In 1979 President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation in what has become known as the Malaise speech. In it, he said, “Our people are losing faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy…. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America”.
Being a student of history, I cannot help but see the uncanny similarities between what was described then, and what our nation is experiencing now. In the late 1970’s we faced massive inflation and difficult economic conditions brought about, at least in part, by excessive government spending both at home and abroad. We watched in horror as Americans were overtaken by totalitarian regimes, and a controversial former President causing us to lose confidence in our governmental institutions. Any of this sounding familiar?
Jimmy Carter recognized that the American people had given up. This speech was intended to be a rallying call to our nation to pick ourselves up and take action. It was meant to remind us of who we were, and to make us believe the best days of America were yet to come. Instead, it served as the final death nail to his presidency that was already on life support.
After barely winning the Democratic nomination in 1980, Jimmy Carter was then soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan. Ironically this election would signify the start of a return to American optimism that Carter’s speech was intended to bring about.
I believe, as a nation, we are in a very similar malaise as we were in 1979. The American people are tired, they are doubtful and they are pessimistic. There are plenty of reasons for this to be the case. Covid seems to be staying around far longer than many expected, government at all levels has displayed its inability to bring solutions to the problems they have been tasked with solving, and throughout the world America seems to be losing much of the prestige it once had.
The question is if we are in a similar place as we were in the late 1970’s what comes next? Believing that history often repeats itself, I hope an economic and emotional resurgence similar to what we experienced in the early 1980’s is coming. However, as of yet that story is yet to be written. There is a real possibility that we have yet to hit the bottom, the pessimism we are feeling right now is justified, and the worst is yet to come.
While I of course do not wish for such a scenario, I do believe we must also not ignore its possibility of occurring. That is why I believe now is a time to be weary, perhaps a time to be a little more conservative in your investments than you have been, and to have a plan in place for whatever happens next.