Can someone make an arguable historical claim regarding FDR's WPA program?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The most important thing to understand when answering this question is what an arguable claim is.  Once that is clear, it is not hard to find such a claim.

In writing a persuasive or argumentative paper, a person has to make a claim that can be argued.  There are two important aspects to an arguable claim.  First, an arguable claim cannot be a statement that is straightforward, factual, and obvious.  If you said, “The WPA was a New Deal program that was created to give jobs to people and to improve America’s infrastructure” it would not be an arguable claim.  This is a simple statement of fact that is obviously true and cannot really be disputed.  Second, an arguable claim cannot be a simple statement of opinion without any rationale or factual basis.  In other words, the statement, “The WPA was the greatest government program in American history” would not be an arguable claim because it gives us no basis for your opinion.  We do not have any real way to engage the question and start to argue it.  The same would be true if you said “The WPA was an evil program that helped destroy American values.”  Instead, we need a statement that is not obviously true but which also gives the basic reasoning behind your argument.

There are a number of claims that you could make about the WPA that would fit these criteria.  Let us look at two such claims here.

  1. “The WPA was an example of a great government program because it helped people as different as artists and construction workers and because it created things that were valuable to the United States.”  This is arguable because not everyone would agree that the WPA was a great program.  Conservatives might well argue that it was counterproductive because it employed too many people who were doing things that were not really all that important.  It is also arguable because it clearly states a basic reason why we can say the WPA was “great.”
  2. “The WPA did not do much to help the US get out of the Depression because it was too limited in its scope.”  This is arguable because people can disagree on whether the WPA should have been bigger.  They can also disagree on whether a bigger program would have helped end the Depression sooner.  Again, there is a claim, backed by a specific reason, that is not obvious and on which people can disagree.

Either of these statements could be used as an arguable claim about the WPA.

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