In the Great Depression of the 1930s the Works Progress Administration was one of the main New Deal agencies that put millions of unemployed back to work on public infrastructure projects. The WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps together employed over 10 million total over the course of their existence. The WPA also put some of America’s greatest artists, writers, and musicians to the task of telling a more democratic history of the country, painting murals in public spaces, teaching art and music to young people, and documenting and uncovering untold histories, including those of slavery. The WPA, the largest of the New Deal work initiatives, has come to be shorthand for a variety of agencies including the Public Works Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the WPA’s own Federal Art Project. Together they created jobs where the capitalist market had utterly failed and used the catastrophe to pursue projects of economic and cultural importance.
Empires fall a little bit at a time and then all at once. Over the last two decades, America has proven itself to be well along on that journey. The coronavirus pandemic has simply pushed our nation further along that downward spiral. Ultimately, the pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated — for those still somehow in denial about the decades-long reality of America as a decaying empire — deep political, social, economic, cultural and other societal problems. The country's infrastructure is rotting. Trump presides over a plutocratic, corrupt, cruel, authoritarian, pathological kakistocracy. The commons is being reduced to rubble while the ultra-rich extract ever more wealth and other resources from the American people. Excessive military spending has left the United States incapable of attending to the basic needs of its people.