An Analysis of the Democratic and Republican Approaches on the economy, defense and social welfare from 1970 to 1980s
The period of 1970 to the 1980s ushered a reign of four (4) terms of Republican Presidents and only one (1) Democratic President. Presidents Nixon and Gerald Ford (1968-1976), President Reagan (2 terms from 1980 to 1988) and President Bush (1998 to 1992) were the Republican Presidents while President Carter (1976 to 1980) was the lone President from the Democratic Party. The period of the 1970’s to the 1980’s, a lot of monumental changes in US history transpired.
The 1970s ushered in a lot of disappointments and frustrations in American history – the defeat in Vietnam, the Watergate Crisis, the decay of the American economy and vulnerability to fluctuating inflation and unemployment, assault on Americans in Iran and the end of the Cold War, and racial riots and rebellion.
The same period of the 1970s to the 1980’s saw the growth of American consumerism. Generally, Republican policy principles rest on the more traditional “right wing” approach towards the economy, defense and social welfare. With regards taxation, Republican terms of office ushered in a lot of tax cuts and attempts to propel the US economy into gear by revving up employment through huge government spending. On the contrary Democrats tend to raise taxes to cut budget deficit and bring down inflation. However, during his term of office, President Carter tried a two-pronged approach towards the Keynesian model to stave off the growing “consumerism” of the growing American middle class. He modeled fiscal policy to fight unemployment and allowed the budget deficit to swell. To counter inflation, he tried to create a program of “voluntary” wage and price controls. The two pronged strategy didn’t work well together. Instead there was widespread unemployment and high inflation.
One key development during this period was the popularization of the “tax revolt” wherein the public recalled property taxes and had its public beginnings in California and had spread on to other states. This further strengthened the hold of the Republicans with voters who are all tax payers and who do not want to pay for high taxes.
Meanwhile, with regards the policy approaches to Defense, Republicans started a military build-up to boost government expenditure. It re-started during the term of President Reagan. International incidents include the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the bombing of Libya in 1986. Other international events with a lot of political significance to US policies include the meeting of Reagan with Gorbachev in 1985 and the end of the Cold War, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the presence of the US troops in the Panama Canal. During Carter’s term, the most significant political and notable achievement was the facilitation of meetings of Israel and Palestinian leaders in US soil. This eventually led to a lasting truce between the two warring nations.
With regards social welfare policies during the period, there was a spill over of the liberal 60’s social welfare policies that provided low cost and subsidized housing and other welfare based programs for the urban poor and usually African-American and immigrant Hispanic communities particularly those in the Sunbelt areas – California, Florida and Arizona. However, these liberal social welfare policies slowly gave rise to new “right wing” conservatives especially during the term of President Reagan. Reagan, with his charm and flawless magnetism of all colors (and sides) of the political spectrum was able to draw a lot of investors in by cutting corporate taxes to induce investment spending and generate more employment. A sore spot and threat to decimating the welfare system though is when the baby boomers of the 1960s will start to collect their social welfare checks after the year 2000.
 Brinkley, Alan. (2005). The Unfinished Nation: A Brief Interactive History of the American People. Chapters 32 to 33. pp. 502-537. New York.