For more than three decades--from the beginning of World War II through about 1973--the United States was enormously successful in almost every economic dimension. During these "good news" years the average standard of living rose steeply. Disparities narrowed between rich and poor, black and white. Americans were saving, investing, and building for the future. Only a few concerns--about mounting environmental hazards or the deterioration of central cities, for example--raised any doubts that success could be sustained.
Then disappointment set in. Average Americans were still living better than people in most other countries, but their incomes were no longer rising much. Progress against poverty ceased, and the gap between rich and poor widened. In the 1980s the well-off prospered, but the income of those in the lower