Throughout the low wages they would receive

Throughout the history of the United States, the economy has been fluctuating. The economy has affected the way people lived since the beginning of this country. Many factors affect the development of the economy. The years we studied (1860s-1930s) are a great example of how the economy affects the way people live. This time frame was a period in which America began to modernize. New inventions and the spread of factories caused a shift in the economy. The country became more reliant on industries instead of on agriculture. The shift in the economy did not always bring positive changes. With more factories being built and jobs open, people were eager to fill those positions. They were unaware of those unsafe conditions they would be working in, or the low wages they would receive for hard work. This is just one example of how the transitioning economy can impact the lives of America. The economy is a system that supports the upper class while it works against the lifestyles of common people. The 1800s was a time for growth and expansion. The idea of Manifest Destiny encouraged the migration to undeveloped land. The painting “American Progress” demonstrated settlers migrating towards the West (Gast, American Progress). The large angel in the painting represents the idea of Manifest Destiny. The West at the time was filled with opportunity due to its untouched land. This area was considered a place to build America’s economy. Settlers were eager to start their journey towards the West. Once there, settlers were met with Native Americans who occupied most of the Western land. The whites did not appreciate the culture of the Native Americans, and they also wanted the land to themselves. To modernize the West and push Natives out, they began building railroads. Starting at Promontory, Utah, the Transcontinental led to the West and transported goods and settlers. This created a boost in the economy due to abundance of goods being sent and consumed by western settlers. Jobs were also increasing with the openings on the railroad. The creation of the railroads was seemingly better for common people and the wealthy. Money was being generated from the railroad, helping citizens have an easier access to migration and goods. Even though settlers reaped the positive affects of the economy, native people faced discrimination and were forced to assimilate into the white culture. The native people were stripped of their culture and morphed their mindsets to believe in the capitalistic economy of the country. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, factories were becoming more widespread. The development of companies and factories, called industrialization, drastically changed the economy. The shift in the economy brought negative outcomes. The US went from depending on agriculture to relying on industries. Common people had to adjust to the innovation in the economy. Instead of owning land, citizens began filling in positions at factories to obtain enough money to support their families. The people working at factories were unaware of the low wages they were receiving. Unbeknownst to the workers, the heads of the companies were trying to make profit off of their hard work. The tireless hours they worked did not have the funds to support their everyday lives. The CEOs of large companies were the main people in the country receiving profits while common people that had very little to depend on to survive. At this time, the economy was mainly focused on the heads of companies because they were the people pulling in revenue. Some political cartoons at this time depicted CEOs taking control of the government and common people. It demonstrates how much power CEOs had(Nast, 7). Thomas Nast’s “The Brains” depicts a head of a company having money the source of his decisions. One example of a CEO taking control of profits would be John Rockefeller. Rockefeller controlled the oil industry by first lowering the cost of oil to kill competition. Then, he proceeded to raise the cost of his oil to make more money. This method of making more acquisition  was widely used by CEOs throughout the late 1880s and early 1900s. The rampant use of making profits off workers created a juxtaposition between common people and the upper class. A large wave of immigration hit the U.S. in the 1800s and 1900s. Most immigrants came to America to flee persecution, poverty or simply live a better life. The main group of immigrants came from Europe. At the time, the population in Europe was rapidly increasing and land was becoming scarce. About 20 million immigrants came to the U.S. during this time period, and half of them were from Europe. Americans had mixed reviews about the new immigrants.  Few people believed that immigrants should have the same rights as natural-born citizens. Most people favored citizens born in America. This belief that native-born people are above immigrants is called nativism. Nativists believed that the cultures brought by immigrants should not be in America. Despite the negative views on immigrants, they had a positive impact on the economy. CEOs were eager to have new citizens work for them because they were unaware of little they would be paid for hours of work. In turn, companies were saving more money by hiring workers for low wages. The expansion of immigrant workers further elevated the wealth of CEOs and created a vast contrast between the middle-class and the upper-class. At the turn of the early 1900’s, citizens were becoming more aware of the immoral issues that society faced at the time. People who had a common interest in changing the society positively were called reformers. The ideals shared among this community included: protecting social welfare, promoting moral improvement, creating economic reform and fostering efficiency. These four goals of the progressive movement changed the view of Americans on the capitalistic economy. Led by Eugene V. Debs, socialists believed in creating an even balance among government, businesses and citizens. He promoted socialism by organizing strikes to attempt to achieve fair labor for workers and created a political party based on socialism. For example, he lead the Pullman Strike to protest the unfair wages workers received. As stated by Debs, “Capitalism  represents the material hell of want and pinching poverty of degradation and prostitution for those who toil…”(Debs). This supports the beliefs of the Socialist Party and how they were against the “material hell” of capitalism. These actions against the foundations of capitalism evoked followers to join unions in order to create neutral ground between the classes of the country and gain fair labor. As these ideals spread among American citizens, the economy started to become more balanced in the sense that the margin between people of different classes slowly began to minimize. Citizens and big businesses were finding common ground and there was hope for the lower classes. The Roaring Twenties ushered in a new era of expansion culturally and economically. During this decade, the growth of modern electrical appliances boosted the economy. Due to the creation of buying on the margin or credit, more people began buying items that were out of their tax bracket and charging it on credit. Many investors bought their stocks through credit. This eventually helped lead to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Millions of shares on the stock market were worthless due to many people using borrowed money to buy shares. The worst wave of the stock market crashing took place on October 29, 1929. On that day, 16 million shares were traded, but most were unprofitable. This led to consumers buying less and businesses disinclining production. Workers were getting laid off and those still working were barely making enough wages. Eventually, the fall of the economy spread throughout the world. The Stock Market Crash was followed by but did not cause the Great Depression. Leading into the 1930’s, the economy only began to become worse. Poverty levels were rapidly increasing, creating a greater margin between the upper class and lower class. Banks began liquidating loans in order to pay cash reserves. The government at this time was not willing to help recover the economy and believed citizens had to pull themselves out of poverty. The following president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped recover the country with the New Deal. The New Deal made the government hands on with recovery. As stated during his inaugural address, “Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo. Our international trade relations, though vastly important, are in point of time and necessity secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy.”(Roosevelt). Roosevelt’s time in office supported the long road for recovery that the U.S. had to undergo. The Great Depression and the Stock Market Crash were two separate events that demonstrated how the effects of the economy have forced a divide among citizens. The economy is broad yet can be affected by the simplest things. For example, the shift in the economy gave significant power to the upper class. One shift can affect the way millions of people live. Positive and negative outcomes can originate from the transition the economy, based on which class you are a part of. The economy has not always been equal for all people. The late 1800s and early 1900s were a time when the economy was in favor for the upper-class. Common people were at a disadvantage because the economy was based off of the hard work they did for low wages. Common people were important to the economy, especially during industrialization. Even though they help keep the economy propelling, they are not supported by the positive results that come out of the economy. Overall, America has faced mainly negative outcomes from the changing economy.

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