Chapter 30 Economics
The 1950s had an economic boom that significantly overshadowed that of the 1920s; however across the nation this was not a universally prosperous time.

Causes of Growth
The Gross National Product of the 1950s nearly tripled between 1945 and 1960.
Unemployment was at an all time low of 5% (compared to the **Great Depression**'s 15-25%) and in some areas lower! It also had an inflation rate of 3% and less.

Government spending: The move towards socialism brought about by **FDR** and his **New Deal** spurred into action significant government spending on publc school systems. The government also ensured a low rate of homelessness with a large governmental budget for public works projects including an array of economically efficient housing available to those on welfare. After the great scandal of the Bonus Army, the government has made sure to keep the nation's ex-soldiers happy with a plethora of new benefits. Internally, Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System was another geat public works project that constantly requires funding but is also a constant source of vitality for those skilled and unskilled laborers looking for a job. The government was obliged to keep up this giant project that required constant attention; it was a major transportation system that at once provided new jobs and drew the money from the government's budget. Nevertheless this system was required to connect the nation by roads and provide for a much easier means of transporting consumer goods and travelers. Eisenhower was also known for his great military bravado overseas in **WWII** at Normandy. This legacy of American military strength was a constant that continued throughout the 1950s but which was met with slightly less American support, although not as much as Vietnam in the 1960s. The Korean War of the early 1950s was a complete failure with the boundary between North and South Korea remaining essentially after a US spending of $54 billion (which in today's currency would equate to about $454 billion) the same. This failure may have attributed to the lack of enthusiasm by the American public for the War in Vietnam.

Hospitals during the Baby Boom
Hospitals during the Baby Boom
Baby Boom:
After the Second World War the men who defended the United States came back with an insatiable desire for the American Dream, which, of course, provided for abundant child-making. The Baby Boomers were born in the 1950s and 1960s; this huge population burst provided for many problems in society, including today's qualms about social security reform, but in the time period of their youth, the baby boomers were a godsend as far as the economy was concerned.

Suburban Growth: These boomers grew up to live in a society of manicured houses that looked like they came out of an assembly line, just like the mass produced cars that 60% of the population bought, spending a little less than half of their family's income! In order to be such avid consumers, the baby boomers held a lot of jobs in the production of roads, automobiles, and other public transportation. The relationship between roads and automobiles became an enduring legacy that would transform America into the easily accessible nation it is today. The picturesque houses, the homemaker wife, the many children and the hardworking dad all had to live somewhere, and the suburbs provided just the place. The American Dream of high standard living in the 1950s moved away from the cities to a calmer life in the suburbs. The increase in car and road use meant hardworking Dad could drive to work and come back to a relaxing house with a yard and dog at the end of the day.

The Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl
The West Catches Up

Just as some areas did not gain from the economic growth in the 1950s, the west epitomized a perfect change. The west had previously been just an appendage from the East, such as in the Civil War. While the south provided raw materials and agricultural goods and the north provided manufactured goods, the west simply provided open spaces, lumber, and (very rarely because of it's arid landscape) agricultural products. It played no major role in society, economy, or the fighting of the war. The west had grown, however, from the civil war time period (1790 - 1860). Now, its cities population boomed and its economy flourished. Like the north and south, the west grew due to government spending, population growth, and public works projects (dams, power stations, and highways). The cars that expanded the easts growing suburban economy provided for a large stimulus to the petroleum industry which contributed to to rapid growth of oil fields in the west, specifically Texas, Colorado, and the major trading hubs of Houston, Dallas, and Denver. The west also grew in education due to more public funding. This was clearly evident in the extension of funding of higher education in public universities and colleges. The universities attracted more
Eisenhower's Highway(s)
Eisenhower's Highway(s)
intellectuals who then assisted in further improving the technology and growth of the west. The west also became popular because of what had previously hindered it. The warm, dry weather was a relief compared to the rainy and cold east. Once provided with the essentials (plumbing and electricity), the west attracted immigrants from the east for vacationing and living. The miracle boom was proved by the growth of Los Angeles whose population rose by over 50% (!!!) between 1940 and 1960.


The boom of the United States made the US population cocky and arrogant, an overconfidence in their still (relatively) young nation. While instilling confidence in the nation, the hubris of the citizens did cause some problems in a lack of desire to work. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the US population doubted the ability of the national government to pull itself out of its economic downturn. Since then the people have learned their lesson but did almost overcompensate in an extreme movement towards trust in their government. The policy of Keynesian economics, which varied the flow of government spending and taxation to manage the supply of money and allow the government to stimulate the economy while preventing inflation. People believed so vehemently that there would never be another economic depression like that of the 1920s that it gained a following not unlike a cult. In the 1950s people resigned to the will of the government, leading towards slight Communism in wanting it to hand out welfare programs and control the lives of the people, freeing them from needless worry. However in the 1950s the majority opinion was that the government should stimulate the growth of the economy and instead of handing out money start handing out jobs, they thought the government should also limit its regulation to industry. People were happy with this setup because the Affluent did not have to give up their high standard of living, but at the same time the poor were able to enjoy a decent level of comfort. The Keynesians were never fully satisfied by the way the government had developed; they were hindered by political obstacles and the modern economy did not respond as quickly as the Keynesians thought it should to an influx of money.

Working and Wages

During the 1950s, many small companies joined together to produce bigger, more powerful, companies; at the same time, a relatively small number of these newly-formed organizations controlled large amounts of the nations economics. This was especially true for companies that had been funded by the government. Just like during WWII, the government had specific contracts with business organizations. Half of the entire governments defense contracts went to a mere twenty corporations in 1959 and half of the net corporate income went to 500 firms (1/10 of 1% of ALL of the nations firms!). The same happened in the agricultural economy. With new technology, there was a declining need for unskilled laborers (it declined by more than half (!!!) in the 1950s and 60s). Family farms disappeared and agriculture became mechanized and was ruled by corporations and businesses. The Old South would have called it corrupt. Corporations were terrified of strikes because of the powerful labor unions and so the benefits of workers improved. Walter Ruther received a contract that had an "escalator" clause that included an automatic cost of living increase pegged to the consumer price index in 1948. In 1955, he recieved another contract that guaranteed continuous wages to auto workers, even during the layoffs. In steel companies a few years later, workers won guarantees of an annual salary. By the mid-1950s, factory wages had risen to $80 a week. However, these benfits were like bribes in which strikes were guaranteed not to happen in return for small raises in salaries and better living. In other industries, workers were decreasing because of new technology. The labor force did gain many benefits, BUT its population decreased as a whole and so, the corporations were still saving money. At the same time, the unions bureaucracies was extremely corrupt. In the south, people worked strongly to demolish unionization through laws and social works. No one in the south liked a Union. This is proven by todays states. Virginia still does not allow unions while other states, like Pennsylvania, encourage them.

Works Cited:
Big Budget Events- NBC
Brinkley- American History
The External Consumer