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1952 recalled

A Facebook friend of mine has recently quoted Senator Bernie Sanders thus:

Bernie Sanders's photo.

She (my friend) then added her own comment:

There were a lot of things wrong with the 50's, but one parent working with another one staying home (which they owned) was doable when the onus of taxes wasn't on citizens.

There are so many different lines of thought that arise out of such claims., I almost replied thus:

One line of thought this suggests, (your comment, not Bernie's) is the size of the labor pool then and now. Were women staying home (after the riveting services of Rosie were no longer required for reasons of war) because their men could make enough money to support them comfortably? That's what you seem to be suggesting, though you prefer to state the fact in a gender-free manner that would have seemed off in 1952. Anyway: consider the other direction of causality. Perhaps the fact that women were expected to stay home helped keep the supply of labor for certain sorts of jobs low, and that allowed the salary-earning to do what you say was then but is now no longer "doable." At any rate, I don't see how that has a lot to do with what Bernie wants here, And I'm not suggesting a return-to-1952, any more than are you, but I am suggesting that the "things wrong" you mention may have been related to the things you see as having been right, and related in uncomfortably intertwined fashion.

But that would have been misunderstood as something other than analytical exuberance, so I've simply left it here instead.

I'll follow another line of thought tomorrow.


  1. Christopher,

    Your friend's comment contains two unstated assumptions for which she offers no evidence. First, she assumes that lower taxes on citizens played a significant role in the wealth that enabled families to get along on just one salary. Second, in the parenthetical, she implies that homeownership was more prevalent then than it is now. I don't know whether either of these assumptions is valid, and I suspect that your friend doesn't know either.


  2. My own suspicion, which I'm too lazy to research right now, is that she is wrong on the first point but right on the second. Wrong on the first because corporate taxes are not the "free ride" for non-corporate people ("citizens") that Sanders is suggesting. Those corporate taxes do get passed along to consumers and employees in various ways. Right on the second because in the 'Levittown' era right after WW II, with all those soldiers coming home and starting families, government policy was very favorable to housing, and probably created a glut.

  3. It hadn't occurred to me that corporate taxes get passed along, but of course they do. I was thinking merely that, if taxes really were lower, the tax savings would not be sufficient to enable a spouse who otherwise had to work to quit work.


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