the process proved that women could do the same work as men).

During the Vietnam War military contractor Lockheed said 60,000 jobs would be lost if the company did not get a government loan guarantee. Eventually, in an effort spearheaded by Republican Pres. Richard Nixon, the company won the $250 million it said it needed.

In 1980, Chrysler hit up Congress for what became the $1.5 billion Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act. It was a precursor to the me-too arrival of Chrysler and General Motors in 2009, when billions were being handed out to banks deemed “too big to fail.”

Democrat Pres. Obama was pretty well loved for a few minutes after he oversaw killing Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was quickly replaced with a new target.

But throughout the land, visible from roads first paved more than three-quarters of a century ago, signs still mark the locations of CCC camps.

In the end, government really only has two ways to create jobs.

We can train and employ our able-bodied to work on roads that badly need repair, and on bridges long overdue for maintenance or replacement, and provide training assistance to companies which claim to have job openings for which they claim they are unable to find qualified workers.

Or we can send our unemployed to foreign lands where they can fill the pockets of undertakers and munitions makers.

This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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