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The GI Bill

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill (1944), offered a bigger, more immediate payoff than did the theories offered by the Economic Advisers. The GI Bill provided for college or vocational education as well as one year of unemployment pay for returning World War II veterans, whom everybody called GIs (short for Government Issue). It also provided loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses.

The GI Bill was the last piece of New Deal legislation endorsed and signed by Franklin Roosevelt. (See Chapter 16 for more on the New Deal.) Ex-soldiers couldn't believe their good fortune: The bill paid for education and offered low-interest loans. Although most veterans attended vocational schools to learn a trade, enough GIs opted for college that many universities doubled in size. The proportion of the population with a college degree grew from 5 percent before the war to more than 25 percent in the early 21st century.

Example

Question: What most influenced the number of men going to college in the United States during the 20th century?

Answer: The GI Bill, which paid for the education of veterans.

Millions of young American families moved to small houses in the suburbs thanks to zero-down-payment loans from the GI Bill. This started a housing revolution that took home ownership from 44 percent in 1940 to almost 70 percent in the early 21st century. All this education and housebuilding also helped stimulate the economy by making more jobs. The GI Bill provided up to one year of unemployment coverage, but few ex-soldiers could resist getting one of the plentiful jobs before that year was up.

The International Monetary Fund

To help keep away global economic trouble, the Western Allies established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (1944) during a meeting at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, toward the end of the War. The IMF is an international organization consisting of just about every country in the world, and its mission is to oversee the global financial system by influencing exchange rates and making loans.

Although the IMF's international policy has its critics, cooperation tied a more prosperous world together and helped to lift countries out of poverty to some extent.

The United Nations

Despite the postwar tensions that would soon erupt, at least one peaceful international political organization was created. The United Nations (1945) got going at the end of the war; President Roosevelt was getting ready to speak to the first U.N. session when he died.

Unlike the similarly themed League of Nations (see Chapter 15), the U.N. began with the full support of the United States. The U.N. has a Security Council controlled by the big powers and a General Assembly of all nations. Able to act only when the big powers agree, the U.N. has become an organizing center for some but not all peacekeeping missions around the world.

 
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