Many Americans perceived the 1980s as a prosperous and pleasant decade, especially in contrast to the 1970s. As the 1980s unfolded, however, others argued that the ailments of the nation had not been cured but instead were being pasted over and ignored. The 1970s had been filled with tumultuous events such as oil shocks, the Watergate affair, and the Iran hostage crisis. President Jimmy Carter's suggestion that the country suffered from a national malaise only seemed to prove America's weakness and decline both at home and abroad. Stagflation, a term referring to an economy suffering from both inflation and stagnation (a combination that was thought impossible before the 1970s), was a matter of great concern. Perhaps no other circumstance better symbolized the perceived decline of American business than the near collapse of the Chrysler Corporation, the third of the Big Three automobile makers and a bulwark of the American economy. In 1979 Chrysler had assets of $13.6 billion and thousands of employees, but it was also on the verge of bankruptcy. To save the faltering giant, Lee Iacocca, Chrysler's new chairman of the board, asked Congress for a $1 billion loan, special tax concessions, and relief from environmental regulations. Iacocca pointed out that Congress had recently aided the troubled Lockheed Corporation and that the government regularly aided small businesses....
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