The bubble has burst

September 18, 2008

This bubble was a long time in the making.

It started in July of 1980, when Ronald Reagan accepted the nomination for president at the Republican National Convention.  Reagan had espoused supply-side economics and de-regulation, also known as Reaganomics.  During the campaign season, George Herbert Walker Bush had called Reagan’s fiscal policies “voodoo economics.”  He was right — but, evidently, that didn’t matter to the majority of the Republican Party.  George H. W. Bush lost the presidential bid and, instead, accepted the vice presidential nod.

I remember that well.  In July of 1980, I working as a journalism intern at the Republican National Convention.  I had just graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, and, with the help of WSU journalism professor Bill Elston, I was assigned my first paid position as a journalism grad — a spot with Congressional Quarterly.

It was a humble position.  Among other duties, I scrounged to pay someone for use of a dolly, bought wastebaskets at a downtown office supply store, and helped clean up the day after the convention.  CQ’s “office” was a tiny area of draped off floor space in the basement of Cobo Hall, along with other print media and more obscure television and radio outlets.  The prestigious upstairs floors were reserved for the major television news networks: CBS, NBC and ABC.

At first, the Republicans didn’t know who would accept the VP nomination.  But then Bush accepted.  I helped the CQ staff type up Bush’s biography on ditto paper so it could be copied quickly.  (Remember, this was 1980.)  Major media outlets subscribed to CQ.  Soon, staffers from those media outlets beat a path to CQ’s “cubicle” in the recesses of Cobo Hall to pick up their copy of Bush’s biography so they could run it in their stories.

I saved the 78-page booklet containing the 1980 Republican Platform.  This is how the section on “Government Reform” began: “In the face of a crisis of overregulation….”

That’s sadly laughable today.  What was the “overregulation” they were talking about?  The federal rules that protected American investors after the fiscal catastrophe of the Great Depression.

The de-regulation plank of the 1980 Republican Party slowly morphed over the years into a ticking time bomb, resulting in the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2007 and massive home foreclosures, the nationalization of insurance giant AIG, the bailout of investment giant Bear Stearns and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

In 1980, Republicans chose to set aside the historic lessons of the Great Depression.  Now, we’re paying the price.

It took 28 years, but the bubble has burst.

— Cindy Hampel



  1. Very interesting post, Cindy … and how cool that you have that experience in your journalism background!

  2. The people from CQ were wonderful — they simply needed help locally, and that’s what I did. The basement of Cobo Hall was very chilly from the cranked-up air conditioning, so on my second day there, I brought in an extra sweater for someone from their Washington staff. I overheard national reporters complaining about their hotel assignments and saw ABC’s David Brinkley with his feet up on the desk in the ABC News area. Talking with reporters outside Detroit, I found they were very impressed by the clean and beautiful Detroit River. After the convention, the CQ crew took me to L’Auberge de la Bastille, a restaurant in Windsor, where Channel Four anchor Mort Crim was dining with a group. It was an experience I won’t forget.

  3. Today’s American tent cities seem to me like the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression.

  4. I’m attaching a link to an article that I think offers one of the clearest explanations of our current fiscal mess…and its genesis from the Reagan Era. Considering how much money taxpayers will be expected to ante up for this debacle, I believe this article is well worth ten minutes of your time: http://devilstower.dailykos.com/

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