Economic Outlook: the 1980 Presidential Election

On the eve of the 1980 presidential election campaign, one commentator longs for a politician willing to acknowledge the country and world are using up resources too fast and generally mortgaging the future.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
November/December 1979
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Things weren't looking good a year in advance of the 1980 presidential election.
ILLUSTRATION: MALCHEV/FOTOLIA


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Even though the next national election is still more than a year away, the 1980 Presidential race—thanks to the manifold weaknesses of Little Jimmy Carter—is already in full swing. (A sampling of the "news" on nightly TV reveals Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor's preoccupation with such burning questions as: Will Teddy run ... or will he? Who's Howard Baker anyway? Can we really stand a flake like Jerry Brown in the White House? And so on. Welcome to Instant Trivia Time.)

Correction. The Presidential race is already in full swing as far as a few opportunistic politicians, the weekly news magazines, some syndicated columnists, and a handful of television reporters are concerned. Right now most of the rest of us seem far more interested in, say, turning out all the lights in Washington, D.C. and bulldozing the whole asylum into the Potomac than we are in watching the inmates play yet another quadrennial game of musical chairs.

And the reason that so many of us little people have become so apathetic about politics, as noted in this space before, is easy enough to understand. It's because of all the lies we've been told. It's because of all the promises that have been made to us and then broken.

It's because we've all learned the hard way that both Democrats and Republicans always spend far more of our money than they should (thereby creating inflation), always raise our taxes, always make life easier for criminals and more difficult for honest folks, always squeeze more family farms and small businessmen out of the economy (while making pious Fourth of July speeches about "self-reliance" and "standing on your own two feet"), always support the dictators of the world (while paying lip service to democracy), always give grain and nuclear technology and our space secrets to Communist nations (while pretending to win overwhelming concessions for free enterprise), always make a great to-do about knocking down straw men while steadfastly refusing to even discuss real issues, and always do a thousand other foolish and venal things that any self-respecting citizen of this republic would not do.

Which is to say we've all learned that both Democrats and Republicans are, first and foremost, politicians. And politicians in this nation always promise law, order, lower taxes, truth, and justice—and always deliver lawlessness, chaos, higher taxes, deceit, and injustice. Or at least that's what they've been delivering without fail for as many years as the average U.S. voter has been alive. And longer.

But wouldn't it be wonderful—as noted here in MOTHER EARTH NEWS—if we could, just once, trade all of those ugly and grasping politicians for a single humble statesman? Just one guy who would campaign by standing up and saying something like:

Well, my opponent's a pretty good man—considering the society he's grown up in—and he's done the best he knows how and he's probably all that you deserve anyway, since you helped him get this far. And I guess he could say the same about me. So I'd kinda like to forget the past and call the present a draw and start some serious thinking about the future.  

See, I've quit listening to all the foreign policy "experts" and all the economic briefings that the party and the current administration have set up for me—they're little more than brainwashing designed to justify last year's mistakes anyway—and I've just been lookin' at the fix we're in with nothing but common sense. And you know something? I'm scared. 

Why, we're sittin' here—fat, dumb, and happy—consuming one heck of a lot more of the earth's resources than we have any right to, while several billion people, one way or another, are starving to death.  

And that can't go on a whole lot longer because, if for no other reason, quite a few of those resources that we're consuming are beginning to run out. And the weather seems to be acting funnier and funnier every year. And the world's human population—our part of it included—is turning into a cancer on the planet. And we're covering up far too many fertile acres with housing developments and shanty towns and shopping centers and factories and highways and other forms of concrete and asphalt. And thanks to our eagerness to make a fast buck, we're "farming away" uncounted hundreds of thousands of other acres. And we're turning millions of other acres yet into deserts.  

Now, if that weren't bad enough, we're the world's leaders in developing and pumping into the atmosphereand into the earth's soil and water—tens upon tens of thousands of chemical formulations and poisons and products and wastes that didn't even exist when our great grandfathers were alive. And we've let the nuclear secrets we once controlled all by ourselves get spread around until now more than a hundred of the world's nations, self-proclaimed "liberation" groups, and political factions—some of them unimaginably unstable—have either direct or indirect access to them. And to the raw materials for the construction of or the obtaining of the actual finished nuclear hardware that is 10,000 times more potent than either of the bombs we dropped on Japan.  

What I'm saying, friends, is that we're in a heap of trouble. And I honestly don't know how we're going to get out. But I do know one thing: It's time we quit livin' in a dream world and faced reality. It's time we quit mortgaging the future of this whole planet on a daily basis for "just one more day" of the easy life we've been wallowing in. It's time we faced the fact that—between our increasing numbers and our increasingly wanton per-capita consumption and fouling of the world's resources—unless we change our ways and fast, we've already signed the earth's death warrant.  

So let's stop our political games on both a national and an international level. And let's quit pouring billions of dollars' worth of the planet's resources into the weapons and the chemicals and all the other things that are really only designed to give us quick and dirty economic and political advantage.  

And, just for a change, let's try to concentrate on what the planet needs for a while. And what might that be? Well, it sure as hell doesn't need any more people, or more gouges in its surface, or more poisons dumped into its land or water or air. And it certainly doesn't need any more bombs or weapons of any kind. And it really doesn't need us to tell it how to grow food. (After all, every major food crop we have goes back to before the dawn of recorded history. All the expensive research that we brag about produces pesticides and hybrids that only make our farmers more and more dependent on fossil fuels, but it never seems to produce anything really basic or anything that increases the stability of agriculture.)  

And no matter what religious, economic, or political garbage from the past we carry around with us, the planet needs fewer people. Right now. Today. And it needs for those people to live lightly on the earth: to consume drastically reduced amounts of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources. To give up their preoccupation with weapons and poisons and moving mountains and flushing nestles out into the ocean somewhere. To quit thinking that the paper money—which makes all the rape possible—will, if only run off the presses in large enough quantities, somehow "buy" a bright new tomorrow.  

And, believe it or not, I've got a sneaking suspicion if we'd just put the planet first instead of ourselves, that we'd very quickly come out ahead anyway. Why shucks, just converting our present fossil fuel-based energy system over to solar energy should solve our unemployment problem for a good 20 years. And the "steady state" economy which we could base on that "steady state" source of power could do away with inflations, depressions, and other economic swings for all time.  

So, even though I'm not really sure I'm the best man to lead this country and the world into the New Age I've just hinted at, I'd appreciate it if you'd think over the possibilities of what I've suggested. And then, maybe if we all kick the idea back and forth and scout around awhile, we might be able to scare up someone we can all trust to put this show on the road. And we can put the childish things of today behind us and get on with it.  

Sigh. Why don't we ever get a chance to vote for someone like that? If only we could. Then our Economic Outlook—and the Economic Outlook of everyone else on the planet—would, for a change, begin to brighten instead of increasingly darken as it has been doing so steadily during so many recent years.  


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