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This Week in History
March 18 - March 24, 1933
The Civilian Conservation Corps

March 2010

This article was originally published in the EIR Magazine’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly as part of an ongoing series.

Raymond Moley, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's closest advisers, wrote in his book, The First New Deal, that he considered March 18 the beginning of the second phase of the "Hundred Days" of emergency action. With the Congress having passed the first basic banking reforms, to re-establish confidence in the system, and with the far-reaching agricultural reform bill on the table, the President turned to the question consuming the interest of the nation: jobs.

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National Archives

A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in Marsing, Idaho, in 1941. The crew is laying concrete pipe. Roosevelt’s CCC program should be revived today, to give young people the opportunity to become productive members of society.

President Roosevelt was acutely aware of the fact that there were anywhere between 11 and 17 million Americans unemployed, most of them with no resources available to them. One thousand homes per day were being foreclosed on. The standard array of local charities, and the budgets of municipalities and states, had simply found their cupboards bare. Given the collapse of productive activity, tax revenues had fallen through the floor. Something had to be done immediately.

Labor Secretary Frances Perkins reported the President as putting it this way: "We have to do it. It is like putting all you've got into stopping up the hole in the dike. You have to keep that hole from getting any larger. We must do what we can at this time. We haven't any more time."

Overall, the President was proceeding from the philosophy he outlined in his "Forgotten Man" campaign speech of 1932: "These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power, for plans like those of 1917 that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid...."

Unemployment Relief

Thus, at the March 18 conference with his closest advisers, FDR called for his staff to formulate major legislative measures on the job crisis. From their deliberations came the following Presidential message to Congress, issued March 21:

To the Congress:

A Glance Ahead

Because of the President's leadership, and the sense of emergency in the country, what became known as the CCC was passed and put into effect within a mere eight days. This program, which ultimately involved 2.5 million young men during its lifetime, carried out major reforestation, fish-stocking, upgrading of national parks and battlefields. It was often informally called Roosevelt's "Tree Army."

The other aspects of the President's job program were to be more contentious. We will pick them up next week.

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