Let there be no confusion about the purpose and intent of this article. It is intended to present a positive and enthusiastic defense and a reasoned support of our great country and its economic strength and promise. There are far too many that want to criticize and denigrate our economy and the very system within which it operates. Not only do I believe we live in the greatest country on earth, I also believe that our economy is the strongest and most prolific that has ever existed. And as such, it is the most benevolent and generous provider for the population it serves than any other on earth.
Yes, we face economic problems from time to time, and we always have and always will. But the indomitable American spirit has met every challenge we’ve ever faced, and I believe will continue to do so for a long time to come. The late great American economist Milton Friedman said it better than I:
“So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear. That there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system. “
Anyone who has followed my work knows that I have often written articles with optimistic undertones. The following links represent three recent examples where I have argued for optimism based on the opportunity that I believe is in front of us. Although there have been many supporters for these articles, there have also been many detractors.
The Positive Viewpoint
Although it’s hard to find supportive and positive opinions regarding our economy and the future of the American stock market, they fortunately do exist. This past week a friend sent me an uplifting piece that was authored by a financial advisor that he respects and uses. The advisor’s name is John Bodnar of Bodnar Financial Services Inc., headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey. Here is a link to their website, for anyone who would like to learn more about John and his team. Bodnar Financial Services Inc.
I was so impressed with what John wrote that I asked if he would give me his permission to re-publish his work in its entirety, and he enthusiastically agreed. What follows is John’s piece which I offer with his permission as an uplifting Holiday Season and Prosperous New Year card to all those who may be suffering from the doom and gloom that is so pervasively and relentlessly heaped upon us. I hope and wish it provides a lift of your spirit and confidence:
“Can we learn from the past?
“The U.S. economy remains almost comatose… the economy is staggering under many structural burdens, as opposed to familiar cyclical problems… The structural faults represent once in a lifetime dislocations that will take years to work out. Among them: job drought, debt hangover, the banking collapse, the real estate depression, the healthcare cost explosion, and the runaway federal deficit.”
The paragraph above is a series of quotes from a TIME cover story “The Economy… Is there light at the end of the tunnel?” The headline and quotes sum up nicely how the masters-of- the-media view current events. But look closely at the cover. Can you read the ribbon in the upper left corner? It says BUSH vs. CLINTON. The date of this TIME issue was September 28, 1992. The Dow Jones Industrial Average would close that day at 3276. And if you could go back in time (having ignored TIME) and invested $1000 in an account for your new-born child or grandchild’s future college costs, 19 years hence that $1000 would be worth $3489.70; a cumulative return of 248.97%. I guess there was some light at the end of that tunnel.
Are you as fed up with the portrayal of gloom and doom as I am? In September, I celebrated my 30thanniversary in the financial advisory business. Jeanne and Lorraine gave me a gift certificate for 10 free visits to a local psychiatrist (That’s a joke. But tell the truth, for a brief moment, you thought it just might be true!). Why do we sit in front of the TV at night listening to the crazies? TV was invented to provide an escape from the pain and aggravation of everyday life. Instead, it seems the more you watch, the more uptight and angry you become.
Fear not comrades, herewith are a handful of factoids guaranteed to put a red, white, and blue grin on your face. Let’s begin with one of the golden oldies…Manufacturing. I’m sure you all have read newspaper articles or listen to a fair and balanced discussion on cable TV of how America is going to hell. The cry of “we don’t make anything anymore!” Answer me this: what country dominates in world manufacturing? And the crowd responds in unison CHINA! Wrong. The U.S. continues to be #1 in manufacturing. We are still the country of innovation and high quality engineering. Don’t believe it? Why would BMW establish a new plant to build the popular M6 series in Spartanburg, SC? Not only is the M6 Series made in America and exported back to Europe, but BMW recently announced that the 3 Series would also be manufactured in the USA as well. BMW is now the number one auto exporter in America. Boeing could have opened a manufacturing operation anywhere in the world, but they chose to stay in America where labor is skilled and material quality can be assured. Let China manufacture all the T-shirts the world needs, but when precision and engineering are needed, nothing yet can match the USA.
Talking heads on radio and TV claim that the American consumer is tapped out. Now that’s a real joke. Americans are going to stop spending money? Personal consumption expenditures are up in excess of 2% in 2011 over 2010. Spending was back as strongly in 2010 as before the crisis of 2008. Personal income for those employed has risen almost 10.5% since 2008. Granted, unemployment remains above 9%, but can we focus on the 91% who are employed and spending money?
I hear rumbling from the back of the room… but what about the housing crisis? Ah yes, yet another crisis… never let one go to waste is the tagline of many a political consultant. Agreed, there will likely be a housing hangover for several years. But, there is some good news. Nearly 40% of home purchases in the last year were ALL CASH DEALS. Florida, a state with exceptionally high foreclosure rates, posted a total of 485,286 foreclosed units in 2010. The number of foreclosures through July 2011 has declined to 71,899.
Housing is important, but it only represents 2.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP),