The Evil Empire Strikes Back
In the Seventies, the Counterculture Revolution became the Me Decade. Love-ins, protest marches, sit-ins, rap sessions, coffee houses, pot, and LSD gave way to mood rings, pet rocks, being “dazed and confused”, cocaine, disco, yoga, swinging, and leisure suits. Feminism became about more and better orgasms rather than about equality. Civil rights gave way to Blaxploitation. The Gay Liberation Movement gave way to bath-houses. The New Left had nothing left.
On TV we watched Soul Train, Hee Haw, Sonny and Cher, Toni Orlando and Dawn, The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, and M*A*S*H.
Meanwhile, Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines, Pinochet carried out a coup against Allende in Chile, American military involvement Viet Nam ceased, the Yom Kippur War brought the gas crisis of 1973, urban terror by the Red Army Faction and Red Brigades in Europe and by the Symbionese Liberation Army in America sped us up, the ’73-’75 recession slowed us down, we saw the helicopter evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon, the Watergate hearings ruined a whole summer of TV for me and other kids, the Rocky Horror Picture Show became a cult, we listened to Southern Rock, the U.S. had its bicentennial, we read about the Khmer Rouge killing fields, President Carter and his national security guy Brzezinski thought it would be a good idea to poke the Soviets in Afghanistan so they helped organize the mujahedin, Star Wars changed movies forever, Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed, the people of Iran overthrew the Shah then found themselves subject to an even greater tyranny, the Hostage Crisis began, Solidarity organized the Polish workers in Gdansk for their rights first as workers and then as citizens, John Lennon was shot by a psychopath, and The Empire Strikes Back came out.
Then the Empire struck back for real. The Baby Boomers became yuppies, Reaganauts, and neoconservatives, peddling recycled excrement dressed up in a pathetic attempt at repackaging. The same message with a new vocabulary. This time they called it neoliberalism and/or the “Washington Concensus”, and every president since Reagan, including Clinton and Obama with Bush I and Bush II, has followed the same path.
The Fed raised interest rates on borrowing to 17-18 percent trying to cure stagflation, which resulted in the housing crash of 1978-1981 bringing with it 22.5 percent unemployment among those in the construction trades.
The Hunt brothers tried to secretly corner the silver trade and crashed the stock market on 27 March 1980.
Congress passed the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act in 1980 which forced all banks to obey the Federal Reserve; allowed banks to merge; removed power of the Fed’s board of directors to set savings interest rates; allowed banks to set own interest rates; and allowed credit unions and S and L’s to offer cheques and other banking services but without regulatory safeguards.
America slipped into recession from January 1980 through January 1983.
In the midst of this recession, Reagan pushed through Congress the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which lowered the top tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent and lowered the threshold for that top bracket to $106,000.
He also destroyed our nation’s air traffic safety when he strutted his stuff and fired all the controllers who went out on strike with PATCO in 1981.
Commodities underwent a pricing crunch beginning in 1982 that lasted until 1998.
The Kuwaiti stock market crashed in 1982.
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In the 60's my mom and dad (high school diploma and 8th grade education respectively) bought and paid for a three-bedroom house in five years, had no credit cards, owned two newer cars outright, and provided me with about anything I wanted. Life was good.
My wife and I both went to college and could never hope to accomplish that same standard of living. So what happened? When I see poor folks struggling, the middle class disappearing, and the rich making record profits, I have a good idea. Our last 40 years have been nothing more than a case of the fox guarding the hen house.