I’m against every big government program that is proposed. But one massive federal program really helped me.
I am a Baby Boomer. I was born during the unprecedented spike in the US birth rate that took place after World War II. The ‘baby boom’ occurred alongside an economic boom, a sustained period of economic growth and full employment.
A big-government program played an important role.
The G.I. Bill, enacted in 1944, put higher education, job training, and home ownership within the reach of millions of World War II veterans. By 1951, nearly 8 million veterans had received educational and training benefits. My dad was one of them. He had saved during high school and worked while attending the University of Southern California.
He joined the Army after his second year of college. Two years into his service, the war ended. He was able to finish up at USC on the G.I. Bill.
The G.I. Bill made it so those millions of veterans would not flood the job market immediately after the war. And when these young people — mostly men — finished their educations, their higher wages fueled the growing economy and the prosperity of the middle class. Their knowledge and training enabled the innovation of new products, the proliferation of large corporations, and the modernization of infrastructure. Their growing families necessitated the expansion of the suburbs.
Men in my father’s orbit were upwardly mobile in an expanding economy. It’s not that we were rich. But a middle-class father’s salary could support a family. And people believed that if they worked hard, they could climb the ladder of success.
Of course, this wasn’t true for everyone. Nearly one third of the country lived in poverty. President Johnson’s War on Poverty was supposed to fix this and bring about a “Great Society.” It didn’t.
What’s the difference? Family. The G.I Bill encouraged family formation and work. The War on Poverty incentivized dependence and single motherhood.
Families are divinely-inspired mini-governments.