Not long ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y. As a history buff, I had long wanted to visit the site, as FDR's era as president continues to fascinate me. It was a time my grandparents and parents had personally experienced, and they shared many stories with me during my formative years.
We have all heard the history of the people of that era. They had survived the Great Depression and saved their world from fascism. We call them the Greatest Generation for a reason, as their courage and work ethic fueled the post-war economic boom, the ripples of which we still feel today.
The museum's exhibits on the New Deal were particularly interesting to me. Historians and economists will continue to debate the effectiveness of New Deal programs in ending the Great Depression, but the one thing that FDR did instill was confidence and leadership.
The New Deal put tens of thousands of people to work on public projects. They built schools and post offices and expanded our national parks. They also built thousands of miles of roads and bridges, connecting a nation that would soon benefit from that newfound ease of mobility. Those same roads continue to be the lifeblood of our economy, moving the many goods we use daily.
Sadly, it is this infrastructure left from the New Deal that is now crumbling before our eyes. We have talked extensively about the need to rebuild our infrastructure in DC Velocity. This is a serious problem in need of even more complex solutions. But it got me to thinking, would a New Deal be possible today?
The first New Deal was born of necessity. Today, there is little political will to find the resources necessary to fund the billions of dollars of improvements needed. Today, our federal government and most states lack the leadership and resolve to commit to rebuilding on a large scale. While many claim we do not have the money for massive investment, we did not have it then either. It was simply a matter of priorities.
Second, there was a ready workforce in the 1930s that was desperate for jobs. More than 25 percent of the nation's workers were unemployed. Today, we cannot find enough workers to staff our warehouses or to drive our trucks. How would we even begin to find the people needed to restore our infrastructure? As reported in the April issue of DCV, there are currently 600,000 manufacturing jobs that remain unfilled in the U.S. We can't outsource the rebuilding of our infrastructure to overseas companies as we have done with most of our manufacturing.
So, I doubt a New Deal would be possible today. Which leads me to ask, what will the legacy of this generation be?