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1920s Decade During World War I federal spending grows three times larger than tax collections When the government cuts back spending to balance the budget in 1920 a severe recession results However the war economy invested heavily in the manufacturing sector and the next decade will see an explosion of productivity although only for certain sectors of the economy An average of 600 banks fail each year Agricultural energy and coal mining sectors are continually depressed Textiles shoes shipbuilding and railroads continually decline The value of farmland falls 30 to 40 percent between 1920 and 1929 Organized labor declines throughout the decade The United Mine Workers Union will see its membership fall from 500000 in 1920 to 75000 in 1928 The American Federation of Labor would fall from 51 million in 1920 to 34 million in 1929 Technological unemployment enters the nations vocabulary as many as 200000 workers a year are replaced by automatic or semi-automatic machinery Over the decade about 1200 mergers will swallow up more than 6000 previously independent companies by 1929 only 200 corporations will control over half of all American industry By the end of the decade the bottom 80 percent of all income-earners will be removed from the tax rolls completely Taxes on the rich will fall throughout the decade By 1929 the richest 1 percent will own 40 percent of the nations wealth The bottom 93 percent will have experienced a 4 percent drop in real disposable per-capita income between 1923 and 1929 The middle class comprises only 15 to 20 percent of all Americans Individual worker productivity rises an astonishing 43 percent from 1919 to 1929 But the rewards are being funneled to the top the number of people reporting half-million dollar incomes grows from 156 to 1489 between 1920 and 1929 a phenomenal rise compared to other decades But that is still less than 1
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