now hear this!

TL;DR APUSH Chapter 39

The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1968-1980.

DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 39.


After lots of prosperity in the 60s, the US’ productivity gains screeched to a halt in the 70s.

The cause behind the productivity loses was the enormous amount of women and teenagers, both of whom lacked skills. There was also little investment in new machines, loads of new safety regulations that decreased output, and the shift from manufacturing to providing services in America.

Inflation of the US dollar also was a big deal. The drainage of tax dollars into Vietnam, rising oil prices, and LBJ’s ‘great society’ programs were to blame. By nature, military spending and welfare programs increased inflation. The cost of living tripled after Nixon took office, but he wasn’t completely at fault. With Japan and Germany finally stable again, we had major competition.

In order to make himself seem pretty cool, Nixon decided to give into protesters’ demands over Vietnam. He started to ‘Vietnamize’ the war by bringing home US troops and replacing them with dispensable South Vietnam soldiers. Dick claimed this was awesome, but the protesters wouldn’t give in. Dick thought he could end the war more quickly by invading Cambodia while we were at it. This guy was off his rocker.

Nixon didn’t even consult Congress before sending in troops to Cambodia. The protesters became all the more enraged and four of them were killed at Kent State in Ohio. Dick withdrew the troops from Cambodia in June of 1970, after just two months. Congress gave Nixon the middle finger and repealed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.

"Now your children can choose whether they want to be killed in Vietnam or Cambodia!"

In 1971, the 26th Amendment dropped the voting age to 18 and in June, the Pentagon Papers were released, showing that the US had provoked North Vietnam’s initial attack.

Meanwhile, the two great communist powers in Asia were fighting about their interpretation of Marxism. Nixon hoped this would help negotiate peace with North Vietnam. In July of 1971, President Nixon visited China. While there, he agreed to normalize their relationship and stop trying to win the independence of Taiwan. Nixon’s next stop was Moscow in July 1972.

Nixon’s visits welcomed an era of detente in which China, the USSR, and the US were all cool with each other. The most important thing was the US and the Soviet Union agreeing to an anti-ballistic missile treaty and SALT, both of which would limit each nation’s destructive power. But of course, the US said ‘Oh fuck that’ after a while and violated the ABM treaty by building special missiles called MIRVs. The USSR soon built their own as well.

Over in Chile, Salvador Allende, a communist, was elected president in 1970 and the CIA quickly worked to undermine his legitimate government and place someone they favored in charge.


Nixon hated Chief Justice Earl Warren. His liberalness and actual care for individuals was too much for Dick to handle. Warren advocated sexual contraceptive rights, the right to legal counsel, an arrested person’s rights, and the separation of church and state. As soon as some of the justices died off or retired, Dick nominated four conservative justices. However, his friends doubled-crossed him and began voting liberally; in 1973, they passed Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.

"It's not like we want control over our bodies anyway."

Nixon surprisingly did a lot of good for welfare. Branching from LBJ’s ‘great society’, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) were all approved by Nixon. Social Security was also approved to increase with inflation, which was going up like crazy. Maybe Nixon wasn’t a dick after all.

Spoke too soon! He transformed Affirmative Action, originally meant to protect individuals’ rights, into a special interests group with the Philadelphia Plan. Now, the only way to avoid to lawsuits was to purposely hire minorities.

Stemming from the hippies came a new awareness about the earth. Nixon was quick to jump on the bandwagon and formed the EPA, which later led to the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. To stop inflation from reaching the skies, Nixon put a 90-day freeze on prices and wages in 1971. He then took the US off of the gold standard and devalued the USD.

Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ from the 1972 election went beautifully. By not increasing civil rights and appointing conservative justices, he creamed Democrat McGovern, winning 49 states to one. However, in the spring, North Vietnam burst through the de-militarized border, which led Nixon to bomb the hell outta them. The North Vietnamese finally agreed to peace talks in 1973 and Dick withdrew our last 27,000 GIs. The peace was nothing more than a retreat.

Back home, the American public began to learn of Dick’s secrets when the Cambodian bombings of 1969 and 1970 came to light. Nixon had continued to bomb Cambodia after we pulled out of Vietnam in ’73. The new War Powers Act was the US’ new round of isolationism and ended the draft.

Things were going pretty well until Syria and Egypt tried to reclaim land taken by Israel in 1967. Kissinger was sent to Moscow to ensure the reds wouldn’t interfere while we gave Israel $2 billion to fight. The US would pay for this decision when OPEC embargoed us from oil. This energy crisis spurred the US to build a pipeline in Alaska and decrease the national speed limit to 55 mph. When the embargo was finally lifted in 1974, oil was four times its normal price and only boosted our inflation. We formed the International Energy Agency to fight OPEC.

Dick Nixon’s Presidency began to unravel when in June of 1972, several men were found breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at Watergate. Later, it was found they were working for Nixon’s re-election committee, CREEP. They were trying to dig up dirt on any possible Democratic candidates in the 1972 election. Nixon, among other top officials, lied about their involvement. John Dean blew the whistle and accused Nixon of being involved.

The investigation by Congress demanded to hear Nixon’s secret Oval Office tapes, which would have ensured his guilt and, as he claimed, was a national security risk. He eventually gave up an edited version of the tapes with an 18.5 minute gap. Congress would later get the real tapes after the Supreme Court ruled that Dick’s executive power gave him no right to hold back evidence. On the tapes, Nixon was heard giving orders for the CIA to hold back an FBI investigation into Watergate. Nixon was guilty of perjury, abuse of power, and obstruction of justice. He resigned in August of 1974.

With Jerry Ford taking the reins, many Americans were unsure of what direction the country was going. Ford quickly pardoned Nixon, furthering doubt in his ability. To catch up, Ford expanded Nixon’s detente policy and met up with 34 other leaders in Finland in July of 1975. The Helsinki Accords officially expanded the Soviet Union’s border, though the USSR agreed to be more liberal and start to protect human rights. Yeah right.

Jerry Ford on his sole glory day.

Back in Vietnam, we were completely defeated in April of 1975. We admitted some 140,000 South Vietnamese into the US. This was the first time the US lost in anything… besides soccer. Many countries all over the world lost faith in the US.


Feminists had been waging a war for as long as anyone could remember. In 1972, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments, which got rid of sexual discrimination in any educational program or activity. The Equal Rights Act could have made the sexes finally equally, but it was quickly struck down by the opposition, namely Phyllis Schlafly, who claimed the ERA would make gay marriage legal and send teenage girls off to war.

The Supreme Court helped the plight of the feminists by challenging sexual discrimination in the workplace with Reed v. Reed. Nixon had also wanted to set up public day care. The anti-feminists were up in arms and blamed the rising divorce rate on the feminists. But women weren’t the only oppressed group. Blacks were still far behind whites.

The landmark case Milliken v. Bradley made desegregation harder when it reinforced white flight. Affirmative Action, twisted by Dick Nixon, enraged whites and furthered their anger towards minorities. Native Americans also brought new light to their strife when they invaded Alcatraz and the village of Wounded Knee. In the case US v. Wheeler, Native American tribes regained their legal status and sovereignty.

Jerry Ford’s short-lived Presidency was horrible. The Democrats sought to capitalize on that when they nominated peanut-growing Baptist Jimmy Carter. Car’ta won very narrowly and just edged out Ford. The Dems also won over Congress. Jimmy’s first act of business was cutting taxes and creating the Department of Energy. He even pardoned most of the draft dodgers. What a guy!

"Some men like porn. I like nuts. Peanuts."

As a Christian, Car’ta felt it was his duty to engage in human rights issues all over the world and this would become the cornerstone of his foreign policy. His biggest achievement came when he got Egypt and Israel to sign a treaty which gave up some of Israel’s land and made Egypt respect their new borders. Car’ta also promised to return the Panama Canal to the Panamanians by 2000. Sadly, at the same time, the USSR and Cuba began to send troops into Africa to support revolutions.

The economy was still in the toilet. The inflation rate had hit 13% by 1979. The huge oil bill we had accumulated had taught us to never engage in economic isolationism. We paid the price– we had no choice but to  deeply engage in foreign trade. The federal budget deficit was out of control and those with fixed incomes suffered big time. Car’ta thought the problem only had to do with oil. After making various legislative proposals, no one really cared and nothing got solved.

Even worse, the dictator we had installed in Iran in 1953 had finally been overthrown and their oil stream into the US had stopped completely. In wake of this, Jimmy descended to Camp David for ten days to think over his plans. When he came out, he fired much of his staff, hired new personal, and gave them more power. America started to wonder if Car’ta had fashioned some sort of narcotic out of peanuts.

If you thought SALT was good, just wait for SALT II!

Besides advancing human rights, Jimmy also signed SALT II with the Soviets, which limited the amount of lethal weapons both countries had.

In November of 1979, over 50 US citizens were taken hostage by anti-American Muslims in Iran. The captors had demanded that the US return their former dictator who had taken refuge in the US. Adding to the tension, the USSR invaded Iran’s neighbor, Afghanistan in hopes of doing something communistic.

As a result of the Soviet invasion, the US imposed an embargo on the country and boycotted the Olympics in Moscow. Car’ta also wanted to create a pseudo-draft in order to protect the Persian Gulf from the Soviets. Since the USSR was only getting more aggressive, SALT II was voted down in the Senate.

In the end, Jimmy Carter was done in by his inability to rescue the hostages in Iran and his handling of the economy.


About Fred Ayres

Fred studied neuroscience and economics at Wesleyan University. He writes about healthcare, education, and the economy.


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