Table Topics questions are meant to stimulate family and classroom discussion.
Use the questions below after reading,"Out from under: A 'New Deal' "
- In 1932, President Roosevelt's promise of a "New Deal" for the American people was a political winner.
People were ready to take a chance on totally different solutions. Pragmatic Americans seem to have no
trouble shifting from party to party as conditions change. Can you recall other abrupt shifts in political
thinking? What was going on at the time? Does trouble tend to inspire creativity? 1996 is also a year of
political news and decision. In your opinion, which politicians, if any, best express the current national
mood? Is it a time of change or status quo on the political landscape?
- For the first time, national government of the '30s offered direct aid and financial safety nets
to citizens. Today, many "social experiments" of the '30s are well-established protections
and entitlements. What are some New Deal programs now in effect and which benefit you directly?
Is our society better off with them? There is current public discussion about revising Social
Security, welfare and medical programs. How do you feel about this? What are some of the issues
involved and what has changed since the '30s? What benefits would you be willing to
change or give up personally?
- WPA and CCC programs put the Northwest to work on public art and service,
transportation, utilities, and construction of schools, housing, libraries and parks.
Projects like the Mercer Island bridge kept workers afloat while creating a legacy for
future generations. Do you know of others? Find out if some of the public buildings or parks
you use were built by the WPA or CCC. The notion of a public service corps has come up again.
Would you support a mandatory service or join a voluntary one? What projects would contribute
the most to the common good? WPA workers protested low government wages. Would contemporary
service workers work for minimum wage?
- Building the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River was the most significant
public works project in the nation. How did the dam change the landscape and our state's
economy? What are some long-term effects of the dam that were not foreseen in the '30s?
The power of the mighty Columbia and the great human effort and ingenuity required to harness
it inspired many songs by folk singer Woodie Guthrie. Today there's another upsurge of
interest resulting in the publication of a number of books on the subject.
How has our perspective on the river changed?
- How were the most important industries of the Northwest affected by economic crisis
in the rest of the nation? Look in today's newspaper for the influence of national economic
trends on our dominant regional industries. How would your own job be affected by a
moderate-to-severe depression right now?
Copyright © 1996 The Seattle Times Company