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Nixon's social programs

Conservative Nixon was surprisingly liberal on domestic social programs. He expanded welfare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, and created a new Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program (1974) to help the disabled. In addition, he indexed Social Security payments to rise with inflation. As the U.S. moved toward being a modern welfare state, the portion of the national budget tied up in entitlement programs to pay for benefits rose to become larger than the money spent of the military.

Nixon supported affirmative action for the hiring of minorities but opposed busing to achieve racial balance in schools. He actively managed the economy by briefly imposing a wage and price freeze and by taking the U.S. off the gold exchange standard.

Perhaps most important in the long run, Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (1970) to attempt to clean up damage to the natural world. The need for urgent action was first made clear by author Rachel Carson in the book Silent Spring (1962), which warned that pesticides and pollution were poisoning song birds and other animals. The Clean Air Act (1970) and the Endangered Species Act (1973) began to set environmental standards for the country.

Pulling out of Vietnam

Nixon, who had managed to get 95 percent of the troops out of Vietnam, won reelection in a landslide over the Democratic antiwar candidate George McGovern. He ended the war with a face-saving peace treaty in 1973; by 1975 the Communists had overrun the South Vietnamese government supported by the United States.

A murderous Communist tyrant called Pol Pot seized power during the postwar instability in nearby Cambodia and ended up killing a quarter of his own people. He was finally stopped by the very Communists the U.S. had been fighting.

Example

Question: Who ended active U.S. participation in the war in Vietnam?

Answer: President Richard Nixon signed a treaty and withdrew U.S. troops.

The controversy over the war led to the War Powers Act (1973), which limited the president's ability to send troops into combat without Congressional approval. If the long war with its 56,000 American and millions of Vietnamese deaths proved anything, it showed Communists that the U.S. was willing to fight and die to oppose Communist beliefs. Twenty years later, militant Communism was all but gone from the world.

Watergate

Richard Nixon got caught in political tricks that cost him his job only months after a landslide reelection when it was discovered that, back In 1972, burglars hired by the president's associates had broken into a local Democratic office in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington. A long investigation proved that Nixon had been involved in covering this up and in a number of other illegal actions against political opponents.

Meanwhile, Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign in 1973 after being caught taking bribes. When Agnew went off to repay some of the money he stole, the Twenty-fifth Amendment (1967) handily provided for a replacement vice president. Congress gave the deeply-in-trouble Nixon only one choice: a well-liked Congressman named Gerald Ford. Ford would assume the presidency when Nixon, faced with impeachment, resigned it in 1974.

 
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