This installment of an ongoing short news items feature included brief looks at the economic malaise of 1974 and a Midwestern drought that diminished the harvest.
Unemployment, the energy crisis, monetary confusion—nothing was going right during the economic malaise of the mid-1970s.
The following collection of brief news items was drawn from multiple sources.
President Ford means well and, of course, everyone in the nation hopes that he can pull an economic miracle rabbit out of his hat. But don't count on it. Economics is one of Ford's weakest subjects, former Presidents Johnson and Nixon have left the U.S. dollar completely drained of any "hard" backing, the world monetary situation daily reaches new heights of confusion, and changing weather patterns (coupled with ever-rising population and demand for food and fiber) point only to compounded shortages and disruptions in the near future. The tough times—on a global scale—are not over, and there's little that Ford or anyone else can do about it. In this country, look for more inflation, rising unemployment, stopgap government "cures" that generally do more harm than good, and other economic ills during the coming months.
Despite the small amount of relief offered to farmers by a few late summer rains, this year's scant moisture and blistering heat has taken its toll throughout the Midwest. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now estimates 1974's corn crop at only 4.96 billion bushels, 12% below 1973's 5.64 billion bushels and near two billion bushels less than the USDA's spring forecast. As a result, look for higher beef and pork prices next year and pressure on the federal government for export controls on U.S. grain.
Seattle environmentalist Douglas Scott wants to name each reeking oil spill that befouls Washington State's shoreline in the future... after one of the state legislators who recently voted to let petroleum tankers into Puget Sound!
Land prices—at least the prices of large tracts near North Carolina's Smoky Mountains—are suddenly softening after years of steady hikes. The reason? Speculators who have insanely bid up such property in hopes that they could eventually subdivide it and cover the lots with condominiums and ski reports now find that the necessary financing simply isn't available. So—in the middle of continued general inflation—we have an isolated case of deflating values. Look for such spot disruptions in your area. Perhaps that farm you want isn't out of reach after all!
Stock up now on antifreeze. Its main ingredient—ethylene glycol—is in short supply (because manufacturers can make more money selling it to the polyester fiber industry). Result: The $1.75-$2.50 antifreeze of last year will soar to $4.00 or more this coming winter if it's available at all.
Albert E. Sindlinger, who circulates a private letter to 300 ultra-plush subscribers (U.S. Trust Co., General Motors, the White House), has—for the first time in 26 years—bluntly predicted a depression, according to New York magazine. "By the first half of 1975," says Sindlinger, "we could have 8 to 9%, unemployment, big salary cuts, and a crash in the stock market." Sindlinger, by the way, has taken his own words to heart and sold all his personal stock holdings and put the cash he received in a safe-deposit box. He says, "I'd be a damn fool if I didn't." Sindlinger, of course, is not alone. David Rockefeller, President of Chase Manhattan Bank (one of the most important in the world), forecasts "at least a few bank and industrial failures in the next six months" and "the possibility of a panic".
As Paul Ehrlich has pointed out, this is a good time to sever every unnecessary tie that might prove uncomfortable when and if the worst comes to pass. Stock up on food, simplify your needs, learn to do more for yourself, become more self-sufficient. But then, that's good advice anyway, isn't it?
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