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June 16, 2012

JAMES PETHOKOUKIS: It’s Obama, Not Romney, Who’s Stuck In The 1950s.

The 1950s and 1960s — taxes were high, unions were strong, incomes more equal. And the U.S. economy grew by 3.7% a year. So, Obama seems to suggest, let’s just dial up the economic Way Back Machine — raise taxes on the rich, reregulate industry, boost union power – and we can go back to the future.

But there’s no going back, Mr. President. The post-World War II decades were affected by a host of unique factors, not the least of which was that they came right after a devastating global war that left America’s competitors in ruins. A National Bureau of Economic Research study described the situation this way: “At the end of World War II, the United States was the dominant industrial producer in the world. … This was obviously a transitory situation.”

And as former Bain Capital executive Edward Conard notes in his new book, Unintended Consequences, the size of the U.S. labor force was constrained during those decades by both the 1930s baby bust and casualties from the war. So a surge in jobs and a restricted supply of labor produced fat wage growth. Hoping for a return to that era is futile, Conard concludes.

Indeed.

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