The Gold Standard for The American Dream

vintage photo mid century family chart of American propserity

Confidence in a Growing America . Vintage ad 1961

The booming economy of post war America was the gold standard for the American Dream. It is the benchmark many refer to  when they refer to making America great again or pledge as Ted Cruz did, to “restore the great confident roar of America.”

I Am America… Hear Me Roar

The mid century USA stood united and confident at the apex of global power and consumer abundance, racing boldly and confidently into the future.

Moving forward at ever-increasing speed was what Americans expected from their country, their cars, their consumer goods and their economy.

“Because there’s nothing  you can’t do when you’re ambitious and industrious,”  proudly exclaimed one ad produced by the Advertising Council. “That’s the free, dynamic American way.”

vintage illustration little boy holding piggy bank to father How big is Your Piggy Bank Dad?

Vintage post war ad

The people of mid-century America had never been more prosperous, never had Dad the breadwinner taken home so much money.

The soaring strength of the roaring bull market was at an all time high symbolizing confidence in the Capitalist system. American industries were the symbol of our strength and like the biceps of the healthy and strong spoke of the wisdom of our ways.

collage- Vintage cover Life Magazine The American and His Economy and businessmen standing on top of the world

What Keeps America Great. Mid Century America stood united and confident at the apex of global power and consumer abundance, – Vintage Life Magazine The American and His Economy Jan 5, 1953

Bristling with as much bravado as Donald Trump, advertising and articles  proclaimed the wonder and glory of the American way.

In early January of 1953 Life Magazine published a special issue devoted solely  to the booming American economy.  Entitled “The American and His Economy,” it was an unabashed love letter to capitalism and to this record-breaking economic splendor.

In 75 pages of lush pictures and articles Life presented this new America in terms of the people – housewives, factory workers, engineers, business managers – who brought it all about.

Color pictures, they promise will show  “how several quite average Americans have proved that the U.S. is still a place to get rich quickly and honestly.”

A Land of Good n’ Plenty

ebusinessman ad industry

Mid Century Businessmen were sitting pretty (L) Illustration from Martin Aircraft 1946 (R) Profit makers on Parade Coal Industry Ad 1948

“During the past dozen yeas or so,” the magazine begins in an introduction written by social historian Frederick Lewis Allen,” we have been watching in the United States something close to a miracle…The once sick American economy has become the wonder of the modern world.”

The article then goes on to boast:

“In two decades the US has by-passed the methods and exceeded the goals which old-fashioned socialism had set up as ideals for an economic society.

“It has achieved instead something totally new and something infinitely better.

More or less unconsciously the nation has pulled off a major social revolution. The means to this end have been historically unique, a process mainly of grading society up from the bottom rather than down from the top.

More Of Everything

American illustration 1950s family consumers

American Abundance for all
Vintage ad Wheaties sweepstakes 1958

“Most of the change has been wrought by a simple but bold economic idea: more of everything for everybody.

It is an idea of production and consumption rather than conservation and thrift.

Some of the results are far-reaching:

  • More Americans now own their homes than rent
  • Since 1929, the US has moved halfway toward equality of income for all members of the population
  • The US has reached a state almost unique in history where increase in population means increase in prosperity.”

The 99%

For Mr. and Mrs. America, the factory workers, engineers, housewives and business managers, the issue  never lets us forget that,  “the U.S. is still a place to get rich quick and honestly.”

A Confident  Future

economy capitalist wall street

Money to Burn in a Booming Economy
(L) Vintage illustration Wall Street from “The Romance of Capitalism” 1958 by Donald Cooke (R) Money to burn illustration from vintage American Airlines ad 1953

And finally, to answer for the reader  the most important question of all about their economy the article asks: “Where are we going from here and what will happen to me?”

According to the giddy experts, there was no end in sight for this soaring economy. The bull in our soaring bull market was a symbol that the U.S. could compete and win.

And in this land of good and plenty one thing we were never short of was confidence.

“These are big facts. Most Americans, caught up in their daily lives and their own small jobs hardly realize the great forces at work around them. Only occasionally do they stop to think how different is their life now from what it was only 10 or 20 years ago.

A Tarnished Dream

vintage illustration couple fighting over bills

Today two thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Vintage ad

Today we find  the middle class, the heart and soul of the American Dream,  dying on the vine. Sadly, today they do stop to think how different their life is now from what it was only 10 or 20 years ago.

America’s economy has swung out of balance – ordinary Americans are working more than ever, creating record wealth that’s everywhere but in ordinary people’s wallets.

It will take more than bravado to get us back on track.

Copyright (©) 20015 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

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4 comments

  1. Well done, well stated Sally! I tip my hat to you. 🙂

    Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, both Nobel Prize Winners in Economics, echoe what you are saying here. Reading both authors and several of their fine books gave me in philosophical and economic detail — and in laymen’s terms — exactly what has been happening (declining) in the U.S. since the end of WW2, and what has been grossly (nauseatingly?) amplified throughout all of American social classes BELOW the top 10% and 1% since 1989. They both go into phenomenal details about how the crash of 2007-08 was in several respects a result of the 1981 thru 1989 administration. I highly recommend both authors and their excellent work, if you want to intelligently debate/discuss with the naive American general public or understand what political economists are truly sayig within their bosses’ campaign speeches.

    Nevertheless, you’ve nailed this painful point Sally. Bravo! On the point of America’s gluttony… here’s a sad factoid from years ago…

    “The U.S. makes up only around 5% of the world’s population, but consumes over 60% of the world’s resources.” —- Scientific American

    For more up-to-date info and facts, go to http://www.worldwatch.org/node/810

    Thanks Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for your always insightful remarks. And yes, I have read both those excellent writers and would highly recommend others to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think one could add three words to Ted Cruz statement and you would get the full truth of the statement “for white men”. To do that, all he has to do is turn back the clock to 60 years ago. Gee, that should be easy for a miracle worker like himself, don’t you think?

    Liked by 2 people

    • sdaven5191

      And with their cancerous eye turned to ripping away so many of the social and medical (health) benefits that are geared towards women’s health and advancement, that doesn’t even INCLUDE white women! That includes NO women whatsoever, of any race, creed or color. None. Nor any. Not even THEIR mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, granddaughters! Not a single one.
      To me, that is the most disturbing fact which they vigorously deny – that over HALF of the population they propose returning to the social bondage we worked so long and so hard to escape! Return to “the good old days?” Oh HELL no! They were only good for those who viewed or remember them with one eye closed and both ears deaf.
      Being a disabled woman is another strike against me, as is the fact I’m approaching retirement age at a rather fast clip. Already having been on Social Security Disability for almost three years, and Medicare to boot, they are gearing up to rampage through BOTH programs! God knows it’s difficult enough to deal with life on a daily basis, but if my husband didn’t still work full time at a very physically laborious occupation, we would have lost our home and would be living with one of our children. He just turned 60, and absolutely doesn’t show it. Neither did I show my age, for that matter, but the outside wrappers belie the condition of the inner workings.
      We survived that administration of torture known as Reaganomics of the early to mid 1980’s, barely with the old clothes on our backs. Our two children were babies, toddlers and preschoolers then, and don’t have any memory of going with me to the Welfare office to stand in interminable lines every month for Food Stamps – the paper kind that demanded you sort out your purchases on the belt at the cashier in front of other glaring customers who would be looking down their noses at you for delaying them, while your items were rung up, first the eligible ones, pay with the paper stamps of various denominations, then the ineligible kind requiring cash, hoping your calculations were right, and you had enough money with you to cover it. Or, standing in the “Cheese Lines” every month or so, when the government released various surplus commodities to the poor, and a Food Stamps card would get you in. Frequently, you wouldn’t know ahead of time what kinds of foods besides cheese would be available, until people way ahead at the front of the line would come back out and tell folks what was in there. Cheese resembling Velveeta was most common, giving the event its name, and sometimes real butter, or grain goods like flour or cornmeal would be available too. Dried beans would also be a possibility. I took all of it, and made the best use of it I could to feed my family. I grew up learning how to cook from scratch, so it wasn’t a big mystery.
      We had to make payment arrangements with the pediatrician for the kids to have their routine care, and their shots. Even though my husband’s employer provided medical insurance back then, it did not cover things like office visits or prescriptions at all. Nobody’s did. It would be years before that range of benefits was available. My care for delivering our children was mostly covered for the hospital, but did not cover the obstetrician bill for monthly visits, ior his fee for the delivery. We had to pay that out of pocket BEFORE delivery. Nor did it cover any costs for an anesthesiologist to give epudural pain control – which also had to be arranged for and paid for IN ADVANCE. Most women didn’t have it back then anyway, so Mama went natural both times.
      We rented old houses, and once got into a nice, new subsidized apartment complex, which was about the only benefit to having almost nothing. The utilities weren’t included though and were very expensive through the local utility companies, and it was literally years before we could afford a phone.
      No jobs available to anyone back then. I couldn’t work at a paying job, which was a backhanded blessing, as it forced me to stay home with my kids. I really felt I needed to be there with them anyway, but because our economic situation was so tenuous, i would probably have worked at least part time, if I could have. In fact, the town we lived in had THE highest unemployment in the nation for some time, owing to the presence of a smallish steel mill which closed completely, and was abandoned, plus two much larger concerns associated with the automobile industry – a Chrysler Transmission plant, across the highway from an enormous Delco plant that produced automobile lights and radios among other things.
      Ironically enough, the Chrysler plant had recovered to the point where in the early 2000’s it began building a brand new, very large, computer operated, additional facility on the north side of the town, and opened it in about 2006. Just in time for the next economic disaster at the hands of another Republican for a President. The plant idled for years. At this point, I don’t know what became of it.
      We haven’t lived there, thank the Good Lord (and my husband’s employer) who not only transferred us quite a way from there, but promoted him and gave him a substantial raise as well. The kids don’t recall that, for the first time in years living through the humidity-laden, 90+° Midwestern summers, we had air conditioning in our apartment we could afford to use, and by switching utility companies when we moved to another city, our first electric bill was less than half what it had been elsewhere without AC, and I actually broke into tears the day I got that bill!
      Things improved a great deal for us after that, and mostly after that man with “Mommy’s” hand up his back like a puppet, and her astrologer advising him on foreign and domestic policy, was out of office! Speculation is that the Alzheimer’s that claimed him in the end already had a grip on his mental processes when he was in office – it just went undiagnosed!
      His handling of the beginning of the AIDS crisis couldn’t possibly have been worse, either. He refused point blank to even say the word, much less acknowledge the impact it was having on his country. He also refused point blank to commit any resources to investigation, research or treatment of the disease, which rapidly became a worldwide crisis. We had lived at the time, very close to the little town where Ryan White did, and the publicity surrounding the rampant ignorance and abject fear generated by his life, his condition and of his death was just mind boggling. Had he lived in a larger city, and not in the tiny town which bred the tiny minds which inhabited it, things probably wouldn’t have been so evil.
      He was so very much out of touch not only with the people he represented to the world, but with his own country, either in general or specifically, that he had absolutely no business being in office.
      I will not even begin on the foreign policy debacles he created. That is, and has been, the subject of numerous volumes.
      The GOP proposes to bring nothing to the table except disaster for the American people. This is not your father’s GOP.

      Liked by 1 person

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