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  • Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course U.S. History and today we are going to talk

  • about one of the most important periods in American history, the mid-to-late 1970s. Stan

  • why is there nothing on the chalkboard? We can’t find a picture of Gerald Ford somewhere

  • around here? Don’t worry Crash Course fans we got one.

  • Thanks for your support through Subbable. It paid for this 90 cent Gerald Ford photograph.

  • These really are the years where everything changed in the United States and amidst all

  • that turmoil something wonderful was born. Mr. Green? Mr. Green? Strong with the force,

  • this episode is. No, me from the past, Yoda doesn’t show

  • up until Empire Strikes Back which came out in 1980. I’m referring of course to the

  • fact that we were born! It’s the beginning of the John Green era!

  • From here on out, almost everything we discuss will have happened in my lifetime. Or as most

  • Crash Course viewers refer to it, “that century before I was born”.

  • But it wasn’t just the birth of me and the death of Elvis, the late 1970s were truly

  • a period of momentous change, and for most Americans it sucked.

  • Intro So how Americans reacted to those no good

  • very bad years really has shaped the world in which we find ourselves.

  • The big story of the 1970s is economics. Twenty-five years of broad economic expansion and prosperity

  • came to a grinding halt in the 1970s meaning the our party was over. And what did we get

  • instead? Inflation and extremely slow growth. The worst hangover ever. Just kidding, the

  • worst hangover was The Depression. The 2nd worst hangover was the 2008 recession,

  • and then the 3rd worst hangover was Hangover Part III. It was the 4th worst hangover in

  • American history. Narrowly beating out America’s 5th worst

  • hangover the Hangover Part II. What happened to the American economy in the

  • 1970s was the result both of long-term processes and unexpected shocks. The long-term process

  • was the gradual decline of manufacturing in the U.S. in relation to competing manufacturing

  • in the rest of the world. Part of this was due to American policy; after

  • World War II, youll remember that we promoted the economic growth of Japan, Germany, South

  • Korea and Taiwan, ignoring the tariffs that they set up to protect nascent industries,

  • and effectively subsidizing them by providing for their defense.

  • And not having to build nuclear arsenals of their own really allowed them to invest in

  • their domestic economies. And then one day, a bunch of Toyotas and Mercedes

  • showed up, and you could drive them up to like 40 thousand miles before they would break

  • down and we were like, “wait a second”. In 1971, for the first time in the 20th century,

  • America experienced an export trade deficit, importing more goods than it exported, which

  • is the same problem that my aunt has with QVC. I mean, they hardly import anything from

  • her. One reason for this deficit was because the

  • dollar was linked to gold, making it a strong currency but also making American products

  • more expensive abroad. So Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard, hoping to make American

  • goods cheaper overseas and reduce imports, but that didn’t really work.

  • Because the U.S. was also competing against cheaper labor costs, and cheaper raw materials,

  • and more productive economies. And in many cases this growing global competition

  • put American firms that couldn’t compete out of business.

  • This was especially true in manufacturing. In 1960, 38% of Americans worked in manufacturing.

  • In 1980, it was 28%. Today, it’s nine. Not 9%, nine people.

  • Stan wants me to tell you that was a joke. It actually is 9%.

  • Unionized workers were hit particularly hard. In the 1940s and 1950s unions had won generous

  • concessions from corporate employers including paid vacation, and health benefits, and especially

  • pensions, which employers would agree to as a kind of deferred compensation so that they

  • wouldn’t have to pay higher w ages to people while they were working.

  • And this worked great, until people started to retire.

  • So by 1970, competition led employers to either eliminate high-paying manufacturing jobs,

  • or else to increase automation, or to shift workers to lower wage regions of the U.S.

  • or even overseas. The American South benefitted from this trend

  • because its anti-union stance was attractive to manufacturers. But then, non-union industries

  • that were already in the South found that they had no way to find new workers so the

  • only way to survive was to move production overseas.

  • And also as industries moved production to the Sunbelt that increased the political influence

  • of the region, and because the South and Southwest are generally conservative politically, the

  • nation’s politics continued to move to the right.

  • Meanwhile the northern industrial cities, particularly the Rust Belt of the Midwest,

  • were becoming the empty urban playgrounds that we know and love today.

  • Detroit and Chicago had lost half of their manufacturing jobs by 1980 and smaller cities

  • fared even worse. As industry moved away, they found their tax bases dried up, and they

  • were unable to provide even basic services to their citizens.

  • I mean with the world of Wall Street fat cats this is hard to imagine today, but in 1975

  • New York City faced bankruptcy. In addition to these long term structural

  • changes to the American economy and our demographics, the 1970s saw two oil shocks that sent the

  • economy into a tailspin. In 1973, in response to Western support of

  • Israel, Middle Eastern Arab states suspended oil exports to the U.S which led to the price

  • of oil quadrupling. This resulted in long lines for gasoline,

  • dramatically higher oil prices, and Americans deciding to purchase smaller, more fuel efficient

  • cars, which is to say Japanese cars. Also, prices of everything else went up because

  • oil is either used for the production of or transportation of just about everything.

  • I mean with 70’s inflation, this 90 cent portrait of Gerald Ford would have cost at

  • least $1.10. The paint that covers the green parts of not-America,

  • oil based. The plastic that comprises the DVD’s of

  • Crash Course World History, available now at DFTBA.com, oil based.

  • Those were a fantastic bargain and they would have been way more expensive if the price

  • of oil was higher. And then, in 1979, a second oil shock hit

  • the United States after the Iranian revolution. Wait Stan, did we say 1979? Weve got to

  • put up a picture of Jimmy Carter. Bam! Sorry, Gerald Ford there’s a peanut

  • farmer in town. So during the 1970s inflation soared to 10%

  • a year and economic growth slowed to 2.4%, resulting in what came to be known as stagflation.

  • Unemployment rose, and a new economic statistic was born: the misery index, the combination

  • of unemployment and inflation. At the beginning of the decade it was 10.8, by 1980 it had

  • doubled. If youre looking for the roots of America’s

  • contemporary economic inequality, the 1970s are a good milestone, since according to our

  • old friend Eric Foner, “beginning in 1973, real wages essentially did not rise for twenty

  • years.” [1] Americans got to experience the joy of two

  • years of Gerald Ford before poor Jimmy Carter had a chance to fail at improving the economy.

  • The only president never to have been elected even to the vice presidency, Gerald Ford was

  • so insignificant to American history that we already replaced him on the chalkboard.

  • One of Ford’s first acts was to pardon Nixon making him immune from prosecution for obstruction

  • of justice. That very unpopular decision probably made it impossible for Ford to win in 1976.

  • Coincidentally, WIN was the only memorable domestic program that Ford proposed. It stood

  • for Whip Inflation Now and it was basically a plea for Americans to be better shoppers,

  • spend less, and wear WIN buttons. Thirty-five years later Charlie Sheen would

  • turn winning into an incredibly successful social media campaign, but sadly at the time

  • there was no Twitter. Inflation did drop, but unemployment went

  • up, especially during the recession of 1974-75 where it topped 9%. Now, Ford would have liked

  • to cut taxes and reduce government regulation, but the Democratic Congress wouldn’t let

  • him. So that’s Ford, probably best known today

  • as the first president to be satirized on Saturday Night Live. Then, in 1976, we got

  • a new president: Jimmy Carter. Now Jimmy Carter is generally considered by

  • historians to have been a failure as president. Although, he is often seen as a really good

  • ex-president. He tried to fight the inflation part of stagflation, but to do it he acted

  • in some rather un-New Deal Democrat ways. He cut government spending, deregulated the

  • trucking and airline industries, and he supported the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates.

  • Oh, it’s time for the mystery document? The rules here are simple...

  • I read the mystery document, I guess the author, and if I’m wrong I get shocked.

  • Alright, let’s see what weve got today. “I want to speak to you first tonight about

  • a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now

  • about a fundamental threat to American democracy.

  • I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the

  • outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world,

  • with unmatched economic power and military might.

  • 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 political

  • fabric of America.” It’s Jimmy Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence

  • speech, my favorite speech ever made that also cost a president 20 points of approval

  • rating. So Carter says that Americans have lost their

  • ability to face the future and some of their can-do spirit. The rest of the speech talks

  • about how Americansvalues are out of whack, how Americans are wasteful, and need a new

  • more vibrant approach to the energy crisis. Let me tell you a lesson from history Jimmy

  • Carter, you don’t get reelected by telling Americans how to do more with less.

  • You get reelected by telling Americans, “more, more, always more, more for you. More. More.

  • More. I promise.” The speech ultimately called for a renewal

  • of spirit, but all people remember is the part where Jimmy Carter was criticizing them,

  • and it’s gone down as a great example of Carter’s political ineptitude.

  • Domestically, Carter paid lip-service to liberal ideas like energy conservation, even installing

  • solar panels on the White House, but his bigger plan to solve the energy crises was investment

  • in nuclear power. And nuclear power did grow, although never

  • to the extent we saw in certain European countries, partly because of the accident at Three Mile

  • Island in 1979 when radioactive vapor was released into the air.

  • This of course spurred public fears of a nuclear meltdown and drove a huge anti-nuclear energy

  • movement. But some of Carter’s more conservative policies

  • did ultimately have an impact, like his support for deregulation of the airlines. Before airline

  • deregulation, prices were fixed, so airlines had to compete by offering better service.

  • Now, of course, flights are much cheaper and also so much more miserable.

  • In many ways, Carter was more important as a foreign policy president, but as with his

  • energy initiatives, he’s mostly remembered for his failures.

  • Aiming to make Human Rights a cornerstone of America’s foreign policy, Jimmy Carter

  • tried to turn away from the Cold War framework and focus instead on combatting 3rd world

  • poverty and reducing the spread of nuclear weapons. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • Carter’s notable changes included cutting off aid to Argentina during itsDirty War

  • and signing a treaty in 1978 that would transfer the Panama Canal back to Panama.

  • His greatest accomplishment was probably brokering the Camp David Accords. This historic peace

  • agreement between Egypt and Israel has, as we all know, led to a lasting peace in the

  • Middle East, just kidding, but it has been a step in the right direction and one that’s

  • lasted. But the U.S. continued to support dictatorial

  • regimes in Guatemala, the Philippines and South Korea. Carter’s most significant failure

  • in terms of supporting international bad guys, though, is the Shah of Iran.