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WHAT ROLE DID THE G.I. BILL PLAY IN THE POST WW11 DEVELOPMENT IN THE US MIDDLE CLASS?


samuraitom 23 / 18  
Nov 16, 2007   #1
topic: what role did the G.I. Bill play in the post WWII development of the American Middle Class?

Critique. The conclusion is weak and I plan in adding in more for it.

"Magic Carpet to the Middle Class"



In his July 28, 1943 Fireside Chat, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke that "Among many other things we are, today, laying plans for the return to civilian life of our gallant men and women in the armed services. They must not be demobilized into an environment of inflation and unemployment, to a place on a bread line, or on a corner selling apples. We must, this time, have plans readyïinstead of waiting to do a hasty, inefficient, and ill-considered job at the last moment." The G.I. Bill proposal came from speech. This bill was praised as the most influential piece of legislation in the twentieth century. The G.I. Bill essentially became the "Magic Carpet to the Middle Class" (Davenport) for many American veterans after World War 2.

Warren Atherton wrote the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944ï commonly known as the G.I. Billï of which many considered the legislation as the last great policy of the New Deal. President Roosevelt signed the bill on June 22, 1944. The bill was largely written to prevent the Bonus March of 1932 and another depression. It provided aid to veterans adjusting to civilian life. The main benefit to the G.I. Bill was veterans' ability to attend any college of their choice, although, the college had to accept them first. The government would pay for tuition, books, and any college expenses. The fact that the government would pay for it, greatly influenced colleges to increase enrollment. Before World War 2, there were approximately 160,000 people in college. Shortly after the implementation of the G.I. Bill, this figure skyrocketed to 500,000 people, where 50 percent of college attendees were veterans. Within 7 years, 8 million veterans had received educational benefits. A higher education was not just for the wealthy anymore. There was a huge influx of skilled workers pouring into the workforce. This skilled veterans found work and received nice wages. This was the beginning of the middle class development.

"Before the war, college and homeownership were, for the most part, unreachable dreams for the average American" ("Born of Controversy"). Veterans coupled with education and a guaranteed home loan, a large increase demand for housing developed. A large expansion in "Levittown-type developments" (Davenport), mass-produced housing, occurred. Dreams of a white house with a picket fence yard were now possible. Suburbia grew exponentially. No longer were the suburbs just for the wealthy. American citizens transformed from renters to homeowners. These veterans were now part of a striving middle class society where they went from "citizens who worked with their hands to professionals who worked with their minds" (Reginald). Millions of veterans finally realized the "American Dream."

Not only did the G.I. Bill help Caucasians but African-Americans as well benefited. The "52-20" provision, which enabled unemployed veterans to collect $20 for 52 weeks, gave African-Americans and minorities the same wages as Caucasians for the first time. The bill erased inequalities between ethnicities in government benefits, although, segregation still existed. Africans-Americans and minorities could now attend universities of their choice even if it were a white-oriented university. Housing could be afforded. African-Americans launched into the middle-class society alongside whites. Many American citizens became accustomed to having luxury items such as televisions and automobiles.

The G.I. Bill truly was a magnificent act, which gave millions of veterans an education and a home. Jim Moser said it best during an interview with Jim Lehrer of NewsHour: that the G.I. Bill may his life and many other veterans' lives easy.



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