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The 1990’s – A World Turned Upside Down

An Explosion of Change

POLITICS:  The Clean Up Man
George H. W. Bush was sworn in as President on January 20, 1989, as the 41st President of the United States. Having served as Vice President under Ronald Reagan, he was loyal and didn’t interfere with President Reagan’s destructive agenda. As President he then was left to clean up the messes created by Reagan and deal with new problems. Despite all that he had to deal with, President Bush managed to restore some of what Reagan had destroyed. This angered extreme conservatives who then refused to support him in his second term election.

Bush dealt with 1) an inflated deficit left by Reagan, 2) a revenue shortfall that required higher taxes, 3) restoring democracy in Panama and capturing Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, and, 4) liberated Kuwait and drove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army back in a humiliating defeat. In addition, President Bush pushed through Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Immigration Act of 1990, that opened the borders for a 40% increase in legal immigrants. He maintained a conservative stance on most issues; however, President Bush did not hesitate to act against Wacko conservatives. When the National Rifle Association (NRA) sent out material slandering Federal Agents as “Thugs,” he ended his lifetime membership to the organization.

POLITICS:  Clinton’s Capitulation
From a political standpoint, the Presidency of Bill Clinton was a study in contrasts. His election was considered a victory for Democrats and liberals, yet he constantly compromised his positions to pacify aggressive conservatives. Almost all efforts for additional programs to help Americans in need, including healthcare reform, failed to move forward during the Clinton administration. Conservatives, who were disappointed at Bush 41’s rollback of Reagan’s efforts to dismantle the federal government, were determined to win Congress and reignite the agenda that favored white and wealthy Americans.

In 1994, conservative Republican Newt Gingrich was elected on the basis of his Contract With America. This document (co-authored with Republican Representative Dick Armey) outlined several reasonable goals to bring more accountability to Congress and the government, but was laced with several goals that followed Ronald Reagan’s vision to cut funding and eliminate the government’s role of overseeing fairness in business. President Clinton was faced with vetoing all legislation, or caving in to conservatives. In his 1996 State of the Union address Clinton delighted conservatives when he announced that “the era of big government is over.” 

As a result of Clinton’s capitulation, many laws were passed in his second term that continued Reagan’s destruction of good government. The financial disaster in 2007-08 can be directly traced to legislation passed and/or repealed in the 1990’s during the Clinton administration. Congress removed federal government eyes off of key areas of financial interactions. The laws and rules that had set standards on key banking and investor interactions were eviscerated allowing a ‘no questions asked’ environment. The natural evolution of this environment was for greed to take priority over common sense, which is exactly what happened.

Outside of the political landscape, the rest of America was becoming comfortable with the concept of owning ‘personal’ computers, and the new World Wide Web offered to interconnect computers creating a digital network of communication. It’s hard to overstate the impact of the marriage of computers and the Internet. It turned everything we knew upside down. Consider the following:

  • While personal computers increased the efficiency of certain tasks, it was the computer hooked into the Internet that made world-wide instant communication and sharing of information commonplace.
  • Television, radio, and newspapers shaped the public perception of world events until the Internet gave access to massive numbers of people who often had more timely information than traditional news media sources.
  • Younger generations adapted quickly to the possible uses of the Internet while older generations scoffed at its impact. As young generations rode the tide of the Internet, Older generations were left aground, looking foolish and ignorant.
  • Unethical governments and corporations would discover too late that their version of events would be exposed as lies and distortions by citizens who had access to the truth and shared it through the Internet. It literally brought down some governments.

The tsunami of change caused by the Internet wouldn’t hit the world until the next decade, but the earthquake of the Internet was felt in the 1990’s.

NEXT:  The 2000’s

THE SERIES:  The 1950’s    The 1960’s    The 1970’s    The 1980’s    Epilogue