November 7, 1936 - Article - The Youth Document, by Garet Garrett
(I quoted this article in full to give the reader an idea to what extremes the FDR Administration went to reshape the thinking of youth.)
Just as the telephone bell rang, the Old Reporter was trying to think of a word. He was all ready to check out, with yet an hour on his hands, and he had been gazing down on the lighted city from a high hotel window. The word he was trying to think of was one beginning with p, from the Greek, meaning a manuscript on which there is new writing over old.
That has happened here. New writing over old. A city that he remembered had been erased. He remembered it vividly because it had been his first city. Now in place of it was another, and not such another one as might have been foretold, not merely new writing over old of the same kind, but original writing in signs and characters that never existed before. Steel buildings, floodlighted towers, motor traffic, sky travel, voices without bodies, world news in the air, tame power endlessly performing automatic functions in place of the human exertion, people at ease and bored, diminished by the importance of their own externalized ideas. A modern city. And yet the same place, the same name, the same manuscript.
That was the idea that kept associating itself with the word he was trying to think of. On this very site might have been the grand, four-story, gas-lighted hotel with half a block of guest chairs and spittoons on the sidewalk in front, and every little while the excitement of the bus careening up the hill from the bus depot, the steel shoes of the horses cutting sparks out of the cobblestone pavement. You could not sit in one of those chairs. If you did, a man immediately came to look you over. If you were fairly well dressed, he would ask: "Are you registered?" If you were not so well dressed, all he said was "Wiggle!"
It was a hard, unfriendly city. If you were hungry, you would let it go for a long time without asking for anything, for if you asked, you were a bum. The Old Reported remembered that, too, for he had been hungry here; and he smiled as his memory entertained him with recollections of what he had done about it - and the world neither wiser nor worse on that account. He smiled again as he remembered how he left the city, that first time, without a shirt, because the shirt he washed on the river bank and hung on a bush to dry blew away into the river while he dreamed, and went away forever. It occurred to him what it would be like now to go at night into the largest railroad yard in the world - without a shirt, remember - find the place where the next fast freight train going east will be made up, then stalk it until the petulant yard engine that makes it up has dropped it and the big road locomotive has picked it up on the outbound track. The difficulties would nave changed, of course; the largest railroad yard in the world now is covered by electric floodlights.
He supposed that all the difficulties in the way of youth attacking life would have changed. What if he were now at the age he was then, braving a city for the first time - a city like this? How different would it be? What would he do for an empty stomach? The thought was no good. He kept seeing the old writing through the new, as if the new were not there, and everything he imagined himself doing in this city was like something he might have done in the one that had been erased.
But suddenly he thought of the word. The word was "palimpsest." A manuscript on which old writing has made room for new. That was it. And he reached for the telephone.
Downstairs was a young voice saying, "I am a reporter." And could he come up? He came up. His errand was to interview the Old Reporter on what impressions he had formed of the political situation. That was easily disposed of. The Old Reporter said that it was silly for one reporter to interview another. If either of them knew anything worth writing, he would write it himself, wouldn't he? And if what he knew was not worth writing on his own account, then it was certainly not worth giving to another reporter.
So then they talked. And naturally, from the way it had opened, they talked about politics. It was presently evident that the young reporter stood rather to the left. He said so; and it was personal in every way. The paper he was working for stood on the other side. That was one reason why he had made up his mind to cast a conservative vote, this time, not believing in it, or at least with many reservations. In feeling he inclined that other way.
"Why?" asked the Old Reporter.
The answer was not very clear. It took off at random from the general feeling that what the young reporter named the old system had produced intolerable social and economic conditions. It had broken down. There would have to be something very much better. Either a new system or some very deep changes in the old one.
Change was what he was feeling for, as if any change would be for the better; and change not as the Old Reporter had been looking at it out of the window, but political and social change, to make life better, more abundant, more secure, less of a struggle for mere existence, and so on.
The Old Reporter drew from his visitor these facts - that he was 24, that he had come to the city from a school of journalism in a near-by state college, that what he earned was not much, and yet enough to have ruined a cub reporter in a former time; also that the feelings that he had been expressing were prevalent. Many of his contemporary associates felt the same way. The Old Reporter might take it that he was speaking for all of them. They approved of the experimental and socializing impulse that had suddenly appeared in government. They were for change.
"And when you are discussing these things together," the Old Reporter asked, "do you look at the fact that our form of government may be in danger?"
"What's so sacred about a particular form of government?" the young reporter asked. There was a slight asperity in it.
"Only this," said the Old Reporter, "that under our form of government civil liberty has been raised to the highest point that it was ever known. It had to be fought for; it can very easily be lost if people, by taking it for granted, forget what it means. Does the word liberty move you at all?"
"We have felt no loss of liberty," he said. (pg. 8)
"Not yet, perhaps," said the Old Reporter. "Let us suppose we are speaking of tendencies. You work for what you earn. Would you say it was your right as a free person the whole of what you earn and do with it what you like? Would you say that if that right may be taken from you, without your consent, you are no longer quite free?"
"Perhaps," said the young reporter. "I don't see what you are coming too."
"To this," said the Old Reporter: "that without your consent, a law of compulsory thrift has been imposed upon you by a Government that undertakes so to administer a part of your earnings that you shall not come to want in your old age. Ultimately, each week, whether you like it or not, and without your leave, it will take 3% out of your pay envelope; it will keep it for you, invest it for you in Government bonds, and give it back to you when you are old."
"Oh," said the young reporter. "The new Social Security Law. Well, that may be all right. Security is a fine thing."
"If you had to choose between liberty and security which would it be?" the Old Reporter asked.
"It seems to me," said the young reporter, "that in a land where there is always plenty, people are entitled to economic security. That is beginning to now be provided for, and, as I say, we feel no loss of liberty."
[I must stop here and comment. Note that people were paid in cash with pay envelopes back then, not paychecks with deductions like today. When I ran for Congress in the year 2000 elections, I used a paycheck as an example of the severity of servitude being imposed upon the class of persons whom I call the non-custodial slaves. A young 19 year old man named Vincent, who worked at the Bi-Lo Distribution Center in Greenville, S.C., allowed me to use a typical paycheck of his as an example of this. Here is the breakdown of Vincent's paycheck:
Gross Pay - $237.80 (week ending 9-15-2000)
FICA - OASDI - $12.67
Federal - $14.93
FICA - HI - $2.96
State - SC - $5.00
Child Support - $82.85
SUPTI - Proc. Fee - $3.00
Med Plan - $27.50
Dental Plan - $5.95
Net Pay - $83.54
If we do the math, this means that Vincent has 65% of his labor taken from him each week - the same levels of taxation the Nazis imposed upon Jew in the Lodz Ghetto during World War II. What would the young reporter have thought if the New Deal planned to take that much of his pay from him? Would have felt that he was economically secure? Would the young reporter have felt a loss of liberty? You see, 3% wasn't worth worrying about back then, but the 3% back then set the stage for the 65% that is common today. FDR warned the people back then that the powers he created could be used to place shackles upon liberty. So this shouldn't surprise anyone. But the people that impose this high degree of servitude will deny that are enslaving anyone. Hypocrites!]
"The new writing," said the Old Reporter to himself.
"That was something I was thinking out loud," said the Old Reporter. "Tell me. Were you ever hungry?"
"What would you do if you were without a job, without a nickel, without a friend, and hungry in this city today?"
"I suppose I'd apply for relief or get a WPA job," said the young reporter.
"What if there was no such thing as unemployment relief? What if there were no such thing as WPA? No bread lines even. Still, would you starve?"
"I'd probably not starve," said the young reporter. "But why do you ask? Why should anybody be hungry? Are you saying that there ought not to be any relief?"
"I'm saying something you don't understand," said the Old Reporter. "Let's come at it another way. In Central Park, New York City, a few weeks ago, I stood looking at an evening band concert. Three or four thousand people. Many of them - I dare say a majority of them - on relief or on WPA jobs. They were all well-nourished looking, well clothed, and now being entertained at public expense. I think, by the way, it was a WPA band. As I looked at this scene, I said to myself, Here is civility to a very high order.' I had a warm feeling about it. In no other country in the world were the unemployed taken care of like this, and never in this one before. But then it occurred to me to project these people into their own future, into the future of the country - these who are saying, each one to himself, No matter what happens, I shall be fed and clothed and housed. The Government will see to it.' And then, by way of contrast, to project in like manner another crowd of the same general character, with only the difference that each one is saying to himself, This is very nice, but I ought to be thinking of tomorrow. Therefore, I must be thinking of how to take care of it myself.' At the end of 20 years, how will the works of one crowd compare with the works of the other? Which will produce the most wealth? These who possess that comfortable sense of security you speak of, knowing that, if necessary, the Government will support them, or those who should have had that anxious sense of entire self-responsibility?"
"I see what you mean, of course," said the young reporter. "If people get the idea that the Government is going to support them, it will be bad. But, after all, these people at the band concert are out of jobs through no fault of their own. Is there not plenty of everything to go around? Well then, if the private economic system has been unable to distribute this plenty, who shall distribute it, if not the Government?"
"We haven't much time left," said the Old Reporter. "Let's try a short cut. If, as you say, there is plenty of everything to go around, have you any idea how that came to be so?"
"Because until now we have lived by the old proverb which says there is no conquering weapon like the necessity to conquer. If you were penniless and hungry in this city today, with no such thing as unemployment relief, no WPA jobs, what would save you from starving? The necessity to eat. Given the necessity to eat and the existence of plenty, will you find a way to feed yourself or shall the Government find your sustenance and give it to you?"
"Are you saying," the young reporter asked, "that we should go back to the law of pitiless necessity, root hog or die? In that case, what is the meaning of plenty? Why should a country be rich?"
"That fails," said the Old Reporter. "One more short cut. We change the ground. What is the first problem of democracy? I think I know what it is, but what would you say it was?"
The young reporter went around that question without looking at it. "Democracy," he said, "is not the only way. There are other ways. There are other kinds of government, too, and some that might be better."
"What are they?" the Old Reporter asked.
"That's too much for an offhand answer,"said the young reporter, taking his hat. They shook hands and smiled. The young reporter went back to his conservative paper and the Old Reporter checked out.
For a long while he lay awake in his air-conditioned berth, thinking on it. He had no touched the young reporter's mind at all. He was sure of that. And he kept asking himself why. Their education and experiences has been very different, of course, but it was something more. He believed he knew what it was, but he couldn't formulate it. The failure had not been all on one side. The young reporter did not know what the Old Reporter was talking about. But did he know what the young reporter was thinking? Just before going to sleep, it occurred to him to ask himself what he had thought about the from of government when he was that age. The answer was - nothing. When he was that age, one took the form of government as a fact to begin with, like the fact of one's parentage, and did not think about it at all. In any case, he was much too busy at that age thinking of something else - namely, himself and his own problems.
The next day the Old Reporter had an errand to go by motor. Driving alone, he took up from the highway a young man in uniform. The history of this young man was that he had finished high school, that he was 23, that he had tried first one kind of job and then another, and that at last, unable to find another one, he had enlisted in the cavalry. But he was bored and unhappy. He didn't like horses. (pp. 9, 85)
They stopped for lunch at the best hotel in a fairly large town. The young man's manners were all right. He came out suddenly that he was getting his discharge from the cavalry.
"What then?' the Old Reporter asked.
"I'll be looking for a job," said the young man.
"Do you know," said the Old Reporter, "I think you youngsters are all upside down. You are always thinking of a job. Jobs are not easy to find. Why not stop thinking of a job and think of work? In any direction you look, right in front of you there is work."
The young man was silent, politely so, as one who, after all, was eating lunch at another's expense. When it was clear that he was not going to ask what the difference was between a job and work - had no curiosity about it, in fact - the Old Reporter went on:
"I can illustrate the difference between a job and work. On a corner of my farm in South Jersey, by the highway, a great oak tree died and was cut down. A few of the small branches were taken off or firewood, but there lies the hulk, with at least two cords of wood for anybody who will cut it up. Now imagine that a man comes walking through that highway and up to my door, asking for a job. I say I am sorry; I haven't any job; I have all the labor I can use on the farm. So he goes away saying - and saying truthfully - he has tried to get a job. Then imagine another man walking that same highway, past that same oak-tree hulk, who comes to my door and says, Have you got a cross-cut saw and an ax?' I have. He says, I want to cut up that big oak tree down there by the highway.' I say, Fine. Take the saw and the ax. In the tool house you will find also a sledge and some wedges.' He works a day and a half at it and gets sixteen dollars worth of cordwood out of a tree hulk that I should, perhaps, have moved away with a tractor. That is work. And the difference is that I do not pay him for that work. The work pays for itself. He has converted the useless tree hulk into salable cord wood."
The young man went on being silent in a polite way. They finished lunch. As they were parting, the Old Reporter said: "I can guess what you are thinking. You are thinking of one dead tree and that there is work in it for one man a day and a half, whereas the number of unemployed men is millions."
"Yes," said the young man. "I didn't know it, but I was."
"Remember it only as an illustration," said the Old Reporter, whereupon they parted.
The Old Reporter was saying to himself: "Nor did I touch that young man. I did no more to his mind than one lunch of short ribs will do to his stature." Nevertheless, he added a mental note to one that he had made the night before. As he had failed to touch the young reporter, so he had failed to touch the young man in uniform. Why? Different habits of mind, yes; a difference of attitude toward life. And yet something else, or some other way of saying it. For the time he put it aside and went on with his work.
Both episodes were revived in his mind when, on returning to his desk a few weeks later, he found in his mail several letters meant to acquaint him with the American youth point of view. The occasion for them was that the Old Reporter had published some magazine articles on the controversial subject of the alarming extension of bureaucratic government. (pp. 85-86)
The letter that interested him most, and one in very nice temper, opened with a modest personal history. The writer was 26. He was graduated from a state college in 1930 with a diploma in science. He got a job at once with a corporation, and then lost it. Owing to the depression, there were no more jobs like that - in fact, no jobs at all of his kind - and what saved him was a bureau job with a Government relief agency. As the depression began to abate, he discovered that big corporations such as he was equipped to work for preferred to take on men "fresh out of college," rather than to take back those in whose lives this interval of unemployment had occurred.
The rest of the letter was this: "I am representative of thousands of young American college men with a problem we would like to present for your kind consideration and mature judgement. How ca we combat the tug toward Socialism in the face of the attitude taken by the businessmen of today? Finding no chance for employment in private industry, and lacking capital to start a business of our own, where do we turn to spend the vital energy of American youth? Rather than be idle, the temptation is strong to support that form of government that will create and set up bureaus in which employment will be available."
The first answer the Old Reporter wrote to this letter was not from that mature judgement that had been imputed to him. He wrote: "Any of us may be tempted to support the government that supports us. By supporting it you mean, of course, to vote for it. By all means. Let us live by casting a vote for the government that will support us. But no government can feed and clothe and house us with our own ballots. Who at last will provide the means of sustenance? Who, otherwise than by voting for it, will support the government that supports us? Who "
There he stopped and tore it up. He would fail again, as he had failed first with the young reporter and then with then young man in uniform. For the same reason? Yes, for the same reason. And there he was again trying to formulate that reason. He read the letter again and dwelt upon the sentence: "I am a representative of thousands of young American college men with a problem."
The Old Reporter was unable to imagine that thousands of young college men had "a" problem. He could imagine that thousands of young college men would have thousands of problems, and no two of them alike. Then what was the question? Suddenly he began to see where the impasse was and why he had been unable to touch these several young minds. His way of thinking was individual. Theirs was not. The young reporter, for example, could be made to see that as one resourceful individual he probably wouldn't starve. But that was not naturally his way of thinking. Instead, he no sooner imagined himself unemployed than he began to think of himself not as himself alone but as one of millions in like circumstances; and, of course, he could not imagine that millions would not starve. Then the young man in uniform - his first thought was that the work of making one tree trunk into cordwood was no solution for the problem of millions out of work; and that was the problem with which he identified himself. And now this college man who wrote the letter. He was not stating his own problem; he was using himself to illustrate the problem of a class to which he belonged, in this case a very special class, namely, unemployed college men.
In contrast, the Old Reporter, if he were out of work, he would never think of himself as belonging to a class of unemployed old reporters. He couldn't. He would think of himself as one old reporter out of work. But if he were a college man, 26, with a diploma in science, and out of work, now would he think?
It was at this point that the Old Reporter had the idea to give himself an assignment. He set the subject down in a topical manner, thus: Youth - The Continuous Document. Receives the writing we put upon it. What new writing is there?
So he went to Washington, on his own assignment. The reason for going to Washington was that the National Youth Administration was there; also the National Advisory Committee on Youth, and the Committee on Youth Problems in the Federal Office of Education, and the American Youth Commission of the National Council on Education, and pending in Congress the American Youth Act, on which public hearings had been held.
Touching the literature of the subject at any one of these points, the Old Reporter found, was like pulling a rip cord. The quantity of it was amazing, and it could be sorted roughly under two heads, namely, youth self-conscious and a nation youth-conscious. The general character of the official literature was exhortative, addressed, on the one hand to youth, exhorting it not yet to dispair, and, on the other hand to the nation at large, exhorting it to beware of disappointing the aspirations of youth - and much of this in the best modern style of publicity and selling, with dramatic phrase and astonishing diagram. Selling the idea of youth to the country! The literature produced by youth organizations - and the number of these seemed incredible - was generally of a censorious character. Youth speaking up. Youth displeased with its inheritance. Youth disapproving of this muddled world. Youth writing its own bill of rights. Youth demanding. Besides, there was a large output of contributory literature, mostly in the form of challenging books, in the general tone of The Lost Generation, or The Dilemma of Youth.
The Old Reporter went first to the National Youth Administration. This is a Federal agency that was not created by act of Congress. It was created by executive order of the President and furnished by him with funds out of the sums Congress placed at his free disposal. At the information desk, the Old Reporter received a five-page mimeographed bulletin - NYA-5. Revision A. - entitled, The Program in Operation, or What the National Youth Administration is Doing for Youth. The summary was as follows:
"6600 graduate students earning an average of twenty-five and thirty dollars a month to help pay their way through graduate school.
"125,000 college students earning a maximum average of fifteen dollars a month to help meet the expenses of a college education.
"263,000 high-school students earning up to six dollars a month to pay for carfares, lunches, textbooks and other essentials.
"210,000 young men and women employed on approximately 6800 NYA work projects.
"4500 young women in attendance at sixty-eight camps for unemployed women."
The total, exclusive of the young women in camps, was:
"605,200 young people receiving NYA wages fro many kinds of work useful both to themselves and to the communities in which they live."
The "many kinds of useful work" were illustrated by large photographs on display. One was the photograph of a fine-looking boy, standing by the books that he had evidently just stacked up in a neat single pile, at a library desk, holding out his hand to receive a check fro the United States Treasury.
The General Aims of the National Youth Administration were set out on Page 3 of the same bulletin, as follows:
"First, to provide needy young people with educational, recreational, training and work opportunities. Second, to get as much as possible of its appropriation into the pockets of needy young people. Third, to stimulate the development of socially desirable projects and enterprises designed to benefit youth generally. And fourth, to raise young people as a group as nearly as possible to a position where they are no longer underprivileged."
The Old Reporter paused a while on the fourth aim. How had the Government determined that young people as a group were underprivileged? What were young people as a group? In fact, what was youth? Where did it begin and end?
There was an answer. The Government had determined what youth was. This had to be an arbitrary determination, naturally, and the necessity for it was obvious. The National Youth Administration could not act upon a youth; it could act only upon youth as a class. Therefore, the Government had designated all that segment of population between the ages of 16 and 25 to be a class. That was youth. The youth class, with a problem of its own. A class that must be raised by the Government to a position where it was "no longer underprivileged." And as the Old Reporter went on, her found that this official designation of youthhood had been generally accepted, even by the class designated.
On Page 4 of the NYA bulletin, he read:
"Through student aid, needy young people who are interested and capable of further education are being given an opportunity to earn their way through school and college, thus serving the double purpose of furnishing them with additional training and keeping them out of the labor market." (pg. 86)
He noted there a phrase to remember: "keeping them out of the labor market." And he did remember it when he came later to a pamphlet entitled, Youth, one of the exhortative specimens, addressed to the communities of the country by the Committee on Youth Problems in the Federal Office of Education. This committee was saying to the communities, "Get youth off the bleachers and into the game." And here was the National Youth Administration taking merit in the thought of "keeping them out of the labor market." Therefore, what game? He had an idea there would be more of this somewhere, and so there was.
In every personal way, exploring the National Youth Administration was a delightful experience. This was owing partly to the free charm of personality and partly to the spirit pervading the work - a kind of idealism tempered by misgivings and common sense. The Old Reporter, therefore, was somewhat pained to discover that the National Youth Administration was already on the defensive. With whom? Not with the politician; no trouble there at all. Not with the public. It had been heavily sold on the youth idea. With whom, then? With youth itself. Or, that is to say, with youth militant. And it was youth militant only that had organized itself and became vocal.
Its principle performance was the American Youth Congress. The third annual session of the American Youth Congress occurred in Cleveland last July. The number of delegates was more than 1300, who said they represented 1007 organizations, and that the total membership of the organizations they represented was 1,637,495. The book of proceedings listed the "types of organizations" represented. Of the "anti-war, anti-Fascist and civil rights" type there were 80; and this group included such unlike things as the Weeping Widows or Would-Be Wars and the National Guard, 132nd Infantry, Chicago. Of the fraternal type there were more than 100 organizations; of the student type there were 121; of the settlement-house type there were 49, of the church type, such as the Methodist youth, there were 57, and so on; and then of the labor-union type there were 138. This could not have been all youth. Certainly the 106 American Federation of Labor trade unions that were said to be represented, with a total membership of 283,000, could not have been all youth.
The significance of this labor representation appeared to be that in return for the aggressive support of organized labor by youth, organized labor was pledging itself to support youth in its resolve to get itself subsidized as a class by the American Youth Act. More of that in its place.
The Youth Congress received a warm greeting from President Roosevelt and one from the Socialist candidate for President; it heard an oral message from the Republican Party and a speech from Earl Browder, of the Communist Party. Then it turned to its own business, which, first of all, was to re-announce a "Declaration of Rights of American Youth."
Among the rights enumerated were these: The right to happiness, the right to security, the right to opportunity, and the right of immunity from war; then for youth in industry, the right to higher wages and shorter hours, and for rural youth, the right to a farm free of debt. For rhetoric, in italics: "We refuse to be the lost generation."
It declared itself against war, Fascism and company unions; it declared itself for unemployment insurance and social security. It resolved "that the American Youth Congress support wholeheartedly the drive to organize the steel industry." It resolved for the immediate release of Tom Mooney and Warren K. Billings and for the freedom of Angelo Herndon. It resolved to boycott Hearst as a wicked Fascist. It resolved that the union scale of wages be paid on all relief jobs., and that the high-school and college students receiving aid from the National Youth Administration be organized and affiliate themselves with labor unions. Off record, the Congress entertained a very low opinion of the National Youth Administration, on the ground that it was inadequate, that it was niggardly in its ministrations, that it confined its benefits to young people of "relief families," and that youth had no say in it.
But its big resolution was "to exert a maximum amount of pressure on the Congress of the United States" to compel it to pass the American Youth Act, as youth's only solution of the youth problem.
"A pleasure no longer to be avoided," said the Old Reporter to himself, as he put down the proceedings and took up a copy of "Senate 3658 - A bill to provide vocational training and employment for youth between the ages of 16 and 25," cited as The American Youth Act. He read it. The first of its merits was brevity. The second was clarity. And its provisions were as follows:
(a) Youth between the ages of 16 and 25, out of school, to be trained by the Government and hired by the Government on public works at full union wages.
(b) Needy youth in vocational schools and high schools to receive from the Government money enough to pay both their school expenses and their living expenses.
(c) Needy youth in colleges to be hired by the Government on academic projects at regular wages.
(d) This law to be administered and controlled by youth commissions, every youth commission to be controlled by the elected representatives of youth and union labor.
(e) The money for all this, any amount, to be raised by a levy of such taxes as were necessary upon the profits of corporations and the property of the rich.
The Old Reporter made his own rough calculation of the cost. It could hardly be less than $3,000,000,000 a year. It could easily be five. It might be fifteen.
Introduced in the Senate by Senator Benson, the American Youth Act had been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and the Committee on Education and Labor had held public hearings on it. The Old Reporter took up a printed copy of the hearings. Those who appeared to bear witness for the Act were members of youth bodies, social-service workers, representatives of union labor, Communists, and educators.
The chairman of the American Youth Congress told how, "through a process of group thought," this solution had been arrived at, and said: "The only remaining hope for American Youth is the American Youth Act." (pg. 88)
The editor of the Student Advocate, of the American Student Union, told the senators that if they really wished to know how to restore peace and quiet in the schools and universities, in place of the discontent that some were calling the red menace, the way to do it was to "legislate poverty out of existence."
The secretary of the Young Communist League, of New York City, said: "The Morgan-Chase-National financial combination alone controls $75,000,000,000. Here, gentlemen, are more than sufficient funds for the Youth Act and for all other progressive legislation."
A representative of the American Artist's Congress appeared for the unknown young artists, all needing time, shelter and food in order to develop their art, and asked to submit a mass of supporting data, the largest single item of which was the report of the delegate of the Unemployed Youth Committee of the Lower Bronx on the plight of youth as he knew it, on feature of said plight - namely, the third - being that the young man "is in the middle of his adolescent period in which contact with the opposite sex plays an important part. He cannot take any girls out, even to a moving picture, because he is too poor. True, some economists and psychiatrists tell us that you don't have to spend money on girls, but, fortunately, we are realists, and when facts present themselves as they do here, we meet them face to face."
The National High-School Secretary of the American Student Union asked the senators to consider how crucial a thing the matter of clothes or money for some recreation might be, and that hundreds of thousands of youth were feeling inferior for want of these things, adding: "In terms of social maladjustment, we are going to pay a heavy toll in later life for this."
Among other letters placed in the record was one from a student at the school of business and civic administration at the College of the City of New York, saying she had lost her benefits from the National Youth Administration because her marks averaged only C, asking what C's had to do with it, and ending: "In November when I vote, I will favor those candidates who have done most to further the betterment of my conditions."
Lillian Robbins, head worker at the Hamilton House Settlement, said: "These boys need cigarettes, hair cuts, razor blades, that no relief budget includes. And they don't ask too much when they want a quarter for the movie and, perhaps, even another one for the girl friend."
The head worker at Madison House Settlement said: "A despairing youth, bitter and disillusioned, seeks aid from its elected representatives. As one who has for the past two years made somewhat of a study of youth's vocational problems, I can say that aside from youth not having cigarette and movie money, the most vexing problem is that of answering the query, What can I do?
The secretary of the National Student Federation of America, in his capacity as editor of the National Student Mirror, brought a statement prepared for these hearings by Dr. Goodwin Watson, professor of education, Teacher's College, Colombia University. Doctor Watson said: "With no chance to earn money, dependent of meager relief, these young people can't dress as they would like to, can't entertain friends as they would like to, can't go places and do things ... If our slow rate of adjusting our ideas and social organization means that we must continue for years to come to carry a group of citizens denied the basic right to work, then by all means let it be the older men and women who are employed. They have had their chance ... Youth First!"
The interest of organized labor was clearly represented. The executive secretary of the National Religion and Labor Foundation said the first virtue of the American Youth Act was that it meant social justice for youth; the second was that it recognized at the same time the problem of organized labor, "for how can the pressure of five to eight millions of youth fail to be a constant threat to the wage standards of those millions of workers who are barely eking out an existence as it is?"
The first vice president of the United Textile Workers of America said his organization supported the American Youth Act not for sentimental reasons but because "Economically, the young men and women of America are being used as a bludgeon to defeat those things for which the trade-union movement has fought for many years .... How? They are hired at nonunion wages; they are sent to work as children, displacing older workers; they are put into the National Guard and taught to fire on picket lines."
A representative of the Ladies Garment Workers' Union of New York City said: "A large number of youth without means of support and, consequently, ready to work for any wage, no matter how small, constitutes a serious danger to our union standards."
The general manager of the Joint Board of the Dress and Waistmakers' Union of Greater New York said: "The trade-union movement is vitally concerned. The pressure of a large army of unemployed youth without means of support, and, consequently, ready to work for any wage, no matter how small, constitutes a serious danger to trade-union standards."
When the Old Reporter had turned the last page of the book of hearings, he looked at the notes he had been absently making on the back of it. He had written and serval times underlined the words "despair, disillusion, doom." The frequency with which these pessimisms had occurred in the testimony was what he had meant to remind himself of. The president of the National Council of Methodist Youth had referred to the "predicament of youth in a doomed economic order."
Another note he had made was to challenge the assumption that there was going to be less work to do in the world. In a paper delivered to the committee by the American Youth Commission of the American Council on Education, this statement had occurred: "Education will have to prepare us to live in a world of less work." The Federal Commissioner of Education had said, concerning the 2,225,000 young people who come to the age of employability each year: "As long as technological advance continues to reduce the number of persons needed to do the work of the world, these new recruits on the labor market are bound to have a particularly difficult time getting jobs." And so on.
Was it true? On the assumption that it was true, the Government, under the American Youth Act, would train a youth to be a plumber and hire him as a plumber at union wages until he was 25. Suppose then there were too many plumbers to do the plumbing work of the world. And suppose the young man said to the Government: "You made a plumber of me. Now what are you going to do about it?" Or it might be a carpenter, an engineer, an architect, a bookkeeper, a young scientist with a diploma - and less and less work for all of them to do in the world. (pp. 89, 90)
"Grue," said the Old Reporter.
There was another note on the rudeness of youth. This he dismissed as manners of the time. Besides, had not their Government been telling them they were underprivileged as a class?
He had made a not on the pages on which the vital facts appeared, and now turned back to them. The vital facts were not in dispute.
Youth in school, approximately - 4,000,000
Youth gainfully employed - 8,000,000
Youth working at home (female) - 3,000,000
Youth out of school and out of work - 5,000,000
Total youth of 16 to 24, approximately - 20,000,000
Five millions of young people out of school and out of work seemed an appalling fact. After having looked at it for a long while, the Old Reporter suddenly came to, saying: "Now I am doing it. I am trying to think of what the solution can be for the problems of five millions young people out of school and out of work. There is no such thing as the solution. Why? Because there is no such thing as the problem. For each of these young people there is a solution. I cannot think of five million solutions. Neither can the Government. Nor can the solution for five millions of young people be legislated, except to say the Government shall support them as a class. But the Government cannot stop at supporting any class that needs and demands it. The old as a class, the unemployed as a class, the ineffective as a class. To do this, it must divide among these classes the product of employed labor, because there is at last nothing else to divide; and then it must guarantee that employed labor as a class shall not have less by reason of this division of its product with those who shall have more."
Happily, at this moment three men came to his table, making salutations. He was at lunch. Two of the three he knew; they had been old reporters. One now was the editor of an important magazine; the other was the head of a great news agency. The third had been an old reporter, too, as it turned out. They asked him what was the mighty weight upon his brow.
He said, "I've been looking at the youth problem."
One of them turned to the third man, saying, "Tell him what you know about youth. It may cheer him up."
The third man began telling about the publication he conducted, named The Youth Parade.
"Now don't groan," one of them said to the Old Reporter. "Let him go on."
The third man went on, saying: "This has nothing to do with any youth movement, if that's what you are thinking. I'm touching the youth we thought we knew, and it's still there. My publication is made up of what these youngsters write themselves, about themselves, about themselves, verified news stories of their own and one another's achievements.
"For example," the Old Reporter asked.
"Well, for example - I just happened to be thinking of it - one of my Oregon reporters, a boy of 17, came to the office last spring and said he thought we might be interested to know that he had just arrived in Washington from Oregon, on a bicycle, and he showed me the log of his trip. He had been in town only 24 hours, but he had just got the job he wanted. He was a telegraph messenger and he had got himself assigned to the capitol, where he could see his Oregon congressman every day. We printed that story. A week after Congress adjourned, he came in again. He was going home, on the same bicycle. Why was he going home? If he wanted to keep in touch with them, he had better be going back. What do you think? Will that boy get to West Point?
"Thanks," said the Old Reporter. As he had listened, he had been turning the pages of the book of hearings, looking for a point of light he remembered, and he found it. The director of CCC Camp Education had been arguing for more vocational training of youth at public expense to fit them for trades. The chairman asked that if it was not on the record that all the trades were already overcrowded. The witness replied: "You are correct. Practically every means of employment in America today is overcrowded. My reaction to that is not to stop educating. We want the best carpenter, the best chauffeur, and the best technician we can train."
The chairman answered: "The problem is not to take care of the best. The best will take care of themselves."
The Old Reporter put a ring around those words and wrote against it: "The forgotten American text."
Shortly after this he went home, tied 30 pounds of youth literature in a bundle and sat down to write a memorandum on the youth movement. This is what he wrote:
Youth is a piece of the whole, and the same line that divides the whole divides also youth. On one side of the line is the precious quantity that has no weight in the statistical tables, no visibility in the diagrams. The Oregon youth is there. Omit him. He does not know whether the world is right or wrong. He has no idea that he is underprivileged or that he's entitled to anything the system deprives him of. He will take care of himself. And if he and his kind are let alone, they will carry the rest.
On the other side of the line is the youth class, vocal as such, with the modern passion to organize itself as a problem. What is this youth saying? It is saying that the world ought to be what it ought to be. That is unanswerable and means nothing. The misfortunes of this youth are many, and not what it thinks they are.
Its first misfortune was to have been born at a time when the stern-parent principle, having failed in the home, was failing also in government.
Its second misfortune was to inherit a world so much richer than any generation ever inherited before, with a standard of common living so much higher, that it could not imagine the conditions under which its father and grandfathers were born. It could easier make sense of a delusion found current in the world that the struggle for existence might be suspended and that everybody might have more and work less, if only what was were divided around in the name of social justice.
It had the misfortune to be educated in a system of free public schools permitting it to believe that the way to success and the white-collar escape was to memorize what was printed in books; and gave it no real understanding of the real world it was going forth to meet.
It was misfortune to have come of age, or to be coming of age, in a time of economic depression, not for anything this did to the young body or to the young pocket money, but for what it did to the young mind; because at such a time feeling is in a state of anger, fabulous expectations of life have been disappointed, thinking is in confusion and wishful fallacies are passing for new ideas.
And it was unfortunate to have arrived on the political scene at a time when the political parties were all, in a competitive manner, bartering the public funds for the favor of classes, and appealing to youth as a class, to exploit its vote.
The City College student, with her crabbed little letter, saying she will vote for the candidates who do most "further the betterment of my conditions" regardless of her C's, belongs to a class. Between her class and other classes that organize themselves in the same way to put pressure on the Government for subsidies and benefits out of the public treasury, and offer their votes to the political party that will promise the most, what is the difference? Youth did not invent the method.
Youth has done nothing to itself. It is the helpless document that has received the writing of its time. The worst sentence there is the one that says the tide of opportunity recedes and that the work of the world is exhaustible. If that were true, the greatest of all misfortunes had been for this youth to get born at all. And that makes the writing absurd. (pp. 90, 91)
Comments: Note that it was the executive orders of FDR that created the massive bureaucracy that operated upon youth. Part the massive inheritance of billions that Congress placed in FDR's hands to spend as he saw fit was used to buy the next election and gain the mind of youth. Of all age groups, this would be the most important age group to gain the mind of if you desired to permanently change the way people think, for they would be the ones who would breed most of the next generation. Once the mind of the human breeder stock of the nation is acquired by those in power, their offspring will naturally follow their condition. In other words, let's get the youth of the nation accustomed to letting government tax its labor and accept numbers that identify them as taxpayers, and they will pass this habit on to their children, and so on with all future generations. Each succeeding generation, naturally, will have the idea that labor taxation is lawful more firmly implanted in their minds, especially if all information fed to them is one-sided in the Government's favor. The depression provided an excellent opportunity to start changing the thinking of people. As we can see, a lot of people weren't thinking straight back then. Notice too that the youths that were paid while working for the Government back then were not paid with pay envelopes like the rest of the people who worked in the private sector. Instead of cash in a pay envelope they were paid by check. I suppose if you wanted to break people of the habit of getting paid in cash in a pay envelope, and get them used to paychecks instead - with the ultimate goal of paychecks with tax deductions for all working people - you had to start somewhere.