This week, the NatGeo channel broadcast a multi-part documentary “The ’80s: the Decade that Made Us.” You can still catch it as it repeats.
I suspect the producers were in high school in the 1980s. Thus everything that happened then is momentous. To them. (Not to say that a lot didn’t happen.)
So it is with some amusement that my wife and I have been watching this series. It’s a shallow gloss, but still has entertainment value.
Last night we watched the episode, Shop ’til You Drop, which noted the ’80s boom in consumption and dearth of personal savings.
Their talking heads explained that Americans spent wildly because we were afraid of nuclear Armageddon. In short, we spent like there was no tomorrow because we feared there actually was no tomorrow.
A more logical explanation is that the Baby Boomers reached their 30s about then. We were getting serious about careers and settling down. There are a lot of us, so whatever we do registers loudly.
Furthermore, after the dreary Jimmy Carter years, Reagan imposed bitter economic medicine on the economy that caused a deep, but short recession. Thereafter began an economic expansion that continued (with an 8 month dip that doomed George H. W. Bush) through the end of the Clinton presidency.
People spent because they had jobs and money.
Another amusing moment was the bit about Madonna. They showed her performance of “Like a Virgin” at some music awards show that launched her career. It was so musically weak and so obviously calculated to shock (and generate publicity) that it’s embarrassing to see how well it worked.
Soon teenage girls were dressing up like Madonna en mass. One clip shows a crowd of them, with one explaining that Madonna freed them to be themselves. No commentary noted the contradiction.
The talking heads include a couple of known leftists, socialist writer Barbara Ehrenreich and Salon’s David Sirota, who raised hackles on Tuesday with his piece, “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” It’s best to keep your BS detectors fully on when they start talking.