One of the problems facing progressive politics is that real liberalism has been redefined by the Republicans and by a new breed of false liberals led by people lie the Clintons and Obama. Here are a few facts about real liberalism that we published 30 years ago
Progressive Review, 1985 – We’ve come across some comments on the accomplishments of liberalism of the last half century that are worth passing on. They were made by Alien Ferguson, President of AFE Inc. before the National Economist Club last fall.
Ferguson notes that the real gross national product rose 546% from 1933 to 1980. Real per capita disposable income rose 233% during the same period. In 1929, one percent of non-farm workers took vacations. By 1970, the figure had risen to 80%. The average work week dropped from around 48 hours in 1929 to around 35 hours in 1980.
By 1950, 34 million workers were covered by unemployment insurance; by 1980 the figure was almost 93 million.
Social Security, during the same period expanded from covering 46 million to 128 million people. While the share of income realized by the poorest 20% of the population has not changed much over the years, the percentage held by the wealthiest 5% has dropped from 30% in 1929 to 15.4% in 1981, indicating a redistribution of income to the middle class. Similarly, the percentage of total wealth held by the top one percent was 36% in 1929 and down to 20% by 1969.
Between 1959 and 1979, 9% of whites and 25% of blacks moved out of the poverty classification. And a Congressional Research Service study done in 1982 showed that without the various liberal transfer programs, 24% of the country would have been in poverty rather than the 9% that was the case. Said Ferguson: “It is my view that current attacks on programs of the past decades arise, not because liberal policies failed, but rather because they succeeded too well.”