CLICK TO SHARE
Republican President Gerald Ford was simultaneously one of the luckiest and unluckiest presidents when he took office in 1974. He was lucky because he got the job without ever being on a ballot outside of Michigan's 5th Congressional District. He was unlucky because the country was experiencing the worst inflation since 1947.
Inflation that August would hit 10.9 percent, then rise to 11.9 percent in September, with huge increases in food and energy prices. Federal spending on the Vietnam War and Great Society programs had ballooned, and the Bretton Woods monetary system, which sought to maintain global currency values, had collapsed. To his credit, Ford did not shy away from talking about inflation. "My conclusions are very simply stated," he said in an address to Congress that October. "We must whip inflation right now."
Ford's policy prescriptions in that speech were a mixed bag. The better ideas included deregulation of natural gas supplies, removal of acreage limits on a few agricultural products, and, most important, a rejection of price controls and rationing. "Peacetime controls actually, we know from recent experience, create shortages, hamper production, stifle growth, and limit jobs," Ford said, adding that they would "cause the fixer and the black marketeer to flourish while decent citizens face empty shelves and stand in long waiting lines."
But Ford also proposed expanded unemployment benefits, stricter antitrust enforcement, a windfall tax on oil producers, and a $5 billion tax hike on corporations and wealthy individuals to pay for new spending. Although he eschewed mandatory price controls, his Council on Wage and Price Stability, which had no compulsory power, was charged with holding "public hearings to justify either price or wage increases."
Because few of the proposals were adopted, the speech is most remembered for the way Ford applied wartime mobilization messaging to an economic crisis. He called on people to do their part with personal fiscal discipline. "Unless every able American pitches in, Congress and I cannot do the job," he said. To lower food prices, "grow more and waste less." To lower energy costs, "drive less, heat less." Ford added that "there will be no big federal bureaucracy" to mobilize the public or a "sudden Pearl Harbor to shock us into unity."
If you don't see any comments yet, congrats! You get first comment. Be nice and have fun.
CLICK TO SHARE