The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Judy Thomas

They had help

Letter to the Editor


To the Editor:

When Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler speaks to groups, she asks if our grandparents and parents provided a better quality of life for the following generation. The crowd always answers yes. Then she asks her listeners if they are going to be able to do the same. Most say no. [Goldendale Sentinel, Sept. 5, 2012.] I would answer in the same way, but I would question the implication that our forebears did it all on their own.

When we look at the history of those who lived through the Great Depression, we see that two and a half million people were given a helping hand by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Social Security began (in the early years many people were helped by this without having yet paid much into the program); also Home Owner's Loan Corporation, which prevented many foreclosures; the Public Works Administration, which built infrastructure, reforested, and reduced flooding. A food stamps program and minimum wage were begun. Many programs, for example, Rural Electrification and Federal Crop Insurance, were directed to farmers whose earnings had been gravely depressed since the 1920s.

World War II resulted in massive industrial expansion and employment. A large debt was incurred but paid off quickly during the ensuing prosperity. The G.I. Bill allowed many to attend college without incurring crippling debt. Thirty-year mortgages helped them to buy homes. Labor unions improved wages and safety.

Republicans Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon continued and added to these policies. The interstate highway system is one. Our air and water quality, food and drug safety improved due to government action. Medicare secured health care for the elderly and handicapped.

This is not a complete list of the government programs that were in place during the Great Depression and the following years. But it does give us something to think about at a time when the economy has been going through the worst recession since the 1930s. Would our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents have done as well if these programs had not been in place? Is government really the enemy? Is our representative ignorant of this history or just ignoring it?


Reader Comments

thomasmbundy writes:

Ms. Thomas asks Is our representative ignorant of this history or just ignoring it? The answer is, neither. She notes that successive administrations have added to the federal programs designed to help people. So, those living in the great Depression had some programs. Those living in the 1950s had even more. Those living in the 1960s had still more. And people living in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s have received even more federal benefits. The issue? As the benefits have expanded, our ability to leave more for our children has diminished. Put differently, those in the 1930s had SOME help and left more for their kids. Those living today get LOTS of help and can leave very little.


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