Monday, February 18, 2008
Pass in Review: 1983
Screw 2007. How bout we do a year that actually mattered, like the greatest year in modern U.S. history:
- The controversial Reagan tax cuts, enacted 2 years earlier, finally come into effect. In addition, the Federal Reserve's politically risky decision to tighten the money supply to fight inflation begins to bear fruit. As a result, starting in January, the U.S. economy emerges from its worst depression since the 1930's and commences the longest peacetime expansion in history. Inflation and unemployment plunge as economic growth soars to unprecedented heights. R&D investment in Silicon Valley firms like Dell, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, and Whelan's Furniture surges, paving the way for the boom years of the 90's. Despite 2 mild hiccups in 1990 and 2001, the prosperity we enjoy a quarter-century later remain the direct result of Reagan's administration and the sound money policies of his Fed chairman, Paul Volcker. Both men pursued a bold agenda that defied the political and economic orthodoxy of the time, and set the nation on a completely new economic course.
- In March, President Reagan addresses the nation, announcing his plans for the "Strategic Defense Initiative." The program calls for billions in new defense spending to launch a system into space capable of firing at and taking down any inter-ballistic missiles fired by the Soviets. Dubbed "Star Wars" by the media, the announcement strikes more fear into a Soviet leadership already intimidated by Washington's new defense buildup and "rollback" policy aimed at bankrupting communism. Three short years prior, after invading Afghanistan and watching American influence wane under Carter's policy of "peaceful coexistence", the Soviets knew they'd have little trouble carrying out their master plan of eventual world domination. It is an extraordinary tribute to the capabilities of one man's leadership, convictions, and communication skills that merely 36 months later, the tables had completely turned and officials in what had been the world's most powerful totalitarian empire were already shaking in their boots and whispering to one another about the sudden reality of an impending collapse brought about by military and economic inferiority.
AT THE MOVIES
- Speaking of Star Wars, the final (and best) chapter of George Lucas' epic trilogy opens to sold-out theatres in May. It ends in the greatest 20 minutes in all of cinema. Tom Cruise is introduced in Risky Business. The year also saw the release of timeless classics like Jaws III, Flashdance and Mr. Mom. The best part about most of these movies is that there isn't a whole lot of complex thinking required. The good guys win and the bad guys lose, and everybody gets their $2 worth.
- There is officially no cussing on the radio or on TV. Pop-stars are busy creating hot new dance routines, not molesting 6 year-olds. Black artists actually sing songs, using lyrics you can actually understand. Musicians actually want to entertain their audiences by singing and dancing and producing catchy music videos that MTV would actually play. None of it involves mumbling about "how many times I've been shot" or "how mom and dad screwed up my life," because no one gave a damn about these things anyway.
- Michael Jackson releases the best-selling album in history. And if that's not enough, he goes ahead and decides to make the best music video of all time too. In May, he performs the moonwalk for the first time in front of a live audience at a Motown special.
- The Police are clearly the biggest rock band in the world. They release their final and most successful album, Synchronicity. Meanwhile, an underground college band from Athens, Georgia releases their studio debut Murmur. Rolling Stone hails it as album of the year. This is the only time you will hear me cite Rolling Stone on this blog.
- Dale Murphy wins MVP, and Herschel turns pro after winning the Heisman in late '82. Professional athletes are busy promoting Wheaties, milk, and wholesome living, not getting juiced or electrocuting dogs.
- I am born in January in Marietta. My two favorite TV shows are Romper Room and Pinwheel. If I disobey my parents I actually get this thing called a spanking.