Mark Schmitt: Baby Boomers are suddenly mad for the fiftiesRoundup: Talking About History
Indeed, from television (where Mad Men has faithfully recreated the furnishings, boozy smell, and chronic sexual dishonesty of the New York executive suite circa 1960), to the celebrated 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, to the current political debate, we seem to be awash in 1950s nostalgia. While most of the Republican presidential candidates have life experiences more reminiscent of The Ice Storm than The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, all invoke a vision of the patriarchal, orderly family of post–World War II suburban fantasy. And in their approaches to the world, all recreate that combination of belligerent, can-do triumphalism with mortal terror not seen since the decade of duck-and-cover drills, before Vietnam stripped away the triumphalism and the end of Communism alleviated the fear.
But even baby boom liberals who spent their youth in rebellion against the tranquilized 1950s have become homesick for its virtues. Ninety-one percent tax rates! Unions! Declining income inequality! Working people in nice big houses. What's to protest?
To be fair, and not just because the founding editors of this magazine are prominent among those calling attention to the virtues of the 1950s economic order, they are hardly calling for a return to Eisenhower's America, with its stifling conformist culture, cruel sexism, and tiny half steps toward racial justice. Rather, Paul Krugman, Bob Kuttner, and Bob Reich (in their recent books) and the MIT economists Frank Levy and Peter Temin in a recent paper,"Inequality and Institutions in Twentieth-Century America," use the 1950s and 1960s to show what's possible. Their argument is a necessary reproach to the likes of Thomas Friedman, who view us as passive little boats swept along on waves of globalization, insisting that we accept all the inequality and disruption that goes along with that because the alternative is global stagnation. It's vital to understand that there was a time when great prosperity and greater equality not only co-existed but were taken for granted. And that it was political institutions and choices that made shared prosperity possible: Greater bargaining power in the hands of workers. A robust social safety net. A government that invested in infrastructure and in individuals, through the GI Bill and federal mortgage insurance programs. Manufacturing wages adequate for one worker to support a family. A corporate culture of stewardship rather than short-term profits....
comments powered by Disqus
- Trump Holds Wide Lead in South Carolina
- An All-or-Nothing Fight for the Supreme Court
- Did Trump Really Lose the Debate?
- Scalia’s Death Sets Off Epic Battle
- Democrats See Gift in GOP Blocking Court Nominee
- Quote of the Day
- The Nastiest GOP Debate
- Reaction to the Republican Debate
- The GOP Presidential Debate
- How Clinton Could Respond on Supreme Court Vacancy
- Trump and Clinton Way Ahead in South Carolina
- McConnell Says Senate Will Wait to Replace Scalia
- Antonin Scalia Is Dead
- Clinton Says Sanders Would Be Threat to Obama Legacy
- Internal Tracker Shows Trump Leading in South Carolina
- Ben Carson used an apparently fake Joseph Stalin quote — and the Internet loved it
- Rubio exaggerates in saying it's been 80 years since a 'lame duck' made a Supreme Court nomination
- Humans Hard-Wired to Teach, Anthropologist Says
- Parents outraged after students shown ‘white guilt’ cartoon for Black History Month
- Maryland is once again considering retiring its state song
- Historian at the center of Sanders-Clinton debate
- James Loewen Says Additional Baltimore Confederate Statues Should be Removed
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- A historian’s advice to students thinking of getting a PhD in a tough economic climate
- German historian Heinz Richter cleared of charges