In the summer of 1979, inflation rose to 14 percent. In response, Carter cut the budgets of social programs, leading to criticism from African American leaders and members of the "traditional FDR coalition."
Narrator: In one year, the American economy had spun out of control. Gasoline prices had more than doubled, mortgage rates pushed 20 percent. Unemployment kept on rising.
Bert Lance, Former Advisor: There were just so many forces at work. When inflation becomes rampant interest rates are high, and the business cycle is turning against you, it becomes almost impossible.
Narrator: Of all the problems facing the nation, most Americans now agreed, inflation was the most urgent. In the summer of '79, fueled by rising oil prices, it surged to 14 percent.
Roger Wilkins, Journalist: Inflation makes you doubt the future. When you have inflation you don't see as much building going on. You don't see as much investment going on. You don't see as much hiring going on. People weren't seeing their savings growing and as a matter of fact people were terrified that inflation would impoverish them in their old age.
Narrator: Carter acted decisively. To reduce the budget deficit and bring inflation under control he cut into social programs. "New realities," explained the White House, "must temper our nation's commitment to the poor."
Peter Bourne, Biographer: It stirred up a hornet's nest of opposition from the Ted Kennedy people, from the traditional FDR coalition. They were very, very angry.
Narrator: African American leaders felt betrayed, and vowed to wage an all-out fight on what they called, "Carter's immoral, unjust and inequitable budget cuts."
My American Experience
Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?