America in the 20th Century - Vol. 9

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 9

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 9

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 9


Copiously illustrated with period photographs, prints, and historic documents to appeal to students from sixth grade through high school, these volumes provide a decade-by-decade overview of American history in the 20th century, with a focus on social issues. Attention is paid to developments in politics, business, technology, and people's lives at home and at work; short biographies of leading figures are included. Two of the volumes contain primary sources, also grouped by decade; documents are followed by discussion and short lists of questions. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


[Our optimism [must
be] turned loose again
…People who talk
about an age of limits are
really talking about their
own limitations, not

Ronald Reagan

Sometimes, the truth hurts. The truth mortally wounded President Jimmy Carter in 1979, when he told Americans in his most famous speech that the country lacked resolve— that it suffered from a [crisis of confidence.] Already unpopular, Carter became one of the most-disliked chief executives of the century. Most Americans wanted pep talks, not handwringing, from their president. The faults Jimmy Carter saw in 1970s America were seen by citizens as somehow his fault. They were many and varied.

The 1970s began with Richard M. Nixon running the country and with Spiro T. Agnew as his vice president. Nixon weathered the Vietnam War in part by joining advisor Henry Kissinger in lying about or concealing illegal military actions that killed thousands of people in Southeast Asia. The president got away with deceit abroad, but illegal acts eventually caught up with him at home. Vice President Agnew had taken bribe money while governor of Maryland and all but admitted it by pleading no contest to the criminal charge of tailing to pay taxes on the bribe. He resigned in disgrace in 1973 and was replaced by Gerald Ford of Michigan, the leading Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nixon and his advisors weren't always connected to reality. George McGovcrn, nominated by left-leaning Democrats, didn't have a prayer of winning the 1972 presidential election. But nevertheless Nixon backers ordered a break-in of Democratic party headquarters in Washington's Watergate apartment complex for a look around. The crooks were caught, and the trail of knowledge about this [third-rate burglary] ended at the White House. Seeing his cronies admit to their crimes and faced with endless embarrassment and certain impeachment, Nixon resigned in 1974. He was automatically succeeded by Gerald Ford.

Ford—and Carter two years after him— could hardly have taken the helm at a worse time. The country, admittedly or not, had just lost a war. The postwar economy was a combination of stagnation and inflation that the experts labeled [stagflation.] Prices rose steeply, and there was no economic growth. Interest rates on home mortgages and loans for cars and home improvements headed toward the 20 percent mark— an increase of 300 percent or more in less than a decade. Though interest rates on investments often exceeded 15 percent, the dollar bought less and less every day for months at a time. Economists and ordinary citizens alike feared the kind of nightmarish inflation seen in Germany after World War I, where a wheelbarrow filled with money would buy no more than a loaf of bread.

Initially, voters turned their wrath on Gerald Ford, but only in part . . .

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