Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960

Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960

Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960

Abundance and Anxiety: America, 1945-1960

Synopsis

The United States had tremendous opportunities after World War II. The nation's industrial might, geared to defeat Germany and Japan, could now be focused on domestic production. Real wages were up, the GNP was on the rise, industrial production was up, and inflation was under control. The future looked bright for the average American. But this abundance was punctuated with anxiety. Within four years of the end of the war, the Soviet Union had become the new enemy: they had the bomb and China and Eastern Europe had fallen into the Soviet sphere of influence. These two points, the abundance of the growing economy and the anxiety of the Cold War, defined the period from 1945-1960.

Excerpt

There have been few eras in American history more dynamic than the first fifteen years after World War II. The theme of the time was great expectations, lofty hopes, and grand dreams for the future. These hopes and dreams were personal: to own a home, to be financially comfortable, to live a good life. But there were also expectations and dreams for the nation: to be a world leader in a new modern era. Immediately after the war, Americans saw the future as prosperous, safe, and secure.

It is no wonder. During the war the nation's economy had been geared up to meet the challenge of fascism and expansionism in Europe and Asia. War production was phenomenal. In fact, by the war's end, the average American had come to realize that it was American industrial might that had won the war. And if anyone doubted it, there were nearly amazing facts and figures to prove it. By 1942 full employment had been reached; by the end of the war U.S. industry was producing over 46,000 aircraft per year; in Portland, Oregon, Henry Kaiser was building 10,000-ton liberty ships in just seventeen days; and the total national income had risen from $70 billion in 1940 to over $161 billion by 1945. These were phenomenal statistics. Clearly, the United States had the ability to do about anything it wanted. The war showed that the U.S. government, through . . .

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