Recently, the rock group the Cars wrapped up a short concert tour to back their new album, one that fans waited almost 25 years for. Fans can quibble about the group’s song selection -- it should have opened the concert with 1984’s "Hello Again," for example, and should have played fewer songs from the new album and more classics.
Still, the band sounds great, even without key member Benjamin Orr, who passed away 11 years ago. Unlike their fellow '80s supergroup U2 (still touring after all these years), the Cars steered clear of politics during their set, focusing on a businesslike approach that let their music do the communicating.
Listening to these 60-ish musicians rock out, though, it was impossible to avoid being transported back in time to the 1980s, a trip down memory lane that actually provides a glimmer of hope for the country’s future.
Let's face it: with a $14.3 trillion (and climbing) national debt, high gasoline prices and still-high unemployment numbers, things can seem bleak these days. But the lesson from the 1980s is: We've been in tough times before, and worked our way through.
Recall that the late 1970s (when the Cars were first charting) were marked by stagflation (high inflation and slow economic growth) and (stop me if this sounds familiar) high oil prices. Yet within a decade oil was cheap, inflation was under control and unemployment was low. These improvements were the direct results of successful policies implemented by leaders and policymakers who worked together to accomplish big things.
For example, consider inflation. In his book, "The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath," Robert Samuelson explains how the new president, Ronald Reagan, and the Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker allowed a deep recession to occur early in the decade.
Unemployment climbed. It would have been easy for either man, especially the president whose political future was on the line, to back down and "do something" (i.e., spend money) to battle unemployment. This is what had happened over and over again. That's why, as columnist George Will puts it, "inflation seemed to be the systemic disease of democracy."
Instead, Reagan stayed the course, and our country broke its inflationary spiral. A more-stable money supply paved the way for real growth, throughout the rest of the '80s and well beyond. Then, as now, Americans were also considering how to reform the military. "The tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the American people -- accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades -- want their country to play in the world," outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates warns.