Inflation is not a new problem. Past presidents have dealt with it in different ways. The United States was facing a terrible economic crisis. OPEC’s (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) manipulation of oil availability caused rising prices and gasoline shortages. There was high unemployment. Inflation was at 12.3%. It was 1974.
President Gerald Ford, painfully aware of the unintended consequences of Nixon’s wage and price controls, looked for a more conservative approach to combat inflation. Ford, sounding like Herbert Hoover, said that a voluntary effort on the part of ordinary citizens would be “far preferable and more in the tradition of the American system.” He said,
“There will be no big new federal bureaucracy set up for this crash program.”
Ford hoped that if the American people “tightened their belts voluntarily and spent less than they had before, that would reduce demand, and the inflation rate would start decreasing. Calling inflation “Public Enemy Number One,” President Ford said, “I will call upon every American to join this massive mobilization arid stick with it until we do win as a nation and as a people.”
This initiative was called “Whip Inflation Now” or WIN. Ford had newspaper notices printed with a coupon to be filled out and mailed to the White House that read,
“I enlist as an Inflation Fighter and Energy Saver for the duration. I will do the very best I can for America Print your name, address and zip code. Send it to the President. He will send you a button, free.”
The buttons said WIN in white capital letters on a red background. Unsurprisingly, individual efforts such as planting backyard gardens and shopping at thrift stores were no match for rampant inflation. The WIN initiative fell flat, and the poor economy was partly responsible for Ford’s defeat in the 1976 presidential election.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to By David Hume Kennerly – Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library: A4154-03, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20971740 for the image of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Gerry Ford.