Krugman on the Fifties–not on Twinkies

Paul Krugman’s column in today’s New York Times is titled “The Twinkie Manifesto.” Nice headline but it’s not really about Twinkies.  Normally I wouldn’t be saying nice things about the fifties as I did in my tweet (quoted below). A lot of women who lived through the fifties would agree.  All that subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination that affected our lives and futures.  Just a few personal examples.

In high school, I wasn’t allowed to take shop —  print shop — because girls couldn’t take shop.  My father was a printer, for heaven’s sake, and I wanted to take print shop. In college (at Missouri’s journalism school), I was discouraged from aiming to be a reporter because as a woman, i would be stuck on what was then called “the society page.”  (It was the woman’s page with club news, bridal shower photos and recipes.) My favorite job at Mizzou was being co-editor of the college humor magazine Showme.  (I was of course, the first girl editor of Showme.  Guys reigned in the joke pages and at our gag meetings at a local bar.) After graduation, when I was looking for a job in “industrial journalism,” the manufacturing company I interviewed with offered me a job as a researcher.  But I would prefer to be a writer, I said.  No, we don’t hire women as writers. (Fortunately, I didn’t try for a copywriting job at an ad agency or I would have ended up as a secretary.)* 

Today I tweeted a link to Krugman’s column with the more positive aspects of the decade. “The Fifties weren’t all bad. Higher taxes, strong unions meant less inequality.” Krugman notes that super-high incomes paid a top marginal tax rate of 91 percent and “the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.”  He goes on to say:

“And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.

“Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing. There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.

“Along the way, however, we’ve forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.”

One more great thing about Krugman, my second favorite economist.  (My favorite?  My son Andrew, of course.) Most every Friday, Krugman posts “Friday Night Music” on his New York Times blog with a link to audio or video of a band he likes.  Sometimes it’s a band I know and like — Arcade Fire or Of Monsters and Men. Sometimes it’s a band that’s new to me like The Civil Wars (who unfortunately have broken up since then). It’s a great way to end the blogging week of charts and data points.  Here’s a link to Krugman’s blog, “Conscience of a Liberal.”


* I won’t apologize for this digression into my personal memories.  Remember, I said on my What I Believe In page that this blog is all about me, me, me.

2 Comments on “Krugman on the Fifties–not on Twinkies”

  1. says:

    good column

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  2. Ivan Saul Cutler says:

    The Madmen of the 50s mentality are losers. As for shop classes, they are gone in most middle schools here in North Carolina. The impact is great. Few kids know how to use, appreciate and benefit from manual tasks. Shop meant hands on learning. Yes, the girls now women (and all of us) would have benefited significantly.


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