Richard M. Nixon: Politician, President, Administrator

By Leon Friedman; William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

Discussant: Arnold A. Saltzman

How well Nixon did in restructuring the executive branch of the White House and decentralizing the functioning of the cabinet were not the critical issues that President Nixon had to face up to during his presidential years.

In those years, we had a world that was rapidly changing, and governmental institutions were not keeping pace with the ability not only to manage these issues, but even to understand them. The Postindustrial Revolution had brought a revolution as great in impact as the Agricultural Revolution and after that the Industrial Revolution. In 1947, more than 50 percent of the jobs in the country were manufacturing jobs. By 1974, two-thirds of them were service jobs, in trade, finance, and transportation. Two hundred of the largest manufacturing corporations in the United States in 1950 controlled 40 percent of the manufacturing assets. By 1970, 60 percent of those manufacturing assets were controlled by the 200 largest corporations, and you are very well aware that such consolidation has continued.

Competition had increased among nations of the world for scarce raw materials in the face of efforts to control supply by the nations owning them. Transnational corporations were growing at the annual rate of 10 percent, which was twice that of the GNP of the world generally. Imports and exports between 1960 and 1974 increased sixfold, while the GNP of the world generally increased threefold.

Technological changes brought about were creating havoc in the environment. We talk about Chernobyl now, but you will recall that a nuclear test in China produced contaminated milk in Wisconsin.

What we were dealing with in Nixon's years, and still are, was the need for institutional change within government to be able to manage the changes in the world. Take oil production as an example. It was known that oil production would peak in the year 1970. At the same time, government was requiring scrubbers on utilities designed to hold down the harmful environmental impact of coal fumes. The result was that these utilities in large measure converted to oil just when oil production was declining.

The baby boom, which we all know about (the figures were there and anybody could have known), had a great impact on housing, on crime, and on the lack of facilities in hospitals as these people grew older. No effort was made to anticipate and provide. With great pain, we recently fixed up the Social Security systems, but by no means will that solve the larger problem of "How do you relate to the aging populations?" The fact that they are taking themselves out of the production system while at the same time millions and millions of people are growing older who depend on this production system for food, for shelter, for all the other things to which they no longer are contributing goes unheeded. Actions were being taken without considering the consequence of how action by one department would affect the others.

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