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The Reckoning by David Halberstam

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18. HENRY KAISER TRIES DETROIT

IT WAS AN AGE of excess. The country was richer than ever before, and its wealth was spread more widely. Instead of a small market of the rich and a large but impotent market of the poor, there was now a huge new middle class, for there had been a quantum leap in the disposable income of ordinary citizens. In a perceptive series in Fortune in 1953, Gilbert Burck and Sanford Parker described the explosion of the middle class. In 1929, they pointed out, there had been one million family units that were truly rich; this 3 percent of the population received 22 percent of the total income. The lower class was huge—twenty-nine million families, or 80 percent of the population—but it received only 46 percent of the nation’s ...

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