Odd as it might sound, a lot of good came out the 1930s depression: Financial regulations were created that have (so far) prevented the same from happening again, large numbers of people shifted west helping to populate those states, and the WPA was begun.
Started in 1935 as part of President Roosevelt's "Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935," the Work Projects Administration returned millions of people to work, created thousands of infrastructure projects and started the country moving again. Thanks to the WPA, we have freeways, bridges, buildings, parks, paintings, theater, music and murals that speak of their time in a way that would never have happened without it.
[We love the WPA. In the historic district where we live are sidewalks made by the WPA (and marked as such) and we even have a WPA poster hanging in our living room (the image pictured).]
There were critics: many of the WPA-related programs were accused of harboring "communists" (because painters and playwrights were, of course, ALL communists). Such accusations provided the germ of the red baiting that grew into the House Committee on Un-American Activities and gave birth to the now infamous Joseph McCarthy.
With the country possibly facing another depression, talk has begun of a new-millennia WPA program to help the unemployed return to work. Think of it logically: you can pay people unemployment benefits to try to find work, or you could pay them to help build a bridge. The money would certainly be better spent making something and I am pretty sure that most people would want to earn their money rather than just have it handed to them.
Here are links with more information on the WPA:
General information on the WPA.
A cool site showing hundreds of posters made by WPA artists.
CBS News Sunday Morning did this feature on the WPA.