CCC Workers Building a Road, 1933 (FDR Library and Museum)

The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the most popular government programs ever enacted in the United States. It was the brainchild of Franklin Roosevelt. 2.5 million men from the cities and the countryside alike, unemployed due to a lack of available jobs during the Great Depression, constructed public works throughout the country between 1933 and 1942. Rather than suffer from hunger and bankruptcy, they built roads, they reforested America by planting 3 billion trees and they built most of the infrastructure that we still use today in State and National Parks. Just look for the natural stone and wooden park shelter or visitor center or the mountain trails with the CCC plaque at the entrance – they are easy to find because they are everywhere and most have lasted to this day.

The men who participated in the project were able to earn money for their parents all while saving money necessary for college. Literacy centers were also located at most CCC work camps. The investment paid off. The people who went to school after World War II created the greatest economic expansion in US history during the 1950s and 60s. They also paid taxes on the wealth that they generated during that period and that lifted the standard of living in the country. That is what a government that looks after the well-being of its citizens can do, but it is definitely not “small government”.

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