To Trump and Clinton: Heed the Lesson Jimmy Carter Never Learned

From left: Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (credit: Gage Skidmore/Marc Nozell)

Yesterday I observed here how the 2016 race reflects American conditions in the late 1970s — also stagnant — and how the political elites are echoing President Jimmy Carter’s feckless reaction in his notorious July 15, 1979 address to the nation in which he said, in part:

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

What’s really going on? The destruction of our social and political fabric derives from stagnation, not vice versa.

My Letter to the Left: the Gold Standard Will Restore Upward Mobility was an analysis of an important piece by Stan Sorscher in The Huffington Post, itself headlined “Inequality — “X” Marks the Spot — Dig Here.” Sorscher perceptively wrote:

The second message is the very abrupt transition from the post-war historic period to the current one. Something happened in the mid-70’s to de-couple wages from productivity gains.

The third message is that workers’ wages – accounting for inflation and all the lower prices from cheap imported goods – would be double what they are now, if workers still took their share of gains in productivity.

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The Trump vs. Clinton Election Enters the Realm of Farce

From left: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

The 2016 presidential campaign confirms what Marx wrote: “all the events and personalities of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice… the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Karl, not Groucho, Marx.

We enter the realm of farce. It’s the economy, Stupid!

We are experiencing a reprise of the political paralysis of the 1970s, stagnation replacing stagflation. Jimmy Carter tackled the malaise in widely noted speech on July 15, 1979. This was later derided as his great MEOW (“Moral Equivalent Of War”):

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years.

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