Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Political Lessons: Then and Now

In my previous post, I mentioned President Nixon’s wage and price controls imposed in 1971 for the purpose of controlling inflation. For those who are interested, a chart showing inflation rates during surrounding years can be found here:
This source suggests that not only did most citizens think this was a good idea, but most economists did as well. (If this is true, Ernie, your people have come a long way since then.)

On the political side of those decisions, I found this interesting excerpt from a book on Nixon by Yergen and Stanislaw, The Commanding Heights (1997). You can read that excerpt here:
I was interested to note the influence of people who lacked convictions about the policies they were implementing, but who instead sought to do these things for political gain. One might argue that President Nixon was not in this category, as he had convictions in areas of foreign policy that he thought were very important. (Yergen and Stanislaw suggest this in the excerpt quoted above.) However, he could not accomplish those things unless he could win elections. We should take notes and learn some lessons here.

Continuing on in political observations, I see in this morning’s Omaha World Herald that Senator Grassley has suggested that Social Security reform must now wait until 2009. Say what,Senator? He suggests that we are getting too close to an election year to do anything. While I share his frustration with members of his own party who fail to get off the dime on these issues (not to mention members of the opposition party), I think we are in a sad state of affairs when the political leaders among us are effectively shackled by fear of upcoming elections.

Does this suggest they want to fool us with rhetoric so they can act stealthily when we simple-minded voters have forgotten the election and gone back to enjoying our beers and the Super Bowl? An alternative theory, mentioned by my pal Ralph Whitten, is perhaps more plausible: in 2009 the excess revenues from social security taxes will evaporate, causing our free-spending leaders to seek other sources to support their habits.

In either case, if find this deeply disturbing.


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