Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Our Public Enemy Number One"

For a blast from the past that's both fascinating and relevant (particularly as oil approaches $90), read this 1974 address by Gerald Ford to the American public. Much like Ford himself, it was criticized at the time as lightweight and ineffective. But like Ford's presidency, the speech has aged pretty well in tone if not in substance. There's too much in it for me to comment in-depth. But the following stands out:
  • Urgency. Can you imagine a president giving a similarly realistic and detail-heavy speech today about anything? It might distract from the latest Britney headline or depress people right before "Dancing with the Stars."

  • Myopia and unintentional hilarity. "I have personally been assured by the Chairman of the independent Federal Reserve Board that the supply of money and credit will expand sufficiently to meet the needs of our economy and that in no event will a credit crunch occur." Sound familiar? The same unsustainable policies that created the problem were seen as solutions. And "independent"? Google Arthur F. Burns if you need to.

  • Plus ca change. "One-third of our oil--17 percent of America's total energy--now comes from foreign sources that we cannot control, at high cartel prices costing you and me $16 billion--$16 billion more than just a year ago...New legislation will be sought after your recess to require use of cleaner coal processes and nuclear fuel in new electric plants, and the quick conversion of existing oil plants...We must push with renewed vigor and talent research in the use of nonfossil fuels. The power of the atom, the heat of the sun and the steam stored deep in the Earth, the force of the winds and water must be main sources of energy for our grandchildren, and we can do it."

  • Poignancy. "My fellow Americans, 10 days ago I asked you to get things started by making a list of 10 ways to fight inflation and save energy, to exchange your list with your neighbors, and to send me a copy. I have personally read scores of the thousands of letters received at the White House, and incidentally, I have made my economic experts read some of them, too."
Finally, a question, the answer to which the Bush White House both knows and is counting on: How many Americans watching Ford's speech in 1974 understood that the economy's problems were rooted in a war that started early in the previous decade, and therefore blamed LBJ and/or JFK?

8 Comments:

Anonymous The Lounsbury said...

I am sure you enjoyed this: bit of throat clearing by the Market Fat Ladies.

69 odd billions is not bad.

But as to your question How many Americans watching Ford's speech in 1974 understood that the economy's problems were rooted in a war that started early in the previous decade, and therefore blamed LBJ and/or JFK?:
I should imagine precious bloody few.

However, if one was in opposition now, I should think the drum of Permanent Problems caused by the untrammeled war budgets would be a drum to beat on.

10/16/2007 2:14 PM  
Anonymous goldhorder said...

Good speech but he solved no problems. Those problems were not solved until the Carter Doctrine went into effect. ummm...well...let me correct myself. Those problems were put on hold when the Carter Doctrine was put into effect. No all those skeletons we've been pushing into the closet are starting to tumble out. Ohhhhhh....the day of reckoning. Buy gold. Buy silver. If our political elite had any brains (and weren't in bed with the oil and military industries) they would have told the environmental wackos to shove it and we would have been building nuke plants this whole time. One more thing the Indians and Chinese are ahead of us on. (starting new nuclear plants...which prompted the rise in Uranium prices these last few years).

10/16/2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Grace Nearing said...

If our political elite had any brains (and weren't in bed with the oil and military industries) they would have told the environmental wackos to shove it and we would have been building nuke plants this whole time.

Goldhorder: This statement sets a new record for densely packed irony -- regardless whether it was or was not intentional. I am in awe. Truly, this sentence is the work of a master (trust me, I am not being snarky or sarcastic). sarcasm, trust me).

10/18/2007 1:19 AM  
Blogger Grace Nearing said...

Sorry: Delete "sarcasm, trust me)." portion. A bad edit on my part.

10/18/2007 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Thomas Daulton said...

Sorry, Goldhorder, I disagree with you about nuclear power. That stuff costs twice as much as other power sources (including renewables, now that they've had some time to mature). If we had launched into a nuke-building program 30 years ago, we'd be totally bankrupt today -- government as well as consumers -- with the added bonus of hundreds of gorgeous terror target-signs near our population centers.

http://www.itulip.com/forums/showthread.php?p=16626&mode=linear

10/19/2007 1:01 PM  
Blogger Jen Clark said...

I'm 25 and it really upsets me to see that President Ford told the country to reduce their energy consumption and that Carter had the White House running on solar power, and Reagan literally tore those measures down. It really upsets me that Bush, Clinton, and Bush have done nothing to right that wrong.

Now I'm sitting here watching over 11 raging wildfires around my home in Southern California. This entire section of the state is covered in smoke. These conditions were preventable, but now we need to pay for the greed of the wealthy few.

I've got to tell you... I'm angry. The more I learn about history, the more I realize that my parents generation (the "boomers") knew all the risks, and did nothing to protect us from the consequences we are experiencing today via oil wars (which my generation is forced to fight) and an angry Mother Nature.

I hope all baby boomers are ashamed of themselves. Your self-centered nature, inattention to politics, and unchecked greed have made my future something to fear.

10/22/2007 2:02 PM  
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