ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN
Editor's Note: A version of this article first appeared in December of 2010. It is being published again.
John Lennon Saw the 1970's as Dreadful, Too
August 27, 2012
Shortly before Beatle John Lennon was shot and killed in December of 1980 he publicly asked a rhetorical question, one that many were asking, “how were the 70’s for you, did you make it through alright?”
This was a prevailing question at the time because the 1970s were difficult, depressing, and dismal - politically, culturally, and economically.
The country got off to a bad start in the disco decade, and things only got worse. We endured the Watergate nightmare, the resignation of President Richard Nixon, the fall of South Vietnam, the first unelected President Gerald R. Ford, and finally the mistakes and inexperience of President Jimmy Carter.
But that was only half the story. There was rising unemployment, high interest rates, a stagnating economy, gasoline rationing, food shortages, and the list went on. People simply struggled to make ends meet; the country was not a happy place to be, and there was no end in sight.
In western Pennsylvania, where I lived, things couldn’t have been grimmer. Steel mills were shut down, infrastructure was crumbling, companies weren’t hiring, taxes were high, and crime was out of control. The future was bleak.
In 1976, the country turned to an inexperienced candidate for President, someone who sounded pretty good. Voters took a chance and hoped for the best by electing Jimmy Carter. He was different and many voters thought he might be what we needed at the time.
We now know that things didn’t turn out well. President Carter gave the country a gloomy forecast and maintained a pessimistic outlook on the future. He said the problem was with the American people; they had a “malaise” as he called it.
The country remained uninspired. In 1980, the economy was rescued by the eternal optimism, vision, and heroism of a single politician named Ronald Reagan.
Reagan told us that the solution wasn’t the government; in fact, he told us that government was the problem. He said the answer to our economic problems could be found in the enginuity of the American people. He led us back from the brink and is regarded as a great President for the achievement.
Many compare today to the dreariness of the 1970s, and it’s not far off the mark. It’s the ‘smart phone’ gadgets and other ‘toys’ we enjoy on a daily basis that emotionally separates us from the grimness of the 70’s.
In September of 1973 pollster Louis Harris surveyed the country’s attitudes in the first ever poll commissioned by the federal government, and the results may sound familiar.
The overwhelming majority saw the nation’s quality of life and the economy, as the number one issue. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed also agreed with the statement, “something is deeply wrong in America today."
The 1973 survey found that most people wanted the federal government to have less power, and wanted more power given to state and local governments.That's an issue at the core of our division today.
A large majority (90 percent plus) in 1973 said they would pitch-in or join an activist group to bring about a change in their government.
The upcoming presidential election will answer a lot of questions about which direction the country moves next.
Regardless of the outcome, Americans would like the John Lennon question of 1980, “Did you make it through alright?” to be asked again.
When the Lennon question is asked, and is answered mostly in the affirmative, it will mean that the recession of 2008 is behind us for good.