Sunday, October 18, 2015

Keeping a Nation Strong

From 1933 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corp employed up to 300,000 workers doing public works projects in every corner of the United States. It was one of the most remarkable programs of the New Deal and the results of their labor remain quite visible these many decades later.

In proposing the CCC, President Roosevelt said:

"I propose to create [the CCC] to be used in complex work, not interfering with abnormal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth."
CCC Statue at Letchworth State Park, NY

The CCC re-forested public land, built picnic areas, pavilions, retaining walls, bridges, dams and much more. Visit any national park or state park that was established prior to the CCC and you will witness the results of their efforts.
We were in the middle of the Great Depression. Unemployment was a staggering 24%. The United States was in a huge financial crisis. The government was broke. And yet, they found a way to put hundreds of thousands of people to work in one of the biggest social programs of our nations history.
Hundreds of thousands of people were no longer hungry and homeless. They were engaged in meaningful work while gaining valuable skills.
From an early age, traveling to and camping in many of our state and national parks, I've been keenly aware of the work of the CCC. This program should be a source of great national pride and this story should be more broadly re-told. When I hear someone scoffing at "socialism", I think of the CCC.
Capitalism alone is not enough to keep a country strong. We need a certain degree of socialism. The two can work hand in hand. Letchworth State Park is a great example of how that can happen.
William Pryor Letchworth was a successful capitalist. But once he had made his mark in business, he turned his attention to social reform. In addition to conservation, he is remembered for his work with epilepsy and the plight of poor children. And, of course, he donated the land that is now the cornerstone of Letchworth State Park - one of the most visited state parks in the United States.
We can thank Mr. Letchworth for his socialist acts. We can thank Mr. Roosevelt for his socialist acts. We can thank our government for the socialist acts to keep these parks open and in good order for the public enjoyment of generations to come. Capitalism alone would not do that. Socialism is not a bad word. It's about doing what Capitalism cannot or won't.

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