July 15, 2020
Good morning, welcome to Radioactivity. I’m Rob Lorei. America is undergoing what is suitably being described as the “omni-crisis.” It is simultaneously confronting what seems like an unceasing barrage of challenges that threaten not only its position on the world stage, but also its very domestic stability.
Even before the coronavirus arrived, America was suffering. Its economy, long the envy of the world, has simply stopped working for a large swathe of the population. Real wages have either remained flat or fallen for everyone except the top ten percentile, leaving 43 percent of Americans working for $15 an hour or less. The median middle-class family has just about $4,000 in liquid assets, and would have trouble scraping up $400 in case of an emergency.
Against this background comes a new book from Yale educated historian, David Stebenne. PROMISED LAND: How the Rise of the Middle Class Transformed America, 1929 – 1968 is a definitive account of America’s middle class in the 20th century. Stebenne reviews the policies that supported Middle Class growth in the first half of the 20th Century, the transformation that growth brought to society, and the social, political, and economic forces of the 1960s that brought the period of expansion to an end. He also discusses how the 20th Century impacted the current Presidential Candidates.
David Stebenne, PhD is a professor at Ohio State University where he teaches political, legal and constitutional history. I spoke with him earlier today.