Monthly Archives: June 2014

TVA: From the New Deal to a New Century



The Tennessee Valley Authority is the nation’s largest public power provider and a corporation of the U.S. government. TVA was established by Congress in 1933 to address a wide range of environmental, economic, and technological issues, including the delivery of low-cost electricity and the management of natural resources. TVA’s power service territory includes most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia, covering 80,000 square miles and serving more than 9 million people. TVA sells electricity to 155 power distributor customers and 56 directly served industries and federal facilities.

Initially, federal appropriations funded all TVA operations. Appropriations for the TVA power program ended in 1959, and appropriations for TVA’s environmental stewardship and economic development activities were phased out by 1999. TVA is now fully self-financing, funding operations primarily through electricity sales and power system financings.

A short history of TVA

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the TVA Act on May 18, 1933. The president is surrounded by various members of Congress from the TVA region, and at his left shoulder is Senator George Norris of Nebraska, after whom Norris Dam is named.

President Franklin Roosevelt needed innovative solutions if the New Deal was to lift the nation out of the depths of the Great Depression, and TVA was one of his most innovative ideas. Roosevelt envisioned TVA as a totally different kind of agency. He asked Congress to create “a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.” On May 18, 1933, Congress passed the TVA Act.

From the start, TVA established a unique problem-solving approach to fulfilling its mission: integrated resource management. Each issue TVA faced — whether it was power production, navigation, flood control, malaria prevention, reforestation, or erosion control — was studied in its broadest context. TVA weighed each issue in relation to the whole picture.

From this beginning, TVA has held fast to its strategy of integrated solutions, even as the issues changed over the years.


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Photos of Public Libraries across the U.S.

Reprinted courtesy of: (Roughly) Daily and

“What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists”*…

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Library built by ex-slaves, Allensworth, Calif.

Since 1994, photographer Robert Dawson has photographed hundreds of the over 17,000 public libraries in this country.

“A public library can mean different things to different people. For me, the library offers our best example of the public commons. For many, the library upholds the 19th-century belief that the future of democracy is contingent upon an educated citizenry. For others, the library simply means free access to the Internet, or a warm place to take shelter, a chance for an education, or the endless possibilities that jump to life in your imagination the moment you open the cover of a book.”

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The first Carnegie library: the Braddock Carnegie Library, Braddock, Penn. “The once glorious but now faded interior included a gym, a theater, and a swimming pool, as well as book collections and reading rooms.”

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Harry Hopkins: Address at WPA Luncheon

Harry Hopkins, Address on federal relief delivered at a WPA luncheon (September 19, 1936). From “Address at WPA Luncheon,” Harry L. Hopkins Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.

Harry_Hopkins_FDR[Hopkins served as the first director of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in 1933, the Civil Works Administration, and then the Works Progress Administration in 1935. This speech is a public defense of New Deal programs and a statement of Hopkins’s ideas about relief more broadly.]

…I gained six pounds this summer and am looking pretty well after all the things people have called me, and the reason is I don’t worry any more. A fellow told me the story about the eighteen year old girl that had her first date. Her father sent for her and told her there were certain things she should know. “This young fellow is very apt to hold your hand, and daughter, that is all right. Then he will want to put his arm around you, and that is all right. Then he will want you to put your head on his shoulder — you must not do that because your mother will worry.” So the young girl went out and the next morning her father asked her how the evening had gone. She replied, “Well, Dad, everything happened just as you said it would, he held my hand, then he put his arm around me, then he wanted me to put my head on his shoulder, but I said, ‘Hell no!’ — you put your head on my shoulder and let your mother worry.'”…

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Delivered Monday, July 24, 1933, 9:30 PM

The Fireside Chat” a sculpture by George Segal at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. FDR used radio talks to speak directly to the American public.

After the adjournment of the historical special session of the Congress five weeks ago I purposely refrained from addressing you for two very good reasons.

First, I think that we all wanted the opportunity of a little quiet thought to examine and assimilate in a mental picture the crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal.

Secondly, I wanted a few weeks in which to set up the new administrative organization and to see the first fruits of our careful planning.

I think it will interest you if I set forth the fundamentals of this planning for national recovery; and this I am very certain will make it abundantly clear to you that all of the proposals and all of the legislation since the fourth day of March have not been just a collection of haphazard schemes but rather the orderly component parts of a connected and logical whole.

Long before Inauguration Day I became convinced that individual effort and local effort and even disjointed Federal effort had failed and of necessity would fail and, therefore, that a rounded leadership by the Federal Government had become a necessity both of theory and of fact. Such leadership, however, had its beginning in preserving and strengthening the credit of the United States Government, because without that no leadership was a possibility. For years the Government had not lived within its income. The immediate task was to bring our regular expenses within our revenues. That has been done. It may seem inconsistent for a government to cut down its regular expenses and at the same time to borrow and to spend billions for an emergency. But it is not inconsistent because a large portion of the emergency money has been paid out in the form of sound loans which will be repaid to the Treasury over a period of years; and to cover the rest of the emergency money we have imposed taxes to pay the interest and the installments on that part of the debt.





The answer appears so simple that even Saturday Night Live has made a gag of it. To escape the nightmare tide of rising debt, all Americans need do is control their consumption, right? Resist the pull of the flat screen TV, the closet full of brand names, the smart phone. It’s just that easy.

Or is it?

In May 2012, members of the Occupy Wall Street publication Tidal and its working group, Occupy Theory, called for a series of open assemblies to re-evaluate the Occupy movement’s strategies. Conversations quickly coalesced around the topics of education and debt, and the Strike Debt group was born. Taking a cue from the student protests in Quebec, the group began to hold weekly assemblies in Washington Square Park and adopted Quebec’s red square as a symbol of solidarity.

“We realized that student debt, medical debt, housing debt, credit card debt – these are all necessities of life, and people are stuck,” said Susan Meaney, a member of Strike Debt’s organizing committee and a mother of two college-age children with student loans.

With roughly 75 percent of Americans mired in some kind of debt, much of it medical or educational, Meaney said, the blame cannot rest on the debtors. When basic necessities like health care and schooling are partially or entirely debt-financed, consuming less is not the answer.


FDR Fireside Chat #2 – Outlining the New Deal Program

Delivered Sunday May 7. 1933

History_Speeches_1145_FDR_Banking_Crisis_still_624x352On a Sunday night a week after my Inauguration I used the radio to tell you about the banking crisis and the measures we were taking to meet it. I think that in that way I made clear to the country various facts that might otherwise have been misunderstood and in general provided a means of understanding which did much to restore confidence.

Tonight, eight weeks later, I come for the second time to give you my report — in the same spirit and by the same means to tell you about what we have been doing and what we are planning to do.

Two months ago we were facing serious problems. The country was dying by inches. It was dying because trade and commerce had declined to dangerously low levels; prices for basic commodities were such as to destroy the value of the assets of national institutions such as banks, savings banks, insurance companies, and others. These institutions, because of their great needs, were foreclosing mortgages, calling loans, refusing credit. Thus there was actually in process of destruction the property of millions of people who had borrowed money on that property in terms of dollars which had had an entirely different value from the level of March, 1933. That situation in that crisis did not call for any complicated consideration of economic panaceas or fancy plans. We were faced by a condition and not a theory.

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by Michael Blim, 3 Quarks Daily website, published July 26, 2010

6a00d8341c562c53ef013485b30886970c-800wiA bag of books for two bucks, said the sign. Deflation has hit the little Connecticut country library used book sales I haunt each summer. Imagine what you can stuff into a big supermarket paper bag, and then cross-rough it with a run of terrific books – a book of Giotto’s frescoes, Graham Greene’s The Comedians, three P.D. James mysteries, George F. Kennan’s Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin, a compilation of comic art propaganda that includes a study and pictures of Hansi: the Girl Who Loved the Swastika (the protagonist escapes Nazism by becoming a bride for Christ). All of these and A Guide to Thomas Aquinas.

All of these books bid for my affections, hoping for a quick conquest of my summer reading plans. Having laid hands on Robert Sherwood’s Hopkins and Roosevelt (1948) my fate was sealed. And fortunately for me, having spent as 3QD readers know the past two summers on first Hitler and then Stalin thanks to my library sales book buys.

What a delight to read the history of heroes once more. Sherwood tells the story of how Roosevelt and Hopkins, FDR’s alter ego insofar as he ever had one, battled the Great Depression and World War II together, with Hopkins the iron fist in Roosevelt’s velvet glove. The story is told with admiration and a beguiling humility. Though a successful playwright and a speechwriting White House denizen from 1940 onward, Sherwood never lost his awe of the two men, sharing intimate space and time with two persons who never shared their intimate thoughts with anyone.