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We Are Now Back To The 1970s

By Daniel Chang Contreras for RealClearWorld

When U.S. President Joe Biden went to Cornwallis, England, to meet with the world leaders of the G7, he wanted to impress upon everyone that Trump’s reign was over. “America is Back!” was the big, bold statement Biden’s team projected throughout the meeting.

Months later, as the U.S. scrambled to evacuate military and civilian personnel from Kabul in scenes reminiscent of the fall of Saigon, it seems the president’s claim was all too true — but not in the way the president had intended.

Biden may have tried to style himself as a new FDR, but today’s America looks a lot less like the 1940s and a lot more like the 1970s, both domestically and in its foreign policy. 

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The 1970s saw Americans feel the adverse effects of Keynesian economic systems that had been in place since World War II. High inflation and low unemployment plagued the country. We’re facing a similar inflationary cycle today, albeit under different circumstances. Many people lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Some temporarily. Others permanently.

While the unemployment rate is now at 5.2%, it was still 5.2% when the worst happened in August. This is despite the fact that they have been rising since then. The Democrats’ current plan to keep on printing trillions of dollars to the economy isn’t helping.

The social fabric of the United States is now being challenged, just as it was in the 1970s. It was flag burning during the 1970s and the emergence of a counterculture movement, which challenged the foundations America.

Revisionist American History and the negative depictions of the U.S. being inherently racist are now accepted in mainstream discourse. 

Foreign affairs makes the contrast between today and 70s even more poignant. Each one represents a painful withdrawal from some of the most prolonged wars that America has ever experienced. Both the helicopters coming from Saigon as well as the aircraft from Kabul show the terrible state of American foreign power.

American rivals observe and take note. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 despite American protests. Iran then attacked and kidnapped American diplomats in Tehran for 444 days.

Today, it’s the Chinese Communist Party cozying up to the Taliban and making dangerous military maneuvers near Taiwan.

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It was, and still is, permissible to assume that American decline cannot be avoided in the 1970s or 2021. But that wasn’t true then, and it shouldn’t be true today. It is possible for politicians and other thought leaders to help straighten out the ship of government. It was done in the 1980s with more economic orthodoxy, and a strong foreign policy. The 1980s were a successful time, why not today?

Economically, the U.S. can’t afford to mortgage its future any more than it already has. The federal government has already spent almost $9.1 trillion on COVID-19 related expenditure, according to the CRFB — that’s $27,726 per American.

While some of these expenditures were justified during the peak of the pandemics, this reckless spending cannot be sustained. We will lose our fight against growing inflation and debt if we spend $3.5 trillion more. 

America’s foreign challenges will be centered on one simple fact: China is rising, and America must contain it. The challenge may be more difficult than defeating Soviet Russia, since China will likely surpass the U.S. in the next few years. However, the Chinese model has its deficiencies and is facing a looming demographic crisis. 

Two things can be done by the U.S. to control China. We can redirect our existing military alliances towards Indo-Pacific and rebuild our economic ties within the region. 

Already, the U.S. took positive steps in this direction. Like Trump before him, Biden has resuscitated the so-called “Quad” between the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia, while also deepening the defense ties between America, Britain, and Australia, although this latter point should have been managed in a more graceful way with the French.

Both of these moves could be cornerstones to strengthen a united front against China, which is why Beijing is so upset.  

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But, a common defense is not enough to be able to challenge Chinese power. After all, China’s immense market remains its biggest geopolitical asset, with Beijing being a major trade partner in the region. Therefore, the U.S. must reconsider whether it wants to drop the TPP agreement or create a new deal with the countries of the region.

The U.S. market is smaller than China’s, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing as Beijing expands its political influence through its commerce. 

Perhaps the Trump, Biden and Carter administrations may remind us of the Nixon and Ford presidencies that saw the U.S. suffer a string of foreign-policy losses. However, if the historic analogy holds true, then we are just a few years away from an American revival á la 1980s.

Let’s hope we can find our Reagan/Bush ticket.  

RealClearWire permission granted this syndicated version.

Daniel Chang Contreras graduated from the University of South Florida as a political scientist, and an economics graduate. Between January and May 2020, he worked for Rep. Gus Bilirakis in the House of Representatives. He also interned for the William J. Perry Center for Human Rights.emispheric Research, as well as a contributor at El American, a media outlet that uses digital technology. He is a writer on foreign and domestic affairs. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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