Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our National "Malaise" has Returned

By Alan Caruba

In mid-July, appearing on MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough morning show, former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski said that “there is a sense of pervasive malaise” in America these days. He went on to say that President Obama, the most famous community organizer in the nation, had not yet generated “some sort of organizing idea” to deal with it.

Zbig should know. He was there when Carter, on July 15, 1979, delivered his fifth major speech on the subject of energy. The speech came to be known as one about a national “malaise” though Carter never used the word. The man who did, Pat Caddell, Carter’s pollster, recalled that, at the time, “we actually got numbers where people no longer believed the future of America was going to be as good as it was (then).”

In 1979, “now” reflected the fifteen previous years in which Americans witnessed assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, and a declining economy. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo had put cars in long lines waiting to fill up on gasoline.

At the heart of it was the growing public perception and dissatisfaction with Carter’s judgment and competence. He would become a one-term president. Carter’s greatest gift to America was the election of Ronald Reagan.

If this sounds a lot like today, it is. The issue of energy has been exacerbated by the Gulf of Mexico BP spill and the slow response of the White House, followed by a series of actions that likely worsened its impact on Gulf coast states.

Obamacare, forced on an unwilling electorate, hasn’t generated any confidence either. As of July 19, Rasmussen Reports noted that 61% of Americans expect the cost of health care to rise and 56% want it repealed.

It is a useful exercise to actually read Carter’s famed speech. It is astonishing how wrong he was thirty-one years ago. It is also an example of how an incompetent president’s decisions resonate for decades afterward.

Author and longtime observer of the U.S. oil industry, Seldon Graham, cites the history of the Carter era, noting that “President Jimmy Carter started the ethanol subsidy on November 9, 1978, gave the U.S. oil demand to OPEC on January 23, 1980, and signed the oil windfall profits tax on April 2, 1980.”

This anti-oil policy is reflected by the Obama administration. The courts have twice rejected his irresponsible shutdown of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, but it continues anyway.

Carter’s speech was filled with dire warnings, but in the end he blamed the American people for the trouble the nation was encountering. “It is a crisis of confidence,” he said. “The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.” History documents that confidence was restored by Reagan’s policies.

In 1979 Carter said that Americans had found government “isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life. Washington, D.C. has become an island.” Today, Washington, D.C. might as well be on another planet.

Carter promised that demand for energy “will be met by our own production” and then proceeded to drive domestic oil production into the ground with his windfall profits tax. As always Big Oil was an easy way to distract people from the reality that it is Big Oil (and Big Coal) that ensures we have the energy we need for transportation and other needs.

In 1980, Big Oil went looking for oil anywhere else than America, despite vast domestic and potential offshore reserves.

In April 2008, the U.S. Geological Service published a report on the projected “Bakken” oil reserves in parts of North and South Dakota, and eastern Montana. They are estimated to represent 8-times as much oil as Saudi Arabia; 18-times as much oil as Iraq; 21-times as much oil as Kuwait; 22-times as much oil as Iran; and 500-times as much oil as Yemen.

Carter also got the ball rolling on all the wasted millions devoted to developing “alternative”, “clean” and “green” forms of energy such as ethanol and biofuels, solar and wind energy. In the three decades since his speech, none—not one—of these forms of energy have demonstrated the ability to replace the nation’s energy needs provided by coal, natural gas, or oil.

This is the cause of American’s malaise in 2010. It began with Carter’s idiotic energy policies and it continues with Obama’s.

How much longer must we wait to access our own oil? How many more horrid pieces of legislation will be foisted on us by the current administration? The answer lies, in part, with the November midterm elections and the nation elections in 2012.

© Alan Caruba, 2010


Rich Kozlovich said...


I think Bush was an idiot also; just not a complete idiot. That epithet has been reserved for Jimmy. The man is so desperate to shed that distinction that he would be willing to point the finger at a frog.

It might be nice to realize that all of the current world crises can be traced back to Jimmy. He gave us the Community Reinvestment Act....and in spite of all the talk as to why everything collapsed...this was the basis for it. He undermined worthwhile energy production and refinement, and he disrupted the balance of power in the Middle East so as to allow maniacs to take power.

The final point is a question. Does anyone really care what this poor delusional man thinks?


Alan Caruba said...

Well, I don't care what he thinks today, but my point was, as president, what he thought set in motion a whole lot of bad laws and policies that are afflicting Americans three decades later.