Reciprocity Between Citizen and State
Last week we discussed the concept of “total war.” Total war placed unprecedented demands upon all Americans, not just fighting men. All Americans were asked to pitch in. Examine, for instance, a fireside chat that President Franklin D. Roosevelt conducted in October, 1942, after touring the home front:
RADIO ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT Franklin Delano Roosevelt-
Home Front OCTOBER 12, 1942, AT 10.00 P.M., E.W.
NOTE: click on clip to SEE text. To play audio, please go to Unit media content in unit 2
- Clip 1 - "...This whole nation of...free men, women and children is becoming one great fighting force."
- Clip 2 -"...I was impressed by the large proportion of women employed -- ... running machines."
- Roosevelt highlighted what many Americans already know: the composition of the workforce had changed dramatically.
- Clip 3 - "...We can no longer afford to indulge in such practices..."
- Perhaps the most dramatic shift affected African Americans.
While the war offered opportunities to some who had been denied access to the work place, for most Americans, including African Americans and women, war meant sacrifice.
Soldiers, of course, made the ultimate sacrifice, risking theirs lives and their limbs.
The United States suffered over 400,000 soldiers killed
Americans were eager to reward its veterans.
Video Clip: Soldier on Holiday
For at least fifty years, Americans had debated the size of central government and had consistently decided that it should be small. But the sacrifice made by returning Veterans changed that — at least in regard to Veterans. The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, known as the GI Bill, was passed in June of 1944. It provided generous education benefits that included up to 3 years schooling. Besides tuition, it paid a monthly stipend of $75 for married Vets. In all, 8 million Americans furthered their education under the GI Bill. Many of these GIs did not go to traditional four year colleges. The GI BIll also paid for technical classes, and vocational education. The GI bill helped to democratize higher education, which before World War II had been confined largely to the upper class. It also spurred tremendous growth in the university system. By 1962, colleges and universities had received over $5 billion in tuition contributions for Veterans. The changes in college campuses were highly visible:
Video Clip: Vets and the GI Bill
GIs also were eligible for government-subsidized loans. By 1961 the Veterans Administration had issued 5.5 million loans. Virtually all of the housing built with these mortgages was built in America’s expanding suburbs. In fact, due to red-lining, banks steered would-be home builders away from many inner city and minority neighborhoods. The GI loan program was one of the elements that helped build the suburban society that many Americans craved after World War II.
Medical and Psychological Care
The GI Bill also provided health benefits for vets and the Veterans Administration built hospitals to provide for sick and injured Veterans. This care continued long after the fighting stopped. Veterans received mental health care along with their regular medical health care and were the targets of multiple efforts to ensure that their psychological readjustment to civilian life would be an easy one. One of the documents that I have asked you to read — Psychology for the Returning Serviceman — gives you an insight into just how much help the Army felt its returning Vets needed:
Psychology for Returning Servicemen "...The father can be a great help if he shows that he appreciates her as a girl"
Veterans also received hiring preferences. There was no opposition to this “affirmative action” program because of the sacrifices that veterans had made during the war.
RECIPROCITY MEANS RIGHTS/ENTITLEMENTS, NOT HANDOUTS
The demands that were placed on citizens and the national security and economic stimulus that the national government returned established a reciprocal relationship between citizen and state. This meant that citizens would be asked to do more for their country, but it also meant that they expected more in return. Benefits and services that before the War were viewed as gratuitous or as handouts, were now considered to be rights, or entitlements. This is best captured in a scene from the film you have watched this week.
Video Clip: Vet asks for a Loan
Although this particular scene, appropriately features two veterans negotiating with each other to make sure that the farmer/vet gets what he is entitled to, this conception of reciprocity would be extended to millions of Americans who served their country in many different ways.
Americans are entitled because sacrifice is extended.
All Americans made sacrifices during the war. Some seem relatively trivial, like scrap metal drives, blackout drills, and conservation of other scarce household resources. Men, for instance, were asked to wear suits with only one pocket to save cloth for uniforms. Women were asked to go without silk stockings.
Video Clip: Silk Rationing
Other sacrifices hit much harder. Gasoline rationing, for instance. Many of these sacrifices hit people’s pocketbook directly. The percentage of people paying income taxes increases dramatically during the war. In 1939 only 3.9 million Americans had paid federal income taxes. By 1943, over 40 million Americans paid income taxes. What made these payments even more painful is that they now had to be paid during the tax year, not afterwards. This remains the case today: it’s called withholding and it started in 1943. The government had to resort to Walt Disney to sell this policy to the public:
Video Clip: Donald Duck - The Spirit of '43
So even Americans who did not wear a uniform felt that they had contributed to victory:
Because each American felt that they had contributed to victory, most Americans also felt like they deserved something in return. They were more willing to enter into a reciprocal relationship with the federal government.
WHAT DO AMERICANS COME TO EXPECT FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT?
In return for taxes; civil defense; readiness to bear arms, or work in defense industries, Americans expect three things from national government:
- National Security
- Economic Security
- Secure Political Rights
We discussed national security last week: America became the leading military force in the world after WWII. And we will discuss national security next week, when we examine how Americans were asked to take responsibility for the civil defense of their communities during the Cold War.
The most important change in the economic expectations of Americans after the War is their acceptance of greater government role in managing the economy.
The success of deficit spending during WWII convinced a majority of Americans that the federal government now had the responsibility to fight unemployment. They believed thatexperts had the know-how to control the economy. There was a widely held belief that a record deficit during the war — $54 billion during 1943 — was responsible for the tremendous growth in GNP.
The legislation that embodied this macroeconomic management was the Employment Act of 1946. It set up a Council of Economic Advisers that reported to the President. The Act acknowledged that it was the federal government’s responsibility to maintain full employment and economic growth, consistent with continued reliance on private enterprise. This meant that the government would not create jobs directly, in government owned operations, for instance, but would use the federal budget to stimulate economic growth in the private sector.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Federally Subsidized Research and Development translated directly into commercial opportunities after the War. Radar, developed for night-time bombing of Germany, was crucial to the commercial air industry. Government funding for jet engine research ultimately revolutionized the commercial air industry. Perhaps the best example of wartime R&D creating what appeared at the time to be great commercial opportunities is atomic energy.
Computer research is another good example of defense related research and development that spurred commercial growth after the war. ENIAC, the first general purpose electronic computer, grew out of wartime research and was developed at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. Here’s an interview with one of its inventors, John Eckert. Eckert makes it clear that the war provided a great opportunity to do what they had always wanted to do. Now they had an “Angel” for the project, the "United States Army.”
On the surface, the postwar economy appeared to be the same old free market economy. But more often than not, government policy was crucial to private success. Let’s look at an emerging private sector powerhouse — the airline industry:
Video Clip: Civilian Stewardesses
Video Clip: Civilian Air (Best Years of Our Lives)
On the surface, it’s all private. But many of those planes that businessmen now took, had been used for troop transport; their engines had been designed by government contracts; the whole aircraft industry was subsidized by defense contracts, under the umbrella of national security. And the infrastructure — airports — was built with aid from Washington. Only predictable flight could be commercialized, and of course the development of radar was crucial to this.
FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE
Next week we will talk about the growth of suburbia. We will discuss cultural factors, like concerns about uniformity or the psychological needs of families. But it is important to remember that a major reason for the growth of suburbs was government policy. The federal government subsidized housing and a highway construction program that favored de-concentration, making the distant countryside more accessible through the automobile.
CLASHING VIEWS OVER SCOPE OF FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
This is not to say that there is unanimity on an expanded role for government
Unions were the leading edge of liberal coalition forged in the New Deal. This coalition, which pushed for an expanded role for the federal government in social welfare and economic regulation, hoped to expand its agenda after World War II.
Walter Reuther, head of the UAW, was a good representative of this liberal coalition.
A LIBERAL AGENDA AND CONSERVATIVE RESPOSNE
Reuther, who had been a socialist in his youth, remained committed to active government intervention. Reuther wanted a government-guaranteed annual wage; an expanded welfare state; federal education funding; and federal health care. Most radically, Reuther pressed auto companies to open their books and share profits with workers without raising prices. He also sought to control the production process itself and determine how things would be run on the shop floor.
These demands reflected the needs of a broad liberal coalition, and went well beyond the demands of many auto workers themselves. They met with great resistance from conservatives — especially employers who felt that they pushed the state too far into the private sector. The intellecutal foundation of the conservative response would come to be konwn as neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism because it harkened back to laissez-faire liberalism -- where markets dictated. Econnomists like Frederich Hayek who became associated with the university of Chicago school of economics, and later, Milton Friedman, also from the University of Chicago, argued that markets free from government interference promoted individual liberty and economic progress for all. It was the actions of indivdiaul, rational actors, competing in the market, and in a market place of ideas, that severed society best. Conservatives bridled at what they saw as the increased regimentation of life, with government planning replacing market based decisions, and huge government deficits crowding out private credit and the investment of those privately secured loans.
THE WANING POLITICAL CLOUT OF LABOR
Reuther, and liberals were not able to deliver on these programs in the late forties or fifties. The greatest power wielded by unions was the power to strike. 1946 saw more workers strike than any other time in U.S. history — one out of four workers was involved in a work stoppage. These strikes angered many Americans, who felt that labor was greedy and beginning to ask too much from both the state and employers. Over the next three years, employers yielded on wages. But they refused to yield control over management practices or the shop floor. Beginning in 1948, labor agreements with big unions began to incorporate Cost of Living Adjustments into contracts. Workers would receive steady increases in wages (as the cost of living rose) but workers dropped their demands for control over shop floor. They also pulled back from some of the more expansive portions of the liberal agenda.
Labor also narrowed its demands for sweeping social reforms like welfare. Instead, it focused on private benefits for its union members. Labor won what are still called “private” pensions and health care coverage, paid for in large part by employers. I have put private in quotations because these benefits yielded lucrative tax benefits for employers and were, in effect, partially subsidized by this lost tax revenue.
ORGANIZED LABOR BENEFITTED GREATLY FROM THE WAR
Because of the labor shortage and the acute need for labor in highly concentrated sectors of the economy, labor unions thrived during World War II. The number of organized workers nearly doubled during the War to 15 million. That was 1/3 of the non-agricultural workforce. And labor held on to many of these gains in wages and increasingly, fringe benefits.
NARROWING CLASS DIFFERENCES
During World War II the most significant downward redistribution of income in the nation’s history took place. Before the war, those with the top 5 % incomes had earned 22% of the nation’s annual wages; this percentage declined to 17% after the War. The bottom 40% of the nation’s wage earners actually increased their share of wages.
The Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal Coalition had made Americans more aware of class differences. Even more than the New Deal’s social programs, the economic fallout from World War II narrowed class differences and provided the potential to unite Americans across class. Class, its obstacles and it’s possibilities is one of the themes in The Best Years of Our Lives. In fact, one of the returning vets literally comes from the other side of the tracks, while one is a banker.
Among organized groups, business most consistently opposed the federal government’s intervention into the economy. There was a great irony here. Many defense-related plants had been constructed by the Federal government, at taxpayer cost, and were sold back to the private sector for a fraction of their cost. The government sold off $5.7 billion worth of surplus industrial plant after the war. It received a total of $1.8 billion for it.
BUT BUSINESS RECEIVES GOVERMENT AID TOO
Besides the direct government subsidy of roughly $4 billion, this reconversion policy contradicted free market economics in two other ways: 1) The government hung onto many plants — particularly in the aircraft industry. These plants continued to operate under government contract and formed the core of the military-industrial complex. 2) Only firms that had a lot of capital were able to bid on the highly subsidized war plants. These big firms were already part of the most concentrated sectors of the economy, like steel. This meant that government reconversion policy actually contributed to the concentration of ownership — further threatening free market competition.
A NEW IMAGE FOR BUSINESS
Nevertheless, business had played a crucial role in winning the war. During the Great Depression the image of big business had suffered terribly. But with the advent of World War II, many Americans understood that concentration in the private sector led in many instances to increased productivity and economies of scale. Business was not bashful about stating its claims to winning the war for America and many Americans sought now to apply this business acumen to the domestic economy.
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT ECONOMIC RECIPROCITY
Even though Americans moved much farther towards embracing a state that intervened in economic matters, the more liberal visions of labor and the New Deal Coalition fell short of its goal. Liberals were stymied by a business ideology that celebrated the power of the free market at the very time that big business was reaping the windfall of the government’s reconversion policy and benefitting from government subsidized research and development. There can be no doubt that by the nineteen-fifties, America sustained a mixed economy, replete with deficit spending; federal research and development; generous social provision for veterans; and government-directed defense spending that spread to many sectors of the economy. But like the increasing tax load itself, much of this went relatively unnoticed by most Americans. The great post-war economic boom appeared to be largely the product of private investment; hard work and Yankee know-how.
As often the case with war, the news not so rosy as far as civil and political rights were concerned.
The premium placed on security, racism, and the distrust of our wartime ally, the Soviet Union, had a chilling effect on the civil rights of America’s most vulnerable populations. Legislatively, the thirst for loyalty led to the McCarran Act (1950) which required communists to register with the government; revoked passports for Communist sympathizers; and established provision for setting up concentration camps in case of a national emergency.
Japanese Americans proved the most vulnerable group of citizens. During the spring of 1942 more than 110,000 Japanese — 2/3 citizens — were herded into "relocation centers.” The original plan had been to resettle Japanese-Americans. But it met with so much hostility from potential host communities that Japanese-Americans remained in camps for much of war. The low point in the treatment of Japanese-Americans came when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld these decisions in Korematsu v. the United States.
Video Clip: Japanese Detention Camps 1940s
In spite of the tragic case of Japanese Americans, World War II looked like a tremendous opportunity for other groups that had traditionally been discriminated against. This was certainly true in the case of African Americans, all the more so because African Americans played an important fighting and support role, and supplied crucial labor on the home front.
Video Clip: Blacks Role in WWII
Fireside Chat "...In some communities...they are reluctant to hire Negroes."
The number of African American federal employees tripled during the 1940s and the percentage of blacks who worked in the defense industry also rose significantly: from 3% to 8%. In response to threatened protests by African Americans, Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee in 1941.
Exec Order 8802"...contractor not to discriminate against any worker because of race, creed, color... THE FEPC
This was an important symbol. The Committee had the power to cut off federal funding to defense contractors who discriminated. In practice, however, the committee was cautious, and in the South, bowed to local practice.
AFRICAN AMERICAN MIGRATION
Truman did issue an executive order to desegregate the armed forces in 1948. African Americans held on to some jobs in northern heavy industry, particularly autos and steel. But blacks lost out on virtually all their other gains in the civilian sector following the war. Probably, the most lasting impact of the war was to hasten the pace of Black migration out of the South.
WOMEN AT WORK
The overall percentage of women working increased during WWII. Women played a crucial role in bolstering the arsenal of defense.
Video Clip: Women's Role in Defense
As it did for blacks, WWII opens up new opportunities for women in the workplace.
Return to Fireside Chat "...Within less than a year from now, I think, there will probably be as many women as men working in our war production plants."
Rosie the Riveter became the symbol for women doing “men’s work" in an industrial setting.
Peggy Terry: Women Working in World War II
Many women felt ambivalent about their work. They remained traditional women committed to a domestic role once they returned home from work. After the war, many women who felt ambivalent left their jobs. Many others were pushed out by returning veterans.
VETERANS vs. WOMEN AND AFRICAN AMERICANS
Extension of benefits to vets came at the expense of blacks and women, particularly in hiring preferences. There were few women in the military, so few benefitted from veterans benefits or preferences. Although lots of African Americans served in the military, racial discrimination prevented many black veterans from taking advantage of their benefits which were often administered through institutions like universities or banks that continued to discriminate.
A RISING WIND
Women and blacks had more than a taste of rights previously denied to them. But they also quickly learned that these rights were contingent on the Wartime emergency. This frustration was captured in a book by Eleanor Roosevelt called A Rising Wind.
"World War II has immeasurably magnified the Negro's awareness of the disparity between the American profession and practice of democracy.... The news that the American Negro soldier has received from back home has been predominantly disheartening. He has heard... of the humiliation, beating, and even killing of Negro soldiers in the South... The majority... will return home convinced that whatever betterment of their lot is achieved must come largely from their own efforts. They will return determined to use those efforts to the utmost."
And they did. In the South, Medgar Evers led a fledgling drive towards voter registration. In the North, African Americans pressured the government for equal housing and equal employment. From a distance, it looked as though America had put aside its differences to fight its foreign enemies. Up close, World War II merely underscored the gap between the rhetoric of equality, and the harsh reality on the ground.
THE ORIGINS OF THE THERAPEUTIC STATE
Reciprocity could not always be easily classified into neat categories like national security; economic security; or securing political rights. Intersecting all three lay fears about citizens remaining strong, patriotic, and committed in a world that seemed to breed totalitarian dictators. That’s what The Vital Center is all about. Schlesinger is a classic Cold War liberal. He advocated a strong defense, a mixed economy to reduce class conflict; and stronger enforcement of civil rights for minorities like African Americans. But what Schlesinger was most concerned about was the vitality of American citizens. If citizens were to stand strong behind the state, they had to remain emotionally strong. Thus society, and even the state had an increasing stake in guarding the emotional well being of its citizens. Americans needed not only to be housed, clothed, and fed — their inner needs had to be tended to also.
Schelsinger: "Through this century, free society has been on the defensive, demoralized by the infection of anxiety, stargering under the body blows of fascism and communism. Free society alienates the lonely and uprooted masses; while totalitarianism, building on their frustrations and cravings, provides a structure of belief, men to worship and men to hate and rites which guarantee salvation. The crisis of free society has assumed the form of international collisions between the democracies and the totalitarian powers; but this fact should not blind us to the fact that in its essence this crisis is internal."
WORLD WAR II AND MENTAL HEALTH
The precedent for broad public concern about the mental strength of the nation’s population reaches back to the War itself. It was during World War II that the Armed Forces turned to psychology to improve the morale of the troops. In sessions that amounted to group therapy, troops were encouraged to express their fears; their doubts. They were encouraged to acknowledge that they were sometimes afraid going into battle. Pamphlets like Fear in Battle, or “Twelve Rules for Meeting Battle Fear” hammered home the point that there was no reason to be ashamed of fear.
The central theme of both group sessions and the literature was that insight; psychological self-awareness and the ability to express this insight to one’s self and one’s buddies, was the most effective way to master such fears. Like rule 3: “Keep remembering that being scared makes you a smarter soldier — and a safer one.”
After the War, psychology, especially group psychology, which could reach the masses, was seen as a crucial antidote to one of liberal democracy’s greatest challenge: anomie. The Veterans administration took the lead, opening outpatient clinics for Veterans who might be experiencing difficulty readjusting to domestic life. No longer was counseling confined to the psychotic vet. The Veterans Administration pioneered the way in developing services for the “normal," but anxious veteran. It funded research into group psychotherapy in hopes, not only of making returned soldiers more self-aware psychologically, but also in hopes of creating model citizens who would learn the arts of democratic exchange through these groups.
THE STATE AND MENTAL HEALTH
Though crafted towards veterans initially, the state assumed an obligation to treat all of its citizens in the National Mental Health Act of 1946 and the National Institute of Mental Health in 1949. A large part of the rationale for these measures combined national security and citizen’s mental well-being. Only emotionally sound citizens and citizens well adapted to group transactions, could serve as the backbone of a strong liberal democracy.
Carl Rogers, who would go on to found the “encounter” group movement in the nineteen sixties, was one of the most active advocates of breaking down the barriers between private psyche and public policy. His manual, "Counseling with Returned Servicemen” asserted that the nation’s most pressing need was not just to help “Joe” find a job, but to “help Joe find himself.” The method that Rogers and others began to advocate after the war emphasized emotional release. It challenged the traditional patient-psychoanalyst relationship and instead emphasized the need of patients to belong to some social group. To fail to provide this social context would be to risk creating the loner who was more likely to embrace authoritarian models that were breeding grounds for totalitarian states.
By 1950, there was even a grass roots organization that promoted national mental health — the National Association of Mental Health. It linked the preservation of democracy directly to the maintenance of mental health. In a wonderful symbolic representation of the relationship between democracy and mental health, the NAMH constructed a “Mental Health Bell.” It was forged from the ancient metal restraints from mental hospitals, forming a 300 pound “liberty” bell which was rung each year to begin mental health week.
HOW DID RECIPROCITY PLAY OUT IN NATIONAL POLITICS?
The New Deal Coalition had grasped the mantle of liberalism. Today, liberalism has become almost a dirty word for some — the “L Word.” But liberalism was the predominant political philosophy for much of the twentieth century.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF LIBERALISM
Liberalism has gone through many transformations over the last one hundred and fifty years. Liberalism was founded in the social contract tradition of Locke and Hobbes. Perhaps its most central premise was that of protecting the individual and the set of rights that this individual is endowed with once he or she enters into the social contract. Liberalism also assumed that individuals have the capacity for self-improvement and the ability to recognize and pursue their own interest. Nineteenth-century liberalism embraced the economic thought of Adam Smith and subscribed to capitalism and the free market as economic and moral arbiters. In the second half of the 19th century, liberalism was closely associated with Laissez Faire. This meant a small role for government — especially the national government.
By the first decade of twentieth century, a competing form of liberalism had evolved. We will call it “reform” liberalism. The key change from earlier liberalism is that Progressives and New Dealers considered the individual’s environment to be a crucial part of what defined that very individual. There were no such entities as “individuals” exclusive of economic, social and cultural factors that helped to make that individual what he or she was.
Supporters of this progressive strain of liberalism were particularly enthusiastic about the possibility for improving individuals. But to achieve this, the state often needed to intervene to educate, and improve the individual or to reshape the economic environment to give all individuals an equal chance, regardless of the economic circumstances that they were born into. Reform liberalism never directly challenged capitalism. But it did pose the state as a countervailing power to private monopoly. For laissez faire liberals, the greatest threat to individual rights was the government. For reform liberals, the greatest threat was in monopoly and concentrated wealth, which threatened to run roughshod over the rights of individuals.
LIBERALISM AND THE NEW DEAL COALITION
The Great Depression led millions to embrace reform liberalism and the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt who best represented this tradition.
The New Deal coalition was built, in part, around class antagonism towards business which was blamed for the country’s economic plight. Participants in this New Deal coalition believed that the individual needed to be protected against business abuses through greater regulation — like the Securities and Exchange Commission — and by ensuring certain economic rights — embodied in the Social Security Act of 1935.
THE LIMITS OF REFORM LIBERALISM
New Deal antagonism towards business changed dramatically by 1939 because Roosevelt felt that he needed business to help him mobilize the nation for war. New Deal liberalism was also tempered by the makeup of the Democratic coalition. The Democratic party remained geographically rooted in the South, where the maintenance of Jim Crow segregation produced a white population that was very wary of the national government’s intervention. On the other hand, Democrats also drew on union support and urban support in the North, and increasingly on African Americans, who migrated to the North in huge numbers. African Americans could and did vote in the North, and from the middle of the nineteen-thirties on they voted increasingly for Democrats.
COLD WAR LIBERALISM
Balancing this diverse set of interests tempered New Deal reform by the end of the War. So did the emergence of the Cold War in the late nineteen forties. This Cold War reshaped liberalism yet again. Cold War Liberalism prevailed from the end of World War II through the emergence of he New Left in the mid- Nineteen-Sixties. Six basic working assumptions underpinned Cold War liberalism.
AMERICA IS EXCEPTIONAL
Cold War liberals believed that American capitalism (as adjusted for New Deal and WWII) was different and that this made America exceptional. American abundance had allowed for the coexistence of capitalism and democracy, a combination that in America, had produced social justice. American economic growth, Cold War liberals believed, satisfied demands for improvements in quality of life without the need for class conflict over the distribution of resources.
CLASS DIFFERENCES ARE DIMINISHING
Cold War liberals, perhaps encouraged by the real narrowing of class differences during World War II believed that American society was growing more equal. They envisioned a society in which distinctions between management and working class were breaking down.
REMAINING SOCIAL PROLBEMS COULD BE SOLVED BY EXPERTS
Just as enlightened capitalism had solved the problem of need, Cold War liberals believed that social problems could also be solved by applying resources and policy expertise. There was no need for fundamental reform in the political economy, it was just a matter of engi-neering and technical fixes.
ONLY REAL THREAT WAS COMMUNISM
The only thing that can prevent a happy conclusion to this beneficent system was a threat from Communism. It represented both an external and internal threat.
HOW TO TOP THIS THREAT
To blunt spread of Communism to the third world and to continue its messianic mission of uplifting the rest of the world, it was the obligation of U.S. to "export" the system that has worked so well here to the rest of the world. It was also crucial that the United States guard against anomie at home — that the “Vital Center” hold.
INTEREST GROUP POLITICS ARE THE CRUCIAL MECHANISM
In a modern industrial democracy, many issues were simply too complex to be resolved at voting booths or even on the floor of Congress. Much of politics had to be hammered out in Congressional subcommittees, or in administrative bureaus responsible for administering programs. These were the bureaus that drafted regulations; these were the commissions that monitored compliance with these regulations.
A SELF-CORRECTING POLITICAL ECONOMY
Taken together, the basic tenets of Cold War Liberalism posited a self-correcting political economy that required a strong national security state, heavy reliance on knowledge and expertise, and an engaged citizenry that expressed itself through occupational and interest groups in order to make the incremental adjustments that such politics warranted.
True to Cold War liberalism, Truman rebuilt the military in the face of the tense situation with the Soviet Union after the war. He also forged ahead with development of the hydrogen bomb, overturning Robert Oppenheimer’s recommendation. Truman also proposed, but got only a small portion, of a program of domestic reforms labeled the “Fair Deal.” Truman asked for a more progressive tax system, a large increase in the minimum wage, increases in social security, federal aid to education, the expansion of public housing, and authority to impose price and wage controls.
While many Republican moderates accepted large portions of the Cold War liberal viewpoint, the Republican party remained the home of conservatives after World War II. The leading conservative figure among the Republicans was Senator Robert Taft (Ohio). Taft advocated reducing the size of government, even in the parts of it engaged in foreign policy and national security. He sponsored legislation to curb the influence of labor (the Taft-Hartley Act) and he opposed the United States entry into World War II.
But Republicans did not capture the White House until 1952 although they did gain control over both houses of Congress briefly from 1947 through 1949. That is because traditional conservative positions had been revised to accept portions of the New Deal program. Taft, for instance, never did get his party’s nomination for the presidency — his views were too conservative. In foreign policy, conservatives like Taft were increasingly replaced by men like Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-Michigan) who worked with Democrats to forge a bi-partisan foreign policy in the shadow of the Soviet threat. On domestic policies, even Taft embraced elements of the New Deal program; Republican president Eisenhower would embrace far more.
THE POLICY RESULTS
As the Cold War deepened, liberals achieve some success. Truman, in a surprise victory, was reelected in '48. Even more surprising, Democrats recaptured both houses of Congress. In the wake of these victories, Truman pushed for his Fair Deal. But a combination of conservatives and moderate Republicans and Democrats defeated much of the agenda. Truman vowed to overturn the Taft-Hartley Act, which he had previously vetoed. But he was unsuccessful. Taft-Hartley eliminated the “closed shop” a provision that required union membership for an entire production unit in which the majority of employees favored union representation. It also enumerated a long list of unfair labor practices.
Of the entire Fair Deal package, Truman succeeded only on minimum wage, social security and public housing, and farm support legislation. Conservatives won on welfare and health care but compromise on farm supports, social security.
All Americans made sacrifices during World War II and recognized that certain goals could only be achieved with the aid of greater government intervention into national security, the economy, and the protection of civil rights. Sometimes these objectives meshed. Deficit spending fueled increased productivity in America’s industrial base during World War II, making it the Arsenal of Democracy. At the same time, this infusion of fiscal stimulus pulled the nation out of the depression, restored employment, and even provided jobs for some blacks and women that had not been previously accessible. On the other hand, the goals of national security and protecting political rights often clashed during wartime, most notably in the case of Japanese Americans. Still, the very goals that America was fighting for and the tenor of its propaganda stirred African Americans, and to a lesser extent, women, to demand their share of freedom.
In all instances, sacrifices, real or perceived stirred Americans to demand more from the national government. Veterans led the way, and there was virtually unanimous support for a broad array of benefits for this group. But the private sector also received direct subsidies through wartime reconversion, and indirect subsidies through a new commitment on the part of the government to research and development and infrastructure like roads and airports. Although liberals battled conservatives over where to draw the line, the notion that citizens owed their lives to their state, and that their state was responsible for their quality of life in return, became one of the central themes of post World War II life in America.