From 1947 until 1977, there was a 30 year period where America boomed. Our economy was thriving and education was growing. This time in our history was coined The Great Prosperity. And Bill Clinton’s former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich suggests that it was in those 30 years that we struck gold in reducing economic inequality.
My introduction into Reich’s economic ideas began in the film documentary Inequality for All. It explored Reich as a professor at the University of California-Berkeley on his discussions and analysis on the consequences that will face the nation in a widening social gap between the rich and the poor.
This is a problem we know too well – class war, unemployment, wage gaps, public funding, you name it, it’s mentioned. During the highlighted years of social progression, we look at a changing government across the political platform. It was new government actions that let the economy expand and in return, inequality to shrink.
During this time, more than one-third of all workers were represented by a union. The top tax rate ranged from 91 percent to 71 percent. And the top 1 percent of the nation kept less than 10 percent of the nation’s total income. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s even more.
The average CEO’s pay was only about 50 times greater than their average employee. That’s one-seventh of today’s earnings. By the 2000’s, CEO’s were earning 350 times more than their employees.
The ratio of debt to household income was about 1:1. And the government was using a little something called Keynesian economics – spending money to make money – to achieve nearly full employment.
It was a brilliant time for workers across America. Working people influenced each other for social security which resulted in public investment and an increase in consumerism, which as we all know, does loads for our economy. Labour productivity expanded and we had the jobs we lost during the Great Depression back – and this time, they were more secure. The middle class was spending more and jobs were being created at a rapid pace. Our national debt shrank as a result.
This prosperous economy held people in security and our country in good spirits. This energy and investment allowed for opportunity elsewhere to grow out of this time too-education.
College and universities were made more accessible to the masses. And better yet, it was encouraged. The GI Bill also gave veterans and soldiers who had fought in World War II and the Korean War the opportunity to attend college. And by the late 1950’s, the US had the best-educated workforce in the entire world.
Because more and more people were attending school, this led to the expansion of public universities affordable at a low cost.
The percentage of citizens with college degrees sky rocketed allowing for more work in private sector jobs.
This was a progressive time for the US economy, workers and national identity. It was a look back on a prosperous time in an era of uncertainty all over the world. Today, as we find ourselves in $20 trillion in debt, slowing job growth and me, myself, on the fringe of paying off a hefty pile of student loans, how do we combat the current state of the nation? Maybe Robert Reich has an answer.