The end of World War Two in 1945 ushered in a mood of exuberance throughout America. Our soldiers returned home with visions of peace and prosperity. The bright hopes of these young men were expressed in a catchy hit song that came out that same year: I’ll Buy that Dream. The lyrics describe finding the right girl, traditional marriage, owning a home, and raising a family in a land of plenty. This was called the "American Dream." And America in 1945 was indeed a land of high hopes as illustrated by this verse of the song:
A honeymoon in Cairo, in a brand new autogyro (helicopter) Then off to Rio for a drink We’ll settle down in Dallas In a little plastic palace Oh, it’s not as crazy as you think.
Of course, from the prospect of 1945, it wasn’t too far-fetched. Amazing technological advances were being made, i.e., the first all-electronic computer was developed that year. Two parent families were the norm and only one parent had to work outside of the home. The wife kept house and cared for the children and the husband earned enough to support the family. In 1945, the American Dream was alive and well.
But in the decades following the end of World War II, our nation has been besieged with imperialistic escapades; dubious social theories, imprudent legislation, ill-considered Supreme Court decisions and unchecked immigration. I think it would be enlightening to examine a few of our government’s major blunders made during the 50 year period following the end of the World War II; not a detailed economic analysis, but a brief overview of some of the leading gaffes.
Our government’s first serious mistake was made only two years after the war ended when Washington developed a new concept: Foreign Aid.
The first version of a foreign aid project was the Marshall Plan which was to become the blueprint for many of the government ruses of the last 50 years. Government propaganda tried to sell the Marshall plan to taxpayers as a humanitarian effort to rebuild war-torn Europe with U.S. grants and loans. The official line was the fabricated claim that this aid was critically needed to deter the spread of Communism throughout Europe. But what taxpayers actually subsidized was a scheme to funnel government money to large corporations that had ties to the Truman administration.
These insider corporations inflated the prices of services provided for the rebuilding of Europe and taxpayers picked up the tab. And, despite all the hype about the Marshall plan, it had very limited impact on the rebuilding of Europe. As Jeffrey Tucker states in his article, The Marshall Plan Myth," the countries that received the most Marshall Plan money grew the slowest…while those that received the least money grew the most." The Marshall Plan cost U.S. taxpayers 13 billion dollars.
The Marshall Plan initiated the concept of foreign aid which gave Washington a way to spread its tentacles around the globe. In 1948, the new State of Israel became our first foreign aid recipient. Israel received a “base” amount of monetary aid of 3 billion dollars per year until the 1990s when it was increased to 5 billion dollars per year — 13.7 million dollars per day. Soon other countries were on the foreign aid dole, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers. Currently, we taxpayers pick up the tab for approximately 16 billion dollars of foreign aid per year.
Our returning soldiers were only allowed a few years to enjoy peace and prosperity. In 1950, draft boards called them up again and sent them to Korea to fight a "war to bring peace" to that divided nation. After a few frustrating and disastrous years, during which many American soldiers lost lives and limbs, the war effort in Korea was abandoned. Washington’s spin machine tried to convince the nation that our mission had been accomplished, but we soon learned otherwise. The conflict in Korea continued.
This same pattern of government falsehood, mission failure, and loss of American lives was repeated in the "wars to bring peace" that followed the Korean conflict: Viet Nam; Desert Storm, Kosovo, Mogadishu, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq and other excursions. In addition to the massive loss of lives, these reckless and futile military actions cost the American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
In 1953, Earl Warren of California was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His appointment tipped the balance of the court in a new direction: judicial activism. The court began "re-interpreting" the Constitution in order to "evolve" its original intent to accommodate current trends. This was a forerunner of what would later be called "political correctness" (a term originally coined in the early years of the Soviet Union). A year after Chief Justice Warren’s appointment came Brown vs. Board of Education, the famous decision that eliminated the doctrine of separate but equal public schools.
At the core of the Supreme Court’s "sociological" opinion was the contention that separate schools "no matter how equal the facilities, caused psychological damage to black children." Furthermore, separate schools "generate a feeling of inferiority" and contribute to a learning gap between the races. Consequently, the justices decided that blacks can’t learn properly unless they are in schools with whites. Amazingly, this opinion was not called racist nor was its logic questioned.
Washington bureaucrats began implementing decades of forced busing, race-based admissions, quotas and other government strong-arm tactics to put blacks in white schools and whites in black schools, often schools in distant neighborhoods. Fifty years and billions of tax dollars later, the justices have been proven wrong. The learning gap between the races persists. And now the prevailing theory is that the quality of education offered by a particular school is due to the caliber of teachers and learning materials, not whether it is separate or not. This shows how social theories change from generation to generation. Also, most parents, white and black, have realized that their children fare better in neighborhood schools regardless of racial composition.
The Brown decision also opened the door for a flood of problematic social legislation cloaked with the virtuous label "civil rights." These laws might have been "paved with good intentions" but the way government bureaucrats interpreted and implemented them has been a disaster. In the words of Paul Craig Roberts: "The great paradox of the civil rights revolution is that instead of enforcing and expanding equality before the law, the revolution created differential rights based on race, gender, and, any day now, sexual orientation." Hiding behind the shadowy euphemism "affirmative action," government agencies have imposed quotas on almost every organization in the country, completely restructuring corporate America in the process. All hiring, firing and promotion decisions are now constrained by quota considerations.
Because companies are essentially prevented from considering merit in employee decisions, the cost of doing business has soared. And companies pass this additional cost on to consumers in the form of higher prices. In the final analysis, government imposed quotas have not helped blacks at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, those it was designed to help. It has only benefited upper middle-class blacks and women, those who might very well have succeeded without quotas. And the cost of government to enforce quotas and the cost of organizations to comply with them is estimated at roughly 30 billion dollars per year.
Another kind of "war" was declared in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson: the "War on Poverty." President Johnson introduced this legislation to Congress in a special message that included this unbelievable statement: "For the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty." What could possibly have motivated this hyperbole? I cannot believe Lyndon Johnson actually thought poverty could be eliminated. Of course, it’s also hard to believe that Karl Marx thought he could create a classless society. But unfortunately, grandiose claims like these are not always rejected by those with the power to do so.
The naïve Congress made Johnson’s pipe dream the law of the land. Four decades and a trillion dollars later, poverty has not been conquered. In fact, it has worsened. Predictably, the bureaucratic government agencies created by Johnson’s legislation have grown larger and hungrier each year. They are still spending taxpayer dollars as fast as they can on a failed program.
Now Congress has approved the frightening "Patriot Act" which is estimated to cost taxpayers 40 billion. But of course, the actual cost will far exceed that estimate. And what taxpayers will be funding is a law that allows big government to snoop on taxpayers — to stick its ever more intrusive nose into every nook and cranny of our lives: bank accounts, purchases, telephone conversations, letters, emails, travel, and, obviously, publicly expressed opinions. Additionally, we will be subjected to a myriad of new government forms and reports as well as fees. Like the other "legislation" explored above, citizens were not given the opportunity to vote for or against this "Patriot Act."
In 1945, the U.S. population was 140 million. Today it is 275 million — almost double the 1945 level. Immigration (legal and illegal) during the last 50 years accounts for 35% of the population increase — actual immigration plus births to post-1945 immigrants. (The fertility rate for immigrants is higher than that for natural born citizens.) In 1945, roughly 8% of population growth was due to immigration. In 2000, immigration accounted for 54% of U.S. population growth. If present immigration rates continue, in 2045 immigration will account for 85% of our population growth. At that time our population will be approaching 400 million and our resources will probably not be able to sustain so great a number of people even with a further drastic lowering of our standard of living.
Since the end of World War II, the rate of inflation has been steadily rising. This is primarily because our government spends more than it takes in and creates too much money. In the last 50 years, the proliferation of government regulations, government agencies and social legislation have helped push inflation to breath-taking levels. In 1945, a typical middle-class working man, after paying taxes, a house payment and a car payment, still had roughly 65% of his gross earnings left to support his family. Today, he has around 30% left to support his family. That is the toll inflation has taken on our standard of living and indicates why it is common practice today for both parents to work outside of the home. In many cases, one or both parents may have two jobs and it is not unusual for teen-aged children to have part-time jobs to help out.
These are just a few examples of the enormous cost to taxpayers resulting from shortsighted and unsuccessful government actions during the past 50 years. Government falls for every crackpot theory that comes along and has no compunction about spending our tax dollars to try to make it work. Even after a project has conclusively failed, government keeps funding it. And, like a herd of swine, snouts deep in the feeding trough, Congress continues to squander billions of our tax dollars on "pork barrel" legislation, whose only purpose is to get them re-elected. In 2003, pork barrel projects cost the taxpayers approximately 23 billion dollars.