A Man of His Word, Jimmy Carter

Andrew Wang

Jimmy Carter assumed office during a time of turbulence. It was a time characterized by the suffering of the American people – their moral and confidence was at an all time now. It was surely not the fault of the American people. The American moral had received harsh blows from both Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. During that time, it truly seemed as if the United States reached its limit. After the resignation of Richard Nixon, the American people called out for an outsider of Washington to guide them through the difficult times – one that would not sink the country even lower. Jimmy Carter fit the bill flawlessly. Nobody knew him, which was an advantage. During his campaign, he made many promises – which he fulfilled, garnering the trust of his American people. As he said many times that he never would lie, he carried countless legislation and reform which proved ultimately to push the country on the right track again. His campaign theme emphasized “a government as good and as honest and as decent and as competent and as compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people.” [1] 

A major component of his campaign promise was government reorganization. With great support from Congress, Carter was able to pass the civil service system reform in 1978. He was also able to impose, as promised, a zero-based budget program in various government agencies. Another vital problem seeking attention was the energy crisis, and Carter passed an energy packaged during the same year. It contained economic incentives for firms to make the switch from oil and gas to coal. Because of this, there was a noticeable conservation initiative of present energy resources. To combat this further was his creation of the Department of Energy. His term in presidency was focused on reducing government intervention and thus we are able to see his endeavors in deregulation. He was able to deregulate both the natural gas industry as well as the trucking and airline industries. [2]His deregulation acts were able to provide the American people with lower prices due to a more competitive industry environment.

The environment was also another issue that Carter planned to tackle during his term, which he carried through. His expansion of the national park system was no easy task – it included protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands. [2] His acts and policies regarding this issue brought him popularity among environmentalists. Amendments that targeted air and water were added to the Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1977. Along with this, a strip mining bill and a land preservation bill were also given the okay and passed. Moreover, Carter did much to advance education, another sector that he vowed to improve on during his campaign. He created the Department of Education – which supplied aid for low and middle income earners, along with additional money for anti-crime programs. Carter also was able to improve the mass transit system and inject in additional benefits in the social security system, especially those that helped out women. [2] Evidently, Carter took his promises seriously and tried to carry them out to the best of his ability. In fact, including “good faith” attempts, Carter’s domestic campaign pledge rate was an impressive 81.6 percent. [2]

On the issues that Carter was unable to fulfill was largely due to opposition from various interest groups and especially Congress. Carter wholeheartedly set out to do what he promised and intended to do, however some of his proposals were blocked. For example, his proposal for a consumer credit agency was killed in Congress, along with his no-fault auto insurance. [1] Carter received criticism after his term for not passing a health care reform, yet they fail to realize that Carter had been a fervent advocate and had it shot down by Congress. In summary, President Carter succeeded when he set out to create a “competent and compassionate” government. He was able to meet his promises; nevertheless, some expectations placed upon him were too substantial to satisfy.

[1] The Campaign Promises of Jimmy Carter: Accomplishments and Failures

Michael G. Krukones Presidential Studies Quarterly , Vol. 15, No. 1, Inaugurating the President (Winter, 1985), pp. 136-144 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27550171

[2] http://clinton4.nara.gov/WH/glimpse/presidents/html/jc39.html


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