Tag Archive | "shovel ready jobs"

Shovel Ready

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Adopted by individual voters and political groups alike, the term “shovel ready” graphically illustrates our national chomping at the bit to get off the unemployment line and start earning decent wages again.  Widely used during our most recent primary elections, the phrase actually was coined during our previous Great Depression, under FDR’s administration. 


After the collapse of Wall Street, in 1932, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the National Rcovery Act to resurrect employment.  Considered un-Constitutional, one year later, the act was renamed The New Deal and included the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) and the WPA (Works Project Administration).  Established to produce jobs and put money back into taxpayer’ pockets, both entities were formed to repair the nation’s physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, parks, and highways.


The CCC was a para-military organization designed to take young men off the street and keep them out of trouble by employing them for projects such as Virginia’s Skyline Drive.  As in the Army, the workers lived in barracks and were fed three meals a day.  The WPA provided employment for older, married men via labor for governmental projects.  When the media inquired as to their exact duties, workers were quoted as saying, “I lean on a shovel.”  In other words, these jobs did little or nothing to resolve the unemployment crisis.  And if rampant unemployment wasn’t a big enough cross to bear, Mother Nature added to our national misery with droughts and dust storms.


Perceiving the Great Depression as Biblical peoples must have viewed the plagues, some Americans deemed our fate “the wrath of God.”  They’d assumed that we were reaping Divine retribution for the indulgences of the Roaring Twenty’s.


Nearly seventy years later, President Obama atempted to tear a page out of FDR’s book with his economic stimulus plan.   He also sent up a hue and cry for “shovel ready jobs.”  Our fearless leader was referring to jobs in which workers could be employed immediately, as opposed to being assigned to projects that are bogged down in planning, design, or legal red tape.


As well-intentioned as Mr. Obama may be, there remain some glaring differences between the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Great Recession (Depression?) of 2008.   When Wall Street crumbled in 1929, the government did not — unlike Mr. Obama’s adminstration — bail out the financial institutions to the tune of $710 billion.  In fact, the governnment gave these institutions not one red cent.


In the 1930’s, there were also more shovel ready jobs — a lot more.  A road gang could easily have consisted of 300 or more workers, simply because technology was not as advanced as it is today.  Nowadays, it takes a virtual skeleton crew using state-of-the-art machinery to produce quality roadways more quickly and cheaply.  As automation continues to replace human labor, what are our children’s and grandchildren’s places in the American workforce?  Will our descendents compete with machines and slave labor in a global society?  We need answers to these questions before this or the next administration crafts another stimulus program.


Parents should seriously consider the best investments in their children’s education.  Should tuition money be paid to colleges and universities, or should it be paid to vocational schools?  Our current government seems willing to make our children common laborers by way of shovel ready jobs. I suppose this strategy is more expedient than creating jobs that require real skill and intelligence, jobs that can make them self-sufficient and in turn, restore America to a state of prosperity.


A common laborer does not require a college education.  All he or she needs is a strong back and some muscle.  In pondering this, let us not forget the wise motto of the United Negro College Fund, which can and should be applied to citizens of all races:  “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” 

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