If you asked me which decade was the worst decade for America, I would state “The Nineteen Seventies.” Not the Civil war decade, not the Depression, nor even the last ten years. And I have nine reasons.
Note that none of these reasons have anything to do with what was done overseas, or with arts and entertainment. These are political actions that many people cheered on because they took an immediate benefit from these decisions. It’s only with hindsight (and a willingness to look beyond one’s nose) that we see what it was that made the seventies the pile of ugliness that it was.
So…here’s the list, with my reasons:
- Nixon Changes How Farm Subsidies Worked. Used to be farmers would farm enough to put stuff to market, and the government would pay farmers to let fields lie fallow for a year or two. Clover or other plants which had relatively little worth on the market but plenty of ability to revive soil would be planted and the only major cost would be a hit on the pride of the farmer. Now they’re paid to overproduce certain crops, and we get depleted farm land, a dead Gulf of Mexico and High Fructose Corn Syrup to mess with our bodies (more than real sugar, may I add).
- McGovern takes over the Democratic Party. Before the people behind George McGovern took over the Democratic Party, it was run by city bosses and other people who knew how to run a government and hold office. After him, the party became a group of minorities who had grievances and needed people who were able to hold them together (read: hold their hand and tell them “Everything was all right, now be patient and vote for us; after all, you want to vote for THEM?”). This has led to the pussification of the Democratic Party Leaders at a time when they need to be real men, and the rise of Bullies in the Republican Party (because they can, and it works).
- Roe v Wade, Doe v Bolton. Granted, this was more-or-less imposed by the Supreme Court. However, one thinks that we would have come to a compromise that would have been accepted by everyone but the extremists; however nowadays only the extremists (Quiverfulls vs Abortion-As-Sacrament) are allowed to speak up. Not only that, but this was one of the changes that allowed the “Me Generation” to arise, as the ruling declared nationwide the freedom of women from the dictates of pregnancy, children raising and the consequences of voluntary actions and ugly twists of fate…and it allowed women to stay in the workplace longer, essentially doubling the work force (and allowing for the possibility of wages to be forced downward). This, of course, is the most contested of decisions, and has had certain adjustments done to it over the years, but the basic premise has stood for decades.
- Bankruptcy Laws loosened. I fully understand why the Bankruptcy laws were loosened by congress – once people were over their heads, it just gets worse and worse. However, we’re now talking about the freedom from the strictures of financial responsibility. On the personal scale, this meant people could spend like crazy and force the system to absolve their debts every so often, in the corporate world this meant the ability to expand like crazy, pay their CEOs obscene amounts, and toss aside unions when they felt the workers were given more rights than they deserved (none, with all the responsibilities the companies could pile on them). Which explains why the business world has suddenly gotten more choppy, with companies coming and going at will (outside of Wal-Mart, which in much of Rural America IS the governing body and profits well off its de facto status).
- No-Fault Divorce Spread Nationwide. This one seems to be the most sacred of the legal changes in the seventies, as while Roe/Doe gets constant opposition and the Bankruptcy laws have been change to make it harder for people to go bankrupt (not that it stops them anymore…), divorce seems to have entered into the pantheon of constitutional rights (along with free speech, guns and the right to strive for profit above all else sane). And why not: here we’re talking about the freedom to disassociate from whomever you want to, whenever you want to and never mind whomever happens to be attached (i.e. the kids). It also forced what was promised with Roe and Doe: the entry of women into the workforce.
- End Of The Draft. While it could easily be seen as the death of the hypocrisy that the draft had become in the late sixties and early seventies (anyone dedicated enough to avoid the Vietnam War could, and often did, avoid the draft), the shift from the people’s army to a caste of professional fighters (“volunteers”) meant that the price for belonging in American Society had dropped to almost nothing. One could not only trace the development of the US Armed Forces into the biggest Welfare State (we’re talking about a Professional Military, folks) in the world from this, but also the shift in the view of college from “good for society” to “done for the benefit of the individual” (and from that, the shift from grants to loans), amongst other things.
- Proposition Thirteen. A logical response to the issues of bracket creep, inflation and the idea that Government must be definition keep growing, Proposition Thirteen in California had a greater effect than even Howard Jarvis intended. Because the allowed rate of increase on property taxes was set at a level below what was then inflation, there was an implied message to California Government that it must prepare to die from financial starvation. The Californian Government didn’t (between starving its colleges and buying into hyperbolic growth in housing it avoided its fate for forty years), but its shifted how governments collected taxes from “whomever had the $$$” to “whomever had habits bad enough to deserve taxing” It also led to Reagan, and through him to the present situation where Government is not allowed to get the money it needs even to keep the lights on.
- Deregulation of the trucking industry. Here’s the first of three reasons why I think Ted Kennedy killed Mary Jo Kopechne. For the sake of cheaper rates the Trucking laws were loosened, and the Truckers, already suffering from five-plus years of reduced earnings (Dropping the speed limit from 70 to 55 was a more than 20% reduction in their earning power, any wonder they grew to hate the DOT?), were thrown under the bus for the sake of a few fewer cents cost for the consumers (or, more likely a few more cents profits per item for the companies selling what the trucks brought). Is it any wonder they’ve become the most reactionary of constituencies – you too would hate the people who gave you the middle finger, gave the people immediately above you carte blanche to do what they pleased and told you to worship the people fucking you over. Even if you DO end up worshiping the people fucking you over; at least they’re not the ones who betrayed you for their own gain.
- Deregulation of Airlines. The second of three reasons I believe Ted Kennedy killed Mary Jo Kopechne (the third being his treatment of Carter in the 1980 primaries). It’s this item that drove PATCO into the arms of Reagan in 1980, which led to their (and the working class’s) betrayal in August 5, 1981. EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) since then can be traced to this date; I’ve heard of parties at corporate headquarters on this date for years.
Probably the biggest thing to notice is how Libertarian the list is. Liberalization of Divorce, Freedom to delay motherhood through extreme measures, cheaper prices for food, travel and other stuff, ability to escape one’s financial problems and the freedom of being an American without the price of service: whatever could be wrong with that stuff?
Well, it’s been thirty years since 1980, and we’re seeing it. Two generations unwilling to marry because they’ve seen the scars of divorce. A nation that seems psychotically split between city/college and country/suburb. Bankruptcy from Government to people. An education system that requires what amounts to a lifetime indentured servantship via student loans, and a job “market” that no longer uses what’s out there. Working and Middle class on the cusp of final defeat (no unions, no organized body to fight against The Man ™). People so willing to believe in the system that they’ll cut their own throat to affirm that belief (aka Tea-Baggers); meanwhile everyone else has grown passive waiting for the Messiah (whomever that person may be) to save them from their inaction and passivity (Read: the Tea-Baggers may get “their way” by default, as they’re the only people willing to back their demands by actions and guns – Like Abraham at the mount, they’ll figure out that my throat will readily substitute for their own.).
I could have done without Disco (which comes from Roe and Doe) not needed Punk, and maybe been willing to suffer under twenty more years of Hair-Metal and Country/Country Rock transcendent for better times. Instead we got what we now have.
And it sucks.