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Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal
Roosevelt Is a Damned Good Man

In times of economic crisis, people naturally look for scapegoats and targets for their frustration. During the Great Depression, bankers, Wall street investors, and businesses were often the subjects of public scorn. In the excerpt that follows from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 , Charles Fusco, an Italian-born munitions worker, provides a critique of the depression, New Deal programs, and politics in general. Who does he blame for the depression? Who does he credit for helping people out during the depression? What contradictions do you find in his critique?

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I was born in the old country -- Italy -- 41 years ago and came over here when I was 3 months old. Things have certainly changed a lot in forty years. . . .

. . . I can get a job today even if we got a depression. I don't mean that I wasn't on relief when things got tough because there was a time when everything was shut down and I had to get on relief for a job. It isn't so long ago I was working on WPA. Believe me it was a big help. But it was'nt the kind of a job I should have had because this town is Republican and I am a Republican and I was a good worker for the party -- making voters and helping a lot of people out -- getting their taxes rebated (abated). Getting jobs for them. When it came my turn that I needed help the politicians told me that I had to go on relief -- well, when I did I was handed a shovel and pick. . . .Roosevelt is a damn good man -- you take all these young fellows and you can't talk to them like in the old days to swing them over. Today all these kids are satisfied on WPA and the NYA . My son works there and gets 44 cents an hour. . . .

. . . When I was a young fellow, not that I am very old now, I used to have a lot fun going around singing and to friends but you don't see that nowadays. I guess everybody just don't care anymore. Of course the depression is the fault. When the pocket book is sick the whole body is sick also. You know they call this a depression. Well I think it is a sickness that won't go way. Ten years is a long time to suffer it seems to me that if the government wanted to stop it they could. Not that Roosevelt isn't a good man because whoever get in there things will be the same old story. The money men control everything and the unions most of them are crooked. . . .

. . . I believe in education and I always wish that I had one -- but today the man who knows a trade, especially a machinist trade is the baby that can get along. There are no depression for him and furthermore how many of these college students after they graduate get on the top? Let me tell you that when I was on the WPA I met some of these college men working in the ditches and damn glad to do it. Well this brings us right back to where we started. It's just like a circle. Somebody is got the key and we're all trying to get out. Suppose we get out then what? We get right in again. Because the capitalist almost controls everything. To-day if a person is getting along fine - along comes something like the depression or some screwy laws and down in the ditch you go. . . .

. . . In the nine years of this depression even though I didn't feel it much because I always gave myself a push but think of the others who are weak -- what about them? You know there shouldn't be a depression in this country. You know we have everything -- even the most money but all you hear today is the same old baloney -- the Democrats are in power and the Republicans won't let loose with the money. Well I say that the money men started this thing and I believe the government should make laws to force these capitalist to bring back prosperity. They can do it if they wanted to. But all you hear nowadays is lets balance the budget. I don't believe this budget has been balanced since the indians were here so why the hell do it now. I don't mean that we should go overboard on everything and start spending money left and right because I am against chislers and flukey jobs but lets get down to business and start manufacturing things and sell them to everybody who got the cash -- and to those who haven't the cash give them enough credit and a job so that they can pay.

You know sometimes I wonder what way we are drifting -- some of the laws that was passed in the last few years were very good for the people and I guess you know what happened. You take the N.R.A. I think that was very good -- it gave everybody a chance except those who are misers and are never satisfied if they make 100 dollars a week. This other law the Social Security I believe is the best. The only fault I find is that a man has to reach the age of 65 before he can collect. Well how many do? [?] They tell you nowadays that a person lives longer - well they used to before this depression but[,?] hell[,?] today you worry your god damn head off on how to meet both ends and that makes your life much shorter. You see what I mean that this government wants to do something good for the people and does but damn it they put strings to it. Tell me how many reach the age of 65? Very few. Why the hell don't they give a person a break and say at 56 years old you should retire from work and enjoy life instead of waiting until he is almost dead they give him a few dollars a month. I think the whole shooting match is wrong. And unless we get the crooks and chislers out of Washington we'll remain the same.
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View Charles Fusco's entire interview from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.