CHAPTER 27: THE COLD WAR AT HOME AND ABROAD 1946—1952 I. LAUNCHING THE GREAT BOOM A. Introduction 1. In 1947, The Best Years of Our Lives swept seven Oscars at the Academy Awards. The immensely popular movie dealt squarely with the problems of returning veterans, following three veterans as they tried to readjust to civilian life. B. Reconversion Chaos 1. Japan’s sudden surrender took the United States by surprise. Even at the rate of 25,000 discharges a day, it took a year to get all of them back to civilian life. 2. Veterans came home to shortages of food and consumer goods. High demand and short supply meant inflationary pressure, checked temporarily by continuing the Office of Price Administration until October 1946. 3. A wave of strikes made it hard to retool factories for civilian products. Since 1941, prices had risen twice as fast as base wages. 4. By January 1946, some 1.3 million auto, steel, electrical, and packinghouse workers were off the job. Strikes in these basic industries shut other factories down for lack of supplies. C. Economic Policy 1. The economic turmoil of 1946 set the stage for two major and contradictory efforts to deal more systematically with peacetime economic readjustment. The Employment Act of 1946 and the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 represented liberal and conservative approaches to the peacetime economy. 2. The Employment Act was an effort by congressional liberals to ward off economic crisis by fine-tuning government taxation and spending. It also established the Council of Economic Advisors to assist the president. Even this weak legislation, putting the federal government at the center of economic planning, would have been unthinkable a generation earlier. 3. Total employment rose rather than fell with the end of the war, and unemployment in 1946—1948 stayed below 4 percent. 4. From the other end of the political spectrum, the Taft-Hartley Act climaxed a ten-year effort by conservatives to reverse the gains made by organized labor in the 1930s. The act passed in 1947 because of anger about continuing strikes. 5. For many Americans, the chief culprit was John L. Lewis, head of the United Mines Workers, who had won good wages for coal miners with a militant policy that included wartime walkouts. 6. In November 1946, Republicans capitalized on the problems of reconversion chaos, labor unrest, and dissatisfaction with Truman. The GOP won control of Congress for the first time since the election of 1928, continuing the political trend toward the right that had been apparent since 1938. 7. The Taft-Hartley Act barred the closed shop and blocked secondary boycotts. The federal government could postpone a strike by imposing a cooling-off period, which gave companies time to stockpile their products.
8. Officers of national unions had to swear that they were not Communists or Communist sympathizers, even though corporate executives had no similar obligation. The bill passed over Truman’s veto.
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- Summer '08
- History, Cold War