This is a rubbing taken from a sidewalk near our studio in Pawtucket. These markers can be found all over Rhode Island, on bridges, underpasses, piers, in state parks and in town squares. Many of these markers are found on modest public works like sidewalks, easily taken for granted. No reason why we shouldn't take them for granted, but consider that these constructions have been serving us for 70+ years. How do you measure the return on such an investment? How many lives have been saved by a railroad underpass? What kind of dollar figure can be put on a stand of trees planted by the CCC? What is a sidewalk worth to a neighborhood? Can one honestly say that the money spent during the Depression was just stolen from future generations who got nothing in return?
Our sidewalk here is still in good condition but many of these projects are reaching the end of their service. We could do well to emulate the eduring legacy these WPA plaques represent. It is remarkable that many of the people who criticize this type of public investment are the very same people who thought it was a good idea to airlift pallets of cash into Iraq, money never to be seen again.
Let's spend the People's money on the People and do some nation (re)building here at home.
For more on the WPA and the New Deal I point you to Nick Taylor's book: American Made.
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