Upton Sinclair: War’s one-sided boost to the economy
From Boston (1928)
Now something more than ordinarily maleficent was befalling these humble wage-workers. It was happening all over the world, but they did not know that – they only knew Plymouth. The cost of everything they bought was going up day by day. Because of the war in Europe, the allied nations were borrowing money in America, and spending it for American goods. Exactly as Josiah Quincy Thornwell had foretold on the night of his death, it was making enormous and incredible prosperity for American manufacturers and stock-speculators; but also it was making higher and higher prices for the poor. And there was no corresponding increase in the wage, so close to the border-line of want; there was no authority charged with the task of calculating living costs, and adjusting earnings to them. The great industries which owned and rented tenements to their workers would raise the rent a dollar or two a month and tell the tenants that this was necessary; but they would overlook what might be necessary for the tenants.
The great rich company, the biggest cordage company in the world, which now in the second year of the great war was doing more business and making more money than ever in its history before, sent its officials before the state board to argue that wages of six dollars a week for unskilled women and nine dollars for unskilled men were abundant and generous…