A Sluggish Economy

In the early 1990s, George H.W. Bush was faced with growing economic insecurity. But Bush believed there was little he could do.


Narrator: A sluggish economy nagged at Bush. America was losing jobs overseas.

Protesters (archival): America's wonderful, ain't it Mr. Bush? Maybe you'll be unemployed. Lay off Bush! Lay off Bush!

Richard Darman, budget director: People were very worried about getting displaced from their job as 40- to 55-year-old workers, and being unable to find new jobs. People were worried about long-term care for their parents. People were worried about their own health insurance. There were a lot of things that contributed to a sense of economic insecurity.

George H. W. Bush (archival): People are hurting. And they're hurting here in New York, and they're hurting across this country, and families trying to make ends meet, proud Americans trying to keep their dignity when they lost their jobs. And I don't know any American who sees this happening who is so callous that he cannot feel or she cannot feel a tug in her heart, who doesn't want to reach out actually and hold out a hand and try to help these people.

Narrator: Bush believed there was little he could do. Jobs were going overseas and would not return. The onset of globalization helped push the unemployment rate to 7.4 percent. Bush was not willing to extend unemployment benefits for fear of increasing the budget deficit. When he tried to encourage consumer spending to spur the economy, the press saw him as unsympathetic to those without money to spend.


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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH