Congress, caught in an election year with a paucity of real issues, is beginning to wield the economy axe on those agencies which it considers nonessential to the war effort. Included in that category are the NYA and CCC. Senator McKellar's Committee on Education and Labor is now considering a bill which abolishes the two and saves about $310,000,000. Despite strong Administration pressure to kill the bill, there is a very good chance that it will be passed by a Congress anxious to "get something done."
This measure is at best hasty and ill-advised. From a short-range viewpoint, it is directly detrimental to the war effort. The training of skilled laborers in NYA schools is undoubtedly a war activity, for without those skills the basic defense industries would be forced to close down. CCC boys are admittedly of military age, but few Congressmen have dared to assert that soil erosion and wastage of natural resources are of no bearing on wartime supply problems. Considered in its longterm affects, the bill is even more foolish. Several tens of thousands of college students are directly dependent on NYA funds for their educations. If the money is cut off in an over-zealous drive for economy, their collegiate educations are simultaneously amputated. College training will be more difficult for the lower income groups, and will become a middle class luxury. Of those to whom NYA is vitally important, moreover, a large number are science and social science students whose talents will be sorely needed both during and after the war.
The threat is especially great in the small colleges and universities, many of whose student bodies would be almost totally obliterated by a sudden stoppage of NYA funds. At harvard and the larger colleges, the direct effect is not so serious, but to the men who are in need of assistance, the money makes a great psychological difference. Few of the 340 men now working on NYA at Harvard would be forced to leave College if it were abandoned. Many of them, however, are given a valuable sense of certainty by signing a contract which assures them a certain sum for the year. Take that contract away, and they go back to a week-by-week financial existence. The value of certitude in such matters is enormous, and there is no way of estimating the total effect if it were removed.
If a hostile Senate and a suspicious House gang up on the two agencies, the direct and indirect losses cannot be quickly or easily recouped. It is difficult to resist the urge to prune a group whose members do not vote, but it may be wise to remember that NYA and CCC beneficiaries will not be minors forever.