The Cold War Begins
I. Postwar Economic Anxieties
The Americans cheered the end of World War II in 1945, but manyworried that with the
war over, the U.S. would sink back into anotherGreat Depression.
Upon war’s end, inflation shot up with the release of pricecontrols while the
gross national product sank, and labor strikes sweptthe nation.
To get even with labor, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, whichoutlawed “closed”
shops (closed to non-union members), madeunions liable for damages that resulted
from jurisdictional disputesamong themselves, and required that union leaders take non-
communistoaths. Opposite of the Wagner Act of the New Deal, this new act was astrike
against labor unions.
Labor tried to organize in the South and West with “Operation Dixie,” but this proved
frustrating and unsuccessful.
To forestall an economic downturn, the Democratic administrationsold war factories and
other government installations to privatebusinesses cheaply. Congress passed the
Employment Act of 1946, whichmade it government policy to “promote maximum
employment,production, and purchasing power,” and created the Council ofEconomic
Advisors to provide the president with data to make thatpolicy a reality.
It also passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944,better known as
the GI Bill of Rights, which allowed all servicemen tohave free college education once
they returned from the war.
II. The Long Economic Boom, 1950-1970
Then, in the late 1940s and into the 1960s, the economy began toboom tremendously,
and folks who had felt the sting of the GreatDepression now wanted to bathe in the new
The middle class more than doubled while people now wanted two carsin
every garage; over 90% of American families owned a television.
Women also reaped the benefits of the postwar economy, growing inthe American work
force while giving up their former roles ashousewives.
Even though this new affluence did not touch everyone, it did touch many.
III. The Roots of Postwar Prosperity
Postwar prosperity was fueled by several factors, including the waritself that forced
America to produce more than it’d everimagined.
However, much of the prosperity of the 50s and 60s rested on colossal military projects.