F.D.R.'s Disputed Legacy

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a week, and those too proud to beg got nothing. When Hoover said that nobody had starved, FORTUNE magazine used his statement as the title of a bitter dissent: 95 people suffering starvation were admitted to New York City hospitals during 1931, and 20 of them died; 27% of the schoolchildren in Pennsylvania in 1932 were suffering from malnutrition. Roosevelt's first bill for federal relief passed Congress in May ("God save the people of the United States," protested Republican Senator C.L. Beedy of Maine), but the $500 million appropriation had to be disbursed through the states. By nightfall of Hopkins' second day as Federal Relief Administrator, he had telegraphed seven Governors and arranged more than $5 million in emergency grants. MONEY FLIES, read the headline in the Washington Post.

The coming of winter—and it was to reach a Siberian 23 below zero in Seminole, Texas—inspired Hopkins to an unheard-of extravagance. Why, he asked Roosevelt at a White House lunch in October 1933, couldn't the Federal Government simply hire the unemployed for the winter at all kinds of part-time jobs that needed doing, such as repairing roads or teaching the illiterate or simply raking leaves? How many jobs would be feasible, asked the President. Hopkins made a quick guess: 4 million. "Let's see," said Roosevelt, "4 million people—that means roughly $400 million. I guess we could take that out of the public works fund and not have to ask Congress."

A week later, a Roosevelt decree created the Civil Works Administration. Within the incredible space of a month, Hopkins had put 2.6 million people on his payroll, at 40¢ an hour for unskilled labor, $1 for skilled; within another month he had hit his target of 4 million jobs. CWA workers refurbished 500,000 miles of roads and 40,000 schools, and they built 150,000 outdoor privies throughout the South. Hopkins hired actors to give free shows and librarians to catalogue archives. To someone who criticized such largesse for intellectuals, Hopkins answered: "Hell, they've got to eat just like other people." He even paid researchers to study the history of the safety pin and hired 100 Washington workers to patrol the streets with balloons to frighten starlings away from public buildings. Soon the language of politics acquired a new word: boondoggle.*

Roosevelt's pioneering experiments in public works and welfare were schizophrenic from the start. Everyone agreed that the dole was demoralizing. Said the mayor of Toledo: "I have seen thousands of these defeated, discouraged, hopeless men and women cringing and fawning as they come to ask for public aid." Entirely different from Hopkins' organization in purpose and style was the Public Works Administration, operated by Harold Ickes, the cigar-waving and curmudgeonly Secretary of the Interior, who was determined to make every dollar produce an honest dollar's worth of Government building. He refused, he said, "to hire grown men to chase tumbleweeds on windy days." In six years Ickes spent $6 billion and created, among other things, New York's Triborough Bridge, the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, the Chicago sewage system, the port facilities of Brownsville, Texas, and 70% of the nation's new schools.

But while Ickes could show that no dollars were wasted on

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