From Labor Action, Vol. 3 No. 31, 11 November 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
“Whatever you may have to say about the war,” said Johnny, “you’ve got to admit one thing. This defense program has made more jobs for us than Willkie could promise.”
JOHNNY: That’s why I say the defense program is the best thing that’s happened for the workers since the crash. Why, my brother-in-law’s working for General Electric for $26 a week, and he never made more than fifteen in his life.
JOHNNY: What’s the matter, Bill – sick? No comeback?
BILL: You’re absolutely right, Roosevelt’s war program has made more jobs. So what?
JOHNNY: So that’s why I’m for it! We wanted jobs – OK, we’ve got ’em.
BILL: I’ve got a better scheme for making jobs. Instead of building battleships and tanks, the government ought to build an Egyptian pyramid every 300 yards, all the way from New York to San Francisco. If that doesn’t make enough jobs, they can have the unemployed tear up all the roads and lay ’em again in the same place.
JOHNNY: What the hell are you talking about?
BILL: Making jobs. That would do the trick, no?
JOHNNY: Maybe, but what’s the use of an Egyptian pyramid?
BILL: Now you’re getting to the point. What’s the use of the war program? The answer is: WAR – and that’ll give all of us jobs too, dodging bullets at a dollar a day.
JOHNNY; There you’re off on the war again. Well, aside from that for a minute if you can, you admit that Roosevelt has helped the unemployment situation, and that’s what I’m interested in right now.
BILL: Listen, I’m not going to tell you that a few fair-sized hurricanes would have made as many jobs as the war has. But if. you can stop to think, take it from this angle. If Roosevelt is relieving unemployment by spending billions on guns, WHY DIDN’T HE DO THE SAME THING TWO AND THREE AND FOUR YEARS AGO BY SPENDING BILLIONS ON HOUSING AND PUBLIC WORKS?
JOHNNY: Well, this defense program is a kind of public works.
BILL: Sure it’s the kind that GIVES THE PUBLIC THE WORKS. – Remember what they told us then, when we demanded something like twenty billions for building decent houses instead of rat traps?
JOHNNY: Twenty billion dollars! – there wasn’t that much money around. You’ve got to be realistic.
BILL: That’s just what they told us. “No money, ’scuse us please.” So they piddled along with WPA, and then Roosevelt cut that too whenever he felt he could get away with it. NOW LOOK: Wall Street has let out a war whoop, and before you can say J.P. Morgan, Congress digs down to the tune of five billion bucks. Why weren’t they willing to dig down when it was a question of putting food on the tables of four million workers?
JOHNNY: Still, twenty billion dollars is a lot of money.
BILL: It’ll be chicken-feed before the war program is through. – And before I forget: when the workers yelled for jobs and relief, they told us, “Sorry, boys, my heart’s bleeding for you, but we’ve gotta balance the old budget.” But not now, no sir. Even the Republicans have forgotten the budget exists now.
JOHNNY: All right, all right, but what does all that prove?
BILL: It proves this much. I can understand you breaking out in a sweat of enthusiasm over the war program if you swallow the bunk about it being really for defense against Hitler. But you said you’re just interested in the unemployment situation right now. As a job-making program, it isn’t as sensible as my pyramid scheme, because at least pyramids won’t destroy other people’s houses and lives.
JOHNNY: All right then, it all boils down to defending democracy against Hitler. I’ll admit that much. But I’m for that too, and I’m for the defense program, so we still disagree.
BILL: OK, let’s leave it at that and discuss the war itself again, next chance we get. But something to chew on:
Here’s a government that left at least ten-million unemployed to half-starvation and millions more to poverty and insecurity, and LIED that they didn’t have the money to do anything about it. Do you believe that such a government is really worried about dictatorship in Germany or “defending democracy” or anything else that has to do with the welfare of the plain people? Here’s a government that cuts a billion off WPA and then forks over five billion when it gets the high sign from Wall Street. Whose government is it?
Last updated on 28.10.2012