Richard Nixon gets it

We should take no comfort from the fact that the level of unemployment in this transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy is lower than in any peacetime year of the sixties.

This is not good enough for the man who is unemployed… We must do better for workers in peacetime and we will do better.


I ask the Congress to accept… the concept of a full employment budget.

Richard Nixon: 1971 Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union

For me, this speech is the clearest demonstration of what 40 years means in terms of national priorities and the general mindset. This is not the guiding ethos of today.

Nixon said a lot more in his statement than this, but I have stripped it to its essence to demonstrate the intent behind his comments. He was saying that low employment is not enough. Full employment should be the standard.

  1. Paul says

    I read the full text. Surely some laudable goals, but overall I don’t think Nixon “got it.” He took us off the gold standard and thus allowed the federal reserve to finance ever increasing budgets/spending that caused the very inflation he sought to tame. He also instituted wage and price controls, displaying a patent lack of true economic understanding. Sprinkled throughout the text are spending measures and “investments” – a euphemism for government spending. At the present time, we have more of that than we can bear as a nation.

    If you want to know who “gets it,” read and listen to the economic thought that Ron Paul espouses – I, for one, find it enlightening and unassailable.

  2. ChrisBern says

    Given Nixon’s remarks on welfare reform from (I believe) that same speech, one wonders if his intent wasn’t to move people off of the welfare payrolls and on to government make-work in order to achieve “full employment”?

    I think most of Nixon’s party constituents today would be in favor of that–note the standing ovation for Gingrich in South Carolina last month–but I’m not as sure about the the other party. And I’m also not sure that politicians in either party are gutsy enough to introduce work-for-welfare provisions at a time when populist sentiment is so high.

    How about this? In the unemployment rate, why not only count those who are not only unemployed, but also not receiving any government transfer payments? That would put us closer to full employment! :)

    1. Edward Harrison says

      The difference between then and now ideologically in the Republican party is the degree to which government is viewed as a problem and not a solution. So I don’t think Nixon’s ideas would be well received now because they carry a lot of big government ideology that was commensurate with the post-War and Bretton Woods period.

      I think this anti-government mood enables corporatists to ride roughshod both over competitors and labor and has been a source of the skewed income distribution. Government does serve a necessary function. And in times like now, rather than only cutting drastically, the right attitude would be to decide government can make a positive difference in the things it does to achieve full employment. Stripping away the details (with which one can disagree), that’s the essence of Nixon’s message – and that’s what is lacking today.

  3. BobGuz says

    Nixon’s was a noble idea and a “Welcome back…” to our troops. But in 1971 America was poised to expand. Today we’re still contracting. Move them to the front of the job line where ever that may be.


    1. Edward Harrison says

      Agreed. These are difficult and different times. What awaits America’s troops in 2012 is nothing good.

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