TO THE EIGHTIES:
America life for many was getting hard. A new generation was
coming of age. Generation X born between 1966-80. For this generation
economic life seemed bleak. Broken-up families, unstable employment,
and increasingly costly higher education made the future of
Generation X uncertain and unsafe. Generation X hid its fears
with an attitude of indifference. The balancing of marriage,
family, and career seemed almost impossible. Many Generation
X children were the children of early Boomers and many began
putting off marriage until their early thirties if they thought
of marrying at all. Many Xers continued living at home because
of the new high cost of living. The Xers were forced into taking
poor paying service jobs, called " McJobs. "
The Xers also were only 13 million in number and could not possibly
create the kind of cultural revolution that the Boomers had
achieved, nor could they, even if they wanted to. The economic
environment was now worse, casual sex was difficult with a new
sexual disease called AIDS spreading rapidly throughout America.
Also American culture was now more culturally fragmented than
in earlier times. Family life was weak as divorces continued
to sky-rocket as more and more divorced mothers were forced
to work outside the home simply to survive now.
feeling of failure was gripping America's industrial heartland.
Signs of collapse were everywhere. Roads and bridges were closed
because there were no local taxes to keep them repaired. Factories
and steel mills were closed and stores along the main streets
of small towns were boarded up. Downtown areas of industrial
cities became ghost-towns. Unemployment was in double-digits
in America's rust-belt. More and more people became displaced
and the gap between the rich and the poorest grew wider and
heavy industry was declining, small farm bankruptcies accelerated
as well. Land and food prices plummeted in America's agricultural
heartland. By 1989, the farm population in America was less
than five million as huge agribusinesses bought up family farms
and forced more and more small farmers off their land.
divorce, and family displacement had a growing effect on children
as the Eighties wore on. The number of Americans living in poverty
increased to 33 million and by 1989 half of all African American
children were living in poverty. African American gains made
in the Sixties and Seventies had now suddenly reversed. Crime
in African American ghettos sky-rocketed. A new and cheap form
of cocaine called " crack " became big business for
many inner city African American gangs and gangland activity
soon began to spread to many other American cities. Soon America's
prison population began to grow to over two million people.
Many of them were disproportionately, African and Hispanic Americans.
during the Eighties the sight of people living on America's
streets became more and more common. Many Americans wondered
how this could be happening in the world's richest nation. But
it was really no mystery. Throughout the Eighties, the cost
of housing continued to rise. Many street people could no longer
afford to pay rent and many were incapable of working. Drugs,
mental illness, and loss of government support created a homeless
population that began to number in the millions.
schools began to mirror America's accelerating social problems.
More and more American children began to drop out of school
and test scores in all subjects continued to fall during the
Eighties. Violence in American schools continued to also increase
at a time when the American federal government began to withdraw
more and more support from public schools leaving states and
regional counties with school bills they could no longer pay.
an equally disturbing trend, support for America's environmental
laws was becoming more lax under the Reagan administration.
Clean air and water laws were enforced with less vigor even
as ecological warnings made during the Sixties and Seventies
began to reflect the dangers of over-reliance on technologies
that could damage the planet's delicate life support system.
the Soviet Union, the explosion of a nuclear power plant in
Chernobyl scattered radioactive material over an area of thirty-two
thousand miles. In Bhopal, India, a gas leak at an American
insecticide plant soon killed thousands of people with little
warning. And in Alaska, a huge American oil tanker spilled eleven
million gallons of oil into the waters of one of America's most
sensitive wildlife areas killing untold numbers of fish, birds,
and mammals. The ecological crisis now facing the planet was
becoming harder and harder to ignore, yet during the Eighties
little action was taken by the American government to come to
grips with this new reality.