Political and Economic developments in the United States after the Second World War

(Each person in our group worked on 3 specific presidents and covered all their domestic achievments. Andrew did Truman through Kennedy. Haseena did Johnson through Ford. Ben worked on Carter through Bush Sr.


Truman 45-53 (Andrew + Mac)

Overview: WWII brought prosperity and economic problems to the US. The federal government's increased expenditure for defense and domestic programs were partially responsible for this. Inflation and labor strife created economic unrest.

General Economic Picture:

  • Rise in birthrate increased demand for goods and services which on turn encouraged consumer spending
  • Growth in business and government bureaucracy and greater division of corporation occured
  • White collar and service employment rose; women's' participation in labor force increased
  • More people flocked to urban centers and suburbs

Domestic Policy:

  • Reconversion: Economic problems resulted with the transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy.

-More labor strikes resulted from economic difficulties in automotive, electrical, railroad, mining and steel industries.
*Fair Deal: term described Truman's new liberal agenda (continuation of the new deal) consisting of a 21-point domestic program submitted to congress in Sept 1945 which included the incorporation of a minimum wage, guaranteed employment, medical insurance, housing aid, improved benefits for war veterans, and wage and price controls. Only one of there proposed Fair deal plans were ever enacted due to the fact the the congress of the time was controled by republicans.
-Employment Act (1946) - supported the use of government spending to spur economic growth and established council of economic advisors.
-Civil rights (1947) -president submitted a civil rights agenda to Congress. it proposed creating several federal offices for issues such as voting rights and fair employment practices. Truman lost support from southern Dems.

Eisenhower 53-61 (Andrew)

Had "Dynamic Conservatism" aka "Modern Republican" domestic policy: this meant being conservative when dealing with money, but liberal when it comes to human beings.

Conservative Changes under Eisenhower's policy included:

  • increased minimum wage, extended social security and unemployment benefits, increased funding for public housing, support of the creation of interstate hwys.

Liberal aspects of Eisenhower's policy:

  • major changes in civil rights issues, in particular in the treatment of african americans: Brown vs. Board of Education (1954; seperate but equal ruled unconstitutional), Rosa Parks, etc.
  • Eisenhower proposed to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law. Although both Acts were weaker than subsequent civil rights legislation, they constituted the first significant civil rights acts since the 1870s.
  • In 1960, the Kerr-Mills Act gave states the power to decide what patients needed financial assistance; at the states decree, the federal government would provide individual assistance.

Kennedy 61-63 (Andrew)

Kennedy's "New Frontier" contained foreign policy successes and blunders - the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam - than for domestic policy. JFK was president at the height of the Cold War, and foreign policy initiatives and crisis often dominated the agenda.

"New Frontier"

Domestic Policy
From wiki… Kennedy called his domestic program the "New Frontier". It ambitiously promised federal funding for education, medical care for the elderly(medicare), and government intervention to halt the recession. Kennedy also promised an end to racial discrimination. In 1963, he proposed a tax reform which included income tax cuts, but this was not passed by Congress until 1964, after his death. Few of Kennedy's major programs passed Congress during his lifetime, although, under his successor Johnson, Congress did vote them through in 1964–65.

  • With the election of Kennedy, both parties favored civil rights and federal aid in financing the health programs
  • Kennedy believed economic relief to be in increased deficit spending. He also believed that stimulating economic growth depended on increased government spending and lower taxes

*Attorney General Robert Kennedy, unleashed an unprecedented war on organized crime, one foreshadowed by the brothers' days together on the McClelland Committee. This aggressive federal effort against Carlos Marcello, Sam Giancana, Jimmy Hoffa and many others had its own political costs, and was particularly sensitive given the Democratic party's relationship with organized labor.

Johnson 1963-69 (Haseena)

General economic activity:
*National poverty rate of around 19%
*Inspired by FDR's New Deal, Johnson created the Great Society (more info below)

Domestic Policy:
*Introduction of Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) —domestic Peace Corps
*Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Outlawed Poll Tax, which had been used to prevent blacks in the south from voting.
*Civil Rights Act (64): Guaranteed equal access to schools and public accomodations —included creation of Equal Opportunity Comission to prevent discrimination on the job

*Great Society*

top priority was "war on poverty

*Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 — August 20, 1964
-aided preschoolers from underprivileged homes
-Job corps for dropouts
-Neighborhood Youth Corps- for unemployed teens
-assisted low-income teens to aspire to go to college

*Department of Housing created to focus on humanity
-"It is not enough for us to erect towers of stone and glass, or to lay out vast suburbs of order and conformity. We must seek and we must find the ways to preserve and to perpetuate in the city the individuality, the human dignity, the respect for individual rights, the devotion to individual responsibility that has been part of the American character and the strength of the American system." -Johnson's remarks at the Signing of Bill Establishing a Department of Housing and Urban Development on September 9, 1965

*Environmental legislation
-conservation of untouched resources
-"We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities" -Johnson

*Social Security Act of 1965 — July 30, 1965
-Introduced Medicaid (Low Income Families) and Medicare (Elderly)

*Endowment for the Arts (Sep 1965)

*Endowment for the Humanities (Sep 1965): support american cultural education

*Voting rights act: literacy and other voter qualification tests outlawed, allowed federal examiners to register voters

*Immigration law: limited number of new immigrants per year to 170,000.

*Civil Rights Act (68): prohibited discrimination in real-estate market, outlawed discriminatory riots

End of Great Society: Credibility gap widened as American public's perspective on Vietnam War became more pessimistic. That made the public lose confidence in Johnson's presidency, including trust in Johnson's Great Society.

Nixon 1969-74 (Haseena)

"New Federalism": to create balance between the power of the federal government and the interests of the community
-A system which directed money and power away from the federal bureaucracy and toward states and municipalities. This system, Nixon said, could respond more efficiently to the needs of the people.
-Office of Economic Opportunities abolished because of lack of funding for social programs
-Included locally controlled desegregation
-number of colored children going to all-black schools reduced from 70% to 18%

*"Stagflation": econ condition characterized by high prices and low demand, which was highly present in 70s

*Econ Stabilization act: 90-day freeze on all wages and prices, came from constant fluctuation of prices

*Moon landing: cost of space program brought differences of opinion regarding it's worth when weighed against domestic programs

*Increased environmental awareness
-Clean Air Act of 1970, perhaps one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation ever passed. Also created two new agencies, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency, to oversee environmental matters.
-Vetoed Act in 1972 bc congress boosted its cost to $18 billion. When Congress overrode his veto, he used his presidential powers to impound half of the money according to New Federalism's policy of fiscal efficiency.

*Watergate Scandal (brief and legacy):*

In one of the most dramatic media events of the twentieth century, the Watergate conspiracy unfolded. The scandal began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972. Investigations conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and later by the Senate Watergate Committee, House Judiciary Committee and the press revealed that this burglary was one of many illegal activities authorized and carried out by Nixon's staff. They also revealed the immense scope of crimes and abuses, which included campaign fraud, political espionage and sabotage, illegal break-ins, improper tax audits, illegal wiretapping on a massive scale, and a secret slush fund laundered in Mexico to pay those who conducted these operations. This secret fund was also used as hush money to buy the silence of the seven men who were indicted for the June 17 break-in. Despite contrary public testimony by his closest aides, Nixon repeatedly denied any connection to Watergate; in the end dramatic tape recordings the president had made himself provided irrefutable evidence of his role in the cover-up. Under threat of impeachment, Nixon became the first American president ever to resign.

By the time of his death in 1994, Richard Nixon's reputation had undergone minor rehabilitation, mostly due to his continued activity in the field of international diplomacy. Still, the pall of Watergate and the war remained, and many of his creative foreign and domestic enterprises would be all but forgotten. Nixon died not famous but infamous, an icon of American political tragedy. Even after his death, Nixon continued to make headlines. In 1997, 201 hours of newly released tapes spawned countless articles on Nixon and his White House. Unfortunately, the tapes confirmed the worst suspicions many had about the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

For more details on Nixon's Domestic Policies, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/presidents/37_nixon/nixon_domestic.html
For Watergate, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watergate_scandal

Ford 1974-77 (Haseena)

Domestically, Ford presided over the worst economy since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure.
-Energy Crisis: sparked OPEC's creation
-Recession: higher gas prices and gov spending on Vietnam war caused inflation of 12 percent in '74
-further reduced nation's trust in government
One of his more controversial decisions was granting a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal.
In 1976, Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination, but ultimately lost the presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Ford tried to build trust in the nation's gov after Watergate Crisis and energize the economy but his successes were limited

Carter – Democrat (1977-81) (Ben + Chelsea + Mac)

Energy Crises
• America relied on foreign oil
• April 18, 1977 Carter urges Americans to use less oil and gas
• 100 proposals on energy conservation and development (many declined)
• National Energy Act- taxes gas guzzling cars, removed price control on American produced oil and gas, extended tax credit for alternative energy- eased US dependency on foreign oil
Economic Crises
• 1979 middle eastern wars causes fuel shortage
• OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) announced price hike, inflation from 7.6% to 11.3%
• Carter gave public speech about Americans giving up on the economy, so people thought he was giving up
• 1980 inflation at 14%
• Standard of living went from 1st to 5th in the world
• Foreign counties were now becoming competition (West Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Korea)
Civil Rights
• Carter wanted more civil rights and less discrimination but was unable to make any real reform because of the economic state of the county

Reagan- Republican (1981-89) (Ben + Mac + Chelsea)


1 reduce the growth of government spending
2 reduce income and capital gains marginal tax rates
3 reduce government regulation of the economy
4 control the money supply to reduce inflation.

• Cut budgets for- urban mass transit, food stamps, welfare, job training, Medicaid, school lunches, student loans
• Economic Recovery Tax Act, 1981- cuts taxes
• Increases defensive spending
• Gram-Rudman Act, 1985- deficit reductions
• Tax Reform Act, 1986- stimulated saving and investment but caused more corruption because of less rules
• Supply side economics- Lower taxes so people save more and spend more, banks save more, so banks loan more to businesses, businesses have more money so prices go down and thus inflation goes down

Apparently people liked him…

(show block for picture)

Civic stuff

• Child support enforcement Amendments- you have to pay child support
• Retirement Equity Act, 1984- old women get more rights

Other stuff

• 1982 unemployment at 10.7%
• Stock market crashes Oct. 1987
• Caused a lot of national dept

Bush Sr. - Republican (1989-93) (Ben + Chelsea)

Civic stuff

• Abortion 1973, 1989, 1992- not pro-abortion
• Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990- makes it unlawful to discriminate against cripples
• Clean Air Act, 1990- companies had to watch their emissions
• L.A. riot for Rodney King, April 1992- Rodney was beaten by police but the police were pardoned, angry people rioted and 45 died and 2000 were injured
• Pardon of Iran-Contra, 1992- bad people get away with bad things
• Flag burning is judged legal against Bush’s authority


• Recession, 8% unemployment, $4 trillion national dept
• Tax increase
• Savings and Loans- S&L fell apart and many higher ups were shown to have made dubious deals, and the fraud angered tax payers
• 27th Amendment- congress cannot get pay raises at certain times
• Many claims on improving education were made but little work was actually done

16. Political and Economic developments in the United States after the Second World War

Developments in the role of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches
Presidential leadership: Truman to Bush
Efforts at political and social reform
The impact of Vietnam and Watergate
Economic trends
The new conservatism

Chapter 27 The Post War Boom
Chapter 32 An Age of Limits
Chapter 33 The Conservative Tide

Previous “Political and Economic Developments” questions

Assess the achievements and limitations of the domestic policies of any two Presidents of the United States of America in the period 1961 to 1988.

Explain the rise of conservative politics in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s.

To what extent, and with what results, had Ronald Reagan, by the end of his presidency, fulfilled his campaign promises in domestic policy?

Assess the achievements and limitations of the domestic policies of one of the following presidents: Lyndon B Johnson (1963–9); Jimmy Carter (1977–81); Ronald Reagan (1981–9).

“Their domestic policies brought significant improvements to the lives of many people in the United States.” To what extent do you agree with this verdict on the domestic policies of either Lyndon B Johnson (1963-68) or Ronald Reagan (1981-88)?

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