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The primary method of changing political and economic life was demonstrated through the engagement of the enemy in multiple arenas. Both nations made a conscious choice to seek to defeat the other. This guided political policy of different administrations. No US President nor Soviet Premier during the Cold War was able to completely discount the need to challenge the other during their tenure. This pigeonholed approach to political reality helped to guide economic policy as well, as both nations sought to keep up with the other in military spending and expenditures. For example, the US military commitment to the Cold War during the 1980s significantly diverted money from urban renewal projects and investment in domestic initiatives such as health care or education funding in the poorest of areas. The Soviets sought to keep pace and completely ignored domestic problems, culminating in an infeasible situation at the end of the Cold War, when Russia was revealed to be a domestically decrepit nation in terms of domestic fiscal solvency.
Because the Cold War years lasted so long, political and economic life changed drastically during that time.
At the start of the Cold War, the US was by far the dominant economic power in the world. American workers could expect good jobs at good pay, more or less for life. By the end of the Cold War, the rest of the world was starting to catch up with the US. Americans were particularly worried about Japan catching up to us.
Politically, we moved for a very polite political system with Democrats and Republicans getting along pretty well to a much more divided system. The Democratic Party lost the South and politics became divided much more along geographic lines.
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