AUGUST 8, 1939
HYDE PARK, Monday—I am reminded daily of the statements which I heard when WPA was cut off by Congress last spring: "If people have to, they will find jobs." "It will be cheaper to support people on straight relief than on WPA." "We have got to be practical about this situation and cease being sentimental about the unemployed ..." "Business is ready to take up the slack, if it feels that Congress is not subservient to the President and it gets some laws they want."
Well, I wish the Congressmen who enacted the bill which is now being put into effect would answer some of the questions which come to me. Perhaps, you, in your various communities will get them to do so, now that they are at home.
A woman writes me: "I have a family of six. Our WPA pay has been $42.50 a month. We haven't saved anything on that, could you? Now, it is coming time to get the children ready for school and there is a new rule as to the hours we work a month and then we lay off thirty days. How do we live, Mrs. Roosevelt, and how can we get clothes so as to send the children to school?"
Here is another statement: "Many men laid off have only one or two days coming to them, not two weeks as so often stated, and they wait for that. Their regular pay checks are never large enough to cover all their living expenses. They cannot apply for home relief for thirty days and it may be four to six weeks before they get any help .... As I write, another 'pink slip' has just come for a youngster who supports his invalid mother and his sister on less than $17.00 a week and who yesterday, a week before pay day, had to borrow money to come to work. A finer worker I have never known, unusually bright, energetic and dependable; indispensible to the work he has been doing ...How can the men who have enacted this legislation go home and face their wives and children, when they have decreed starvation for other men's wives and children?
"They have said they were legislating against communistic activities in WPA. Such crass stupidity is beyond belief. They have made ten potential Communists for every one such now existing and have, incidentally, increased by great numbers the members of the 'radical' organizations they dislike."
"I am a veteran of the last war, my father, his father, and his father before him fought in the wars and I think that I am a loyal and true American, yet I am not sure that I wouldn't rather have a full stomach and shelter under some other regime than to be hungry and homeless under the present one."
This isn't an academic discussion, this is actually what happens to human beings. Mr. Legislators, what are your answers?