1970’s SNL on the Problem of Inflation

Any student of economics knows that inflation emerged as a big issue in the late 1970’s, first under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The newly minted Saturday Night Live rose to the occasion. First, Dan Akroyd as Jimmy Carter proposed that that every American take 8 per cent of his or her money and burn it (Season 3, Episode 17, 4/15/1978), to reduce the money supply.

The President demonstrated leadership here by burning 8% of the $12.50 in his daughter’s little peanut bank:

A few months later (Season 4, Episode 4, 11/4/1978), the President changed his mind. Since austerity did not seem to be working, he offered a new approach – –  “Inflation is our friend”:

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We just have to face the fact that there is simply no way to fight inflation in a capitally-intensive, highly-technological, conflict-riddled, anything-for-a-thrill world of today. That’s why, tonight, I want you to try to look at inflation in an entirely new way: Inflation is our friend.

For example, consider this: in the year 2000, if current trends continue, the average blue-collar annual wage in this country will be $568,000. Think what this inflated world of the future will mean – most Americans will be millionaires. Everyone will feel like a bigshot. Wouldn’t you like to own a $4,000 suit, and smoke a $75 cigar, drive a $600,000 car? I know I would! But what about people on fixed incomes? They have always been the true victims of inflation. That’s why I will present to Congress the ‘Inflation Maintenance Program’, whereby the U.S. Treasury will make up any inflation-caused losses to direct tax rebates to the public in cash.

Then you may say, ‘Won’t that cost a lot of money? Won’t that increase the deficit?’ Sure it will! But so what? We’ll just print more money! We have the papers, we have the mints. I can just call up the Bureau of Engraving and say, ‘Hi! This is Jimmy. Roll out some of them twenties! Print up a couple thousand sheets of those Century Notes!’ Sure, all these dollars will cause even more inflation, but who cares? Everyone will be a millionaire!

In my speech last week, I said that America would have to undergo an austerity program, but since this revolutionary new approach welcomes inflation, our economy will be free to grow, and we can spend, spend, spend!

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It is interesting how art can not only imitate life, but presage it.

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