But in one crucial sense, Carter had it wrong. A country that had suffered no real hardship since the Depression almost half a century earlier, and believed its Presidents were miracle-workers, was indeed looking for easy answers. Americans want easy answers again now – and the politicians are obliging, with the same old false claims, evasiveness and politics-as-usual that Carter denounced.
This is a rare moment when, seen from abroad, British politics actually looks rather impressive. A hung election produced the first coalition government since the Second World War, which has come up with a serious plan to put the country’s finances back in order. Everything may end in tears, after the details are published on 20 October. At least, however, they’ve tried.
In the US, by contrast, nothing. As the deficit increases, and income disparities continue to grow, name-calling passes for serious debate. The only economic argument is over whether top earners should have their tax rates put back up to where they were before 2001, from 35 per cent to 39 per cent.
Like Carter before him, Obama at least tries to tell the truth – that the road back will be long, and that the US must change its profligate ways, above all in its use of energy.