PART III

WHAT TO DO

Pessimism in America

How DID America become a nation that does not believe it can afford to do what it once did and to do what has to be done today? How did the wealthiest nation in history come to believe it is not wealthy? Part of the nation's new agenda must be to rid itself of a deep-seated pessimism that it does not acknowledge. Ronald Reagan, promising a “new morning in America,” ironically ushered in the age of limits he accused Jimmy Carter of creating. With Reagan, slow wage growth and high levels of unemployment became accepted. Pundits like Robert Samuelson of Newsweek and many like-minded observers told America that fast wage growth in the 1950s and 1960s was an aberration in its history, and they should be satisfied with the slow progress and even broad declines of average wages in the 1970s and 1980s, given how far the nation had already come.1 New institutions to cope with the rising two-worker family were never seriously considered; Americans simply worked more. People were told not that they would be helped to lead fuller lives but, as both Republican and moderate Democratic experts claimed, that they should be well-satisfied. Had the Reagan spirit of government distrust prevailed throughout American history, property in America would probably not have been distributed as equitably as it was in the early years, the free primary and high schools of Amer-

-125-

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The Case for Big Government
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Part I - Government and Change in America 1
  • Part II - How Much We Have Changed 65
  • Part III - What to Do 125
  • Notes 177
  • Index 195
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