29 years ago yesterday, on July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter went on television to deliver what is commonly known as “The Malaise Speech” (though he never used this term). In this address he talked about a number of issues
What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.
Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the
. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never… I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade -- a saving of over 4-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day. United States
Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas… I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow...
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop
's own alternative sources of fuel... America
I propose the creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation I will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in
's energy security. America
…I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.
These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall profits tax without delay. It will be money well spent. Unlike the billions of dollars that we ship to foreign countries to pay for foreign oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to Americans...
Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate, to require as a matter of law, that our nation's utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our most abundant energy source.
Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which, like the War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects…
Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.
…To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.
Our nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our nation's strength. Every gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives.
So, the solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give our nation and all of us individually a new sense of purpose.
…I do not promise you that this struggle for freedom will be easy. I do not promise a quick way out of our nation's problems, when the truth is that the only way out is an all-out effort. What I do promise you is that I will lead our fight, and I will enforce fairness in our struggle, and I will ensure honesty. And above all, I will act. …there are no short-term solutions to our long-range problems. There is simply no way to avoid sacrifice…
I guess I can see where he went wrong: Carter proposed hard work and sacrifice for long-term success. He was followed by political leaders who made a big show of denigrating any talk of sacrifice (I can still remember the celebratory mood accompanying the removal of the White House solar panels) and told Americans that consumption was the way to success and happiness. I guess we know now which one is the better electoral strategy.
For all the discussions we've had over the years about who is a flip-flopper, who is proud to have been a C student or to have finished near the bottom of their class, who we'd collectively like to have a beer with or eat barbecue with, who took honor and dignity from the White House and who brought it back, I can't help but look back wistfully to the late 1970s, the last time we had a president who wasn't afraid to talk to us like we were grown-ups with reasoning skills…