A new thought

Mariner trusts that everyone saw Judy Woodruff’s special on PBS about the state of democracy in the United States. If not, go to the PBS website at pbs.com and check it out. Most of the program exposed the deep emotionally-based opinions of both political extremes.

One thought that captured his ears was the suggestion that one of the ways to unite the citizens and break down splintered allegiances, was to expand civil services. The term ’civil service’ suggests that the nation’s governments pay for large numbers of citizens to perform any number of public activities that unify the effort to achieve a common identity among the nation’s citizens. Examples of civil service, utilized especially during the Great Depression and both World Wars are:

֎ The military, of course, where the government required virtually all men within certain conditions to serve time in the armed services.

֎ During World War II, the government directed vehicle manufacturers to stop building civil equipment and focus their entire effort on manufacturing military equipment. With all the men in military service, women filled job vacancies while their men were unavailable.

֎ The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was an ambitious employment and infrastructure program created in 1935, during the bleakest days of the Great Depression. The WPA put 8.5 million Americans to work building schools, hospitals, roads and other public works. The WPA also sponsored projects in the arts – the agency employed tens of thousands of actors, musicians, writers and other artists.

֎ Shortly after WW II, the government launched the Interstate highway system. The legislation expanded the Interstate System to 41,000 miles and authorized $25 billion to be made available in fiscal years 1957 through 1969 for its construction to accommodate traffic demand in 1975. The Federal share of costs would be 90 percent.

Civil service provided the money for each of these projects. As a result, workers could ask for additional benefits like paying for college, guaranteed retirement, and a fair wage. Today, 70 years later, all these benefits are nonexistent except in a few commercial situations where there are labor shortages. Inflation has risen but the general salary base has not.

Interestingly, it was the war years and global economic dominance that funded what is called the Woke class, 9.7 percent of today’s population that constitute a white-collar, college class that has the most influence in government and industry.

Could the government launch another civil service program to more evenly level its social and economic classes?

Ancient Mariner

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