On April 10, 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into legislation the creation of the CCC. It was officially called the Civilian Conservation Corps. This was a federally funded program that employed more than 3 million men from 1933 to 1942. It's participants were between 18 to 26 years of age and they were expected to perform hard physical labor.
The men were paid $30 per month plus room and board and much of the money earned was sent home to their families, who at that time were struggling through the Great Depression. They worked on a variety of environmental projects. Among other things, they planted millions of seedling trees, built campgrounds, fisheries and instituted soil erosion controls. They fought forest fires and built the roads in many of our national parks.
Did President Roosevelt create something in 1933 that we can learn from or even possibly reinstitute in today's America, or is hard work too much to ask of our perpetual poor? Would they be insulted if we dare suggest they perform some type of labor in order to receive their entitlements? Are we allowed to ask what exactly are these people doing all day? Is it time to ask if poverty has become a career choice in today's America?
Can you imagine the outrage from today's poverty industry if we were to suggest or, better yet, demand that the people receiving government benefits show up and actually do some work? It really doesn't matter what type of work, dig a ditch to nowhere and when you're done fill it back in and start over again same time tomorrow morning – just be there from 9-5 Monday through Friday to dig that ditch. My guess is that the welfare rolls would be cut in half after one month of implementing the new and improved "ditch digging to nowhere program." It would be nice if the work had societal benefits such as President Roosevelt's CCC, but until then just dig the dang ditch. If nothing else, it would teach them how to get up in the morning and head out to work. I am a firm believer in helping the poor, as I would think most Americans are. But we must ask ourselves, are these programs truly helping the needy? Are they keeping them needy? Or, the scariest question of all, are these programs actually creating the needy?
We've all heard of, or even seen, the people paying their grocery bill with the government issued EBT (Electronic Bank Transfer) food stamp card and then driving off in the nice new Cadillac. Meanwhile, you wait patiently behind them to pay for both your groceries and theirs as you drive home in your 8-year-old Chevy. What's wrong with this picture? Perhaps it's time to install EBT lanes at grocery stores throughout the nation so you can see exactly who it is that you are helping – something similar to the express lane, except for food stamps. I bet we would be shocked at the well accessorized people in that lane wearing the all too famous $200 tennis shoes and texting on their smart phones. It would be interesting to see exactly what they are purchasing with your money and what type of vehicle they are loading those free groceries into.
Michele Obama has been touting the virtues of healthy eating and the dangers of grotesque obesity for the last five years and I agree with her. A great place for her to start slimming the nation down would be with the 50 million Americans now on food stamps. How is it that someone who weighs in excess of 350 pounds can even qualify for food stamps? Perhaps the First Lady should install a scale at each food stamp office. I'm sorry but if you have rolls of fat on your rolls of fat and you are on the government food stamp program then something is terribly wrong with the system. Hard working Americans of all backgrounds are beginning to resent the professional poor in this country, aka the entitlement class. It's not only the Wall Street banksters who are bleeding the middle class dry, but also the professional poor. The middle class is getting the shaft from both ends, if you will.
As the government confiscates your money, they want to know exactly how you earned it,where you earned it, when you earned it, how much of it you earned and they will tell you the amount of your earnings you will be allowed to keep. However, those on the receiving end of your tax dollars, can spend it however way they want. They are not questioned on how they spent last month's welfare funds, which unlike the food stamp program has little or no restrictions on how the recipients spend those tax dollars. My friend who owns a small bar and grill tells me that he recently has been getting a spate of solicitation phone calls asking if he would like to set up his establishment to accept the welfare EBT cards. Yes, these cards can be used to purchase food and even alcohol at restaurants. That particular location simply has to get set up in the system in which to honor those cards, much like accepting a Visa or an American Express card. I'm sorry, but at a time when many hard working Americans are being forced to cut back on luxuries like drinking and dining out, it is wrong to make them pay for a welfare recipients night out on the town. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Money can never cure or eliminate poverty. America has spent 16 Trillion dollars fighting the war on poverty since the mid 1960's. And the percentage of those in poverty has barely changed at all. For lack of money is but one symptom of poverty, not the cause.
What exactly did Franklin Roosevelt accomplish when he created the CCC on April 10, 1933? For one thing, he taught those young Americans a work ethic. He demanded labor in exchange for those tax dollars and in the process he accomplished many wonderful things with that labor. Many of those young men went on to become park rangers, engineers and business owners. The seedlings they planted are now mighty oaks! Perhaps what FDR taught us is that handing out free money with no expectations of labor does nothing except keep poor people trapped exactly where they are, in abject poverty. Maybe we can take our poor boys and girls off the mean streets of Chicago or Detroit and out of failing schools and teach them something they can be proud of, something they can carry with them throughout their lives – a great work ethic, a sense of pride, dignity and self respect! Those are the things money can never buy. But if you possess them, the money will soon follow. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt taught us that if society simply pays people to be poor, they will always be poor and they will always stay poor. But if society demands work, those people just might become workers! Let's find some common ground that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on . It's hard to argue against hard work! But sadly, I'm sure someone will.
Nick Hudson is a contributing opinion columnist. He can be reached at