Nixon's Economy: Booms, Busts, Dollars, and Votes

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Overview


Though Richard Nixon came to office preoccupied with foreign policy, he soon had to grapple with an economy that threatened him with political defeat. Following the advice of Milton Friedman, the president placed his initial hopes for good times in the economics of caution. But when the economy dipped into recession and cost the Republicans victory in the Congressional election of 1970, Nixon turned for rescue not to his economists, but to a politician, the former Democratic governor of Texas, John Connally, who became Secretary of the Treasury midway through the first term.

"I can play it round, I can play it flat, just tell me how to play it," Connally liked to say. Together, Connally and Nixon set out to save Nixon's presidency by any means necessary. In a televised speech on August 15, 1971, Nixon stunned the world and reversed his political fortunes by announcing a series of measures that contradicted everything he was supposed to believe in-wage and price controls, abandonment of the international gold standard, depreciation of the dollar, and deficit spending. "This will put the Democrats in a hell of a spot, this whole speech," the president exulted. He was right. The economy took off in 1972. Nixon took the credit. And his reelection by a landslide was assured.

Historian Allen J. Matusow now presents the first comprehensive history of Nixon's political economy. He depicts a president who disliked the subject but was forced to pay attention or lose his dream of effecting a historic realignment of the political parties in America. The study derives its authority from extensive archival research in Nixon's presidential papers, including notes by Haldeman and Ehrlichman of crucial conversations in the Oval Office. Matusow shows the poverty of contemporary economic theory, Nixon's willingness to sacrifice the world economy for his domestic political purposes, and his desperate attempts to find something, anything, that might work. Lurching from one set of policies to another, Matusow argues, Nixon achieved only illusory successes that ultimately brought on a decade of economic disaster.

Nixon's Economy will contribute significantly to the emerging reinterpretation of a pivotal presidency. For scholars of the era the book will be required reading. For students and general readers, it will help explain in lucid prose the politics and economics of our own time. Narrative history that tells a good story, this book will reveal yet another Nixon, while offering a compelling case history of how politicians shape and sometimes mis-shape the performance of the American economy.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Matusow The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960's offers the first complete history of Nixonomics. Nixon generally ignored fiscal and monetary matters, preferring to devote himself to foreign policy. George Shultz, Treasury secretary, is lauded as Nixon's finest political appointment; but John Connally, the former Texas governor and a 'shameless opportunist,' became economic czar by subordinating his responsibilities to Nixon's political agenda. The President's attempt to create a new political majority was dashed almost as much by his failed policies and ineffective responses to the great recession and inflation of 1973-75 as by Watergate. Matusow provides lucid accounts of such complicated issues as wage-and-price controls, dollar devaluation, demise of the gold standard, and the emergence of the global economy. -- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Library, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Library Journal
Matusow (The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960's) offers the first complete history of Nixonomics. Nixon generally ignored fiscal and monetary matters, preferring to devote himself to foreign policy. George Shultz, Treasury secretary, is lauded as Nixon's finest political appointment; but John Connally, the former Texas governor and a 'shameless opportunist,' became economic czar by subordinating his responsibilities to Nixon's political agenda. The President's attempt to create a new political majority was dashed almost as much by his failed policies and ineffective responses to the great recession and inflation of 1973-75 as by Watergate. Matusow provides lucid accounts of such complicated issues as wage-and-price controls, dollar devaluation, demise of the gold standard, and the emergence of the global economy. -- Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Library, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
Booknews
Historian Matusaw (Rice University) depicts a President who was forced to pay attention to the economy or lose his dream of effecting a historic realignment of the political parties in America. The study derives its authority from extensive archival research in Nixon's Presidential papers, including notes by Haldeman and Ehrlichman of crucial conversations in the Oval Office. Matusaw shows the poverty of contemporary economic theory, Nixon's willingness to sacrifice the world economy for his domestic political purposes, his sometimes desperate attempts to apply any solution that might work, and his achievement of what Matusaw argues were illusory successes that ultimately brought on a decade of economic disaster.
Wall Street Journal
An excellent book. It takes us through the 1969-70 recession, the evolution of a restrictive trade policy, the rising problem of inflation, the wage and price controls of 1971, the electoral triumph of 1972 and the collapse of 1973, culminating in Nixon's resignation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700608881
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 323
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Introduction

1. Nixon and the Fed

2. The Fiscal Ironies of 1969

3. Election Year 1970

4. The Decline and Fall of Gradualism

5. Trade, Politics, and the New Mercantilism

6. Camp David

7. Election Year 1972

8. The Great Inflation

9. Oil Shock

10. The Great Recession

Conclusion

Index

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