Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Feels like it's 1978

2010 feels like 1978. Fortunately without the lime green leisure suits.

We have a president who could be transformative; who came into office with an unprecedented slew of problems, the solutions to which could get him replaced in the next election by a fringe candidate.

Jimmy Carter took office in 1997 with an economy in shambles, a shambles which had never been seen before. Carter inherited Nixon’s recession which was a mix of stagnation and inflation. He appointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Volcker had the courage to push interest rates above ten percent, finally breaking the back of the double digit inflation. This was extremely painful, but necessary; Carter will be forever condemned.

Meanwhile Carter was left to deal with the government’s failure to deal with Iran, starting with Eisenhower’s replacing a democratically elected president with the brutal dictator Reza Pahlavi. Following the Iranian revolution, Carter helped to exile Pahlavi, a move that was misunderstood in Iran, resulting in the hostage crisis. Ronald Reagan eventually got credit for the release of the hostages even though they were boarding a plane before he was sworn into office.

In 1980, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Carter put an embargo on all grain sales to the country along with a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. The grain embargo and boycott tipped a dying economy over the edge and allowed Mikhail Gorbachev to end the cold war in 1986.

Carter also created cabinet posts for Energy and Education, helped bring peace between Egypt and Israel, began a program of clean energy research, and introduced human rights into US foreign policy. All of this meant nothing to the average voter who was legitimately more concerned with his pocketbook.


Due to the inherited economic woes, foreign policy failures, and general anger with government stemming from Watergate, Carter was turned out of office. The 1980 election was a perfect storm. The Republican party managed to nominate a radical, but glib, Goldwater conservative as their candidate and people voted with their pocketbook. At no other time could Reagan have become President.

Reagan came in with a majority in the Senate and working majority of Republicans and Dixiecrats in the House. Together they stopped the green energy research (now we’re feeling the consequences) and rammed through deregulation and irrational tax cuts generating monstrous national debt. The Reagan tax cuts and deregulation created investment bubble after bubble, the savings & loan crisis, skyrocketing government, corporate, and personal debt, massive bank failures, and Enron. We’re only now dealing the national debt that was created during the Reagan and Bush-43 presidencies (or more to the point, once we’re past the current recession).


Now, we have a President who came into office with an economy headed toward a second great depression, few allies, enormous debt, and a failing ‘war’ on terror.

Working with majorities in both the House and the Senate, Obama and the Democrats passed a stimulus package that turned the next Great Depression into no more than a Great Recession. Obama won a noble peace prize for bringing our allies back to us. And, he has been taking the ‘war’ to the actual terrorist groups, rather than some random country.

Meanwhile the Republicans have succeeded in stopping all progress. Senate Republicans have used a perpetual filibuster to stop almost all legislation. They and their media cohorts belittle the White House with half-truths and lies at every opportunity. The American people can no longer see through the political smog anymore.


Could Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, or Mitt Romney really be headed toward the presidency? If the American voter struggles as he did in 1978 to comprehend the complex issues facing the USA, it sure looks it.

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