The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America

The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America

The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America

The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America

Synopsis

This devastating critique by the authors of The Deindustrialization of America documents how the economic policies of the Reagan era have damaged the American standard of living and suggests how this trend may be reversed.

Excerpt

When we first wrote The Great U-Turn, we began with a simple and fundamental premise: what is essential to the American Dream is the promise of an ever-improving standard of living. Americans expect to find and hold higher-paying jobs as they get older, and they expect their children to fare even better. As generations pass, we also look forward to more time for leisure without suffering losses in pay. Americans have always been willing to work and work hard. But we have grown to expect a good return for our effort.

We also presumed that the American Dream has traditionally been infused with a strong social conscience and an abiding belief that, all things considered, a more equal society is a more equitable one. That principle of purpose has been honored in the breach as often as in the practice. But polls show repeatedly that we like ourselves better when our institutions are promoting equality—at least equality of opportunity—than when they are not.

We discovered in the course of doing research for The Great U-Turn that for a quarter of a century, from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, the American Dream was indeed becoming a reality for a growing segment of the population. Real family income rose surely and, for the most part, steadily. An increase in social opportunity and a real reduction in poverty supplied the wherewithal for social cohesion in the face of the wrenching effects of McCarthyism, Vietnam, and a revolution in cultural mores and standards.

Yet our research led us to believe that the American Dream began to unravel more than a decade and a half ago and continues to this very day. the affluent society stopped becoming more affluent in the early 1970s. On average, real (inflation-adjusted) individual wages have no longer gone up; for the average worker, 1973 was the high-water mark in material gain. Moreover, the economic distance between rich and poor, between well paid and poorly paid, is higher today than at any . . .

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