Readers will hopefully indulge me in spending a few paragraphs trying to develop a concept with could easily be the subject of a much more well-developed study and/or thesis. For those who can't grant me such leeway, well, maybe the blogosphere isn't for you... At any rate, the thought is this: while America has not had to collectively sacrifice in the same way during the current wars as it has with past wars, it has nonetheless become mired in a period of austerity, just without the same benefits.
In other words, during World War II there was shared economic sacrifice in the form of rationing and price freezes. These were stated policies which the government appealed to the public for. Coming out of that period America was treated to a baby-making, manufacturing, infrastructural boom. Meanwhile, during the wars of the 2000's there were increases in spending and a lack of corresponding cuts which the public sat idly by for. The uncertaintly these conditions caused for business led to shared sacrifice in the form of lost jobs, slowed output and overall malaise. And since the sacrifices in the latter wars were more haphazard and less concrete; a tax cut here, a stimulus plan there, the groundwork has not been set for a correlated subsequent boom.
This is, of course a problem with political roots. While the invasion of Afghanistan was popular, the invasion of Iraq was less so, and both campaigns lost their sheen in short order. This is unlike World War II which, while entry was unpopular in some quarters, had the support of the American public after Pearl Harbor. It was politically feasible for FDR to ask for sacrifice during the earlier war; neither Bush nor Obama would have dared during their times in charge.
However, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars still cost a lot of money. And that money had to come from somewhere...or maybe more ethereally it had to be created. While WWII saw the manufacturing plants of America running 24/7, the wars of the 2000's were marked by the continuous running of the Treasury's printing presses. The former scenario set the country up for a proud boom led by the Greatest Generation, the former has created the Great Recession with standard bearers who are more likely to Occupy local parks than boardrooms anytime soon.
This thesis is of course a bit simplified. It doesn't account for the role of women in the workforce, the impact housing prices have had on the ability to start a family, inflationary pressures, differences in national infrastructure and the fact that our monetary system is markedly different now than it was in the 1940's. I will grant a careful reader-cum-history student out there these points and many more. However, I believe very strongly that there is something in this concept.
Commentators have said again and again that, despite the extreme sacrifices our many of our servicemen and women that the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan have not been marked by sacrifice at home. I disagree wholeheartedly. Though no public official has had the fortitude to say so to his or her constituents, the American public has sacrificed greatly during the wars of the 2000's. Unfortunately, and due to a lack of acknowledgement along the way of the ultimately backdoor sacrifice those wars would take, that sacrifice looks like it will continue long after the gunfire finally, happily stops.