Gerry Ford was left a lot of messes by the Nixon administration. None was more vexing than the inflation problem that was created by the idiotic wage and price controls that were imposed by President Nixon in August 1971.
President Ford was not always up to the task. He responded to the inflation problem he inherited by, among other things, jawboning it. We recall with fondness his goofy Whip Inflation Now speech of October 8, 1974, delivered a nanosecond before inflation was to be quelled by the recession of 1974-75. Though the speech was derided for its silliness, Ford gave some advice which continues to be true today:
America’s future depends heavily on oil, gas, coal, electricity, and other resources called energy. Make no mistake, we do have a real energy problem. One-third of our oil–17 percent of America’s total energy–now comes from foreign sources that we cannot control, at high cartel prices costing you and me $16 billion–$16 billion more than just a year ago.
The primary solution has to be at home. If you have forgotten the shortages of last winter, most Americans have not. I have ordered today the reorganization of our national energy effort and the creation of a national energy board. It will be chaired with developing-or I should say charged with developing a single national energy policy and program. And I think most of you will be glad to know that our former colleague, Rog Morton, our Secretary of Interior, will be the overall boss of our national energy program.
Rog Morton’s marching orders are to reduce imports of foreign oil by 1 million barrels per day by the end of 1975, whether by savings here at home, or by increasing our own sources. Secretary Morton, along with his other responsibility, is also charged with increasing our domestic energy supply by promptly utilizing our coal resources and expanding recovery of domestic oil still in the grounds in old wells.
Sound advice, then and now, from a fellow of decency and collegiality, if rather dubious judgment on how to deal with inflation. As a President, Gerald Ford had his plusses and minuses of course, but in thinking about his legacy, consider this: if he had been elected in 1976, our present troubles — and the whole world’s present troubles with Iran — may never have happened.