Americans with a Capital “A!”

I often tell people that I am an American with a Capital “A!” And that is so true. Americans have a unique pride, some would call exceptional pride, in our country.

Although I am often in the media commenting on issues, and those issues seem to have such negativity nowadays, I do find it inspiring to reflect upon America’s greatness. The American story is one of success, great accomplishment, and like my favorite movie character Rocky Balboa – even when knocked down – we ALWAYS get back up!

Having said that, I wanted to make sure that I re-enforced, for myself and for our readers, the importance of having some perspective when considering our relative decline as a country. I firmly believe in American Renewal!

Here are some comments I have as a reminder of the greatness of American Capitalism, and the Greatness of American democracy and the competition we face globally.

First, the Greatness of American Capitalism!

Steve Jobs by any measurement was a great American capitalist. He had a very well known mean streak. He mistreated his original partner. But what he was, even if he rejected the description, was the consummate capitalist. He invented the Apple Computer. He designed it to the point of making it more like art work than computing. He put his own money into his project. He built it from the ground up. He gave his employees a living and benefits. He gave investors fabulous returns. He overcame being moved out of the ownership of the company he created. He came back to his company to save it. He endured business failure as well as a collapse of Apple’s market share. He rebuilt both the company and the market share. He finished his career with a newly minted digital technology that the entire world either uses or wants to have. He passed from this Earth the very essence of the American capitalist spirit.

Second, the Greatness that is American Democracy!

For those claiming our politics is dysfunctional, let me say that it is not. From 2000-2008 Republicans did an outstanding job of defending the country and attacking our enemies. They largely maintained full employment, and people did well economically.

However, they failed to curb the growth of government; they too often voted for undisciplined spending and increased our debt; and, they failed to act quickly as the Iraq War became a quagmire. Voters properly rejected their leadership, and voted for Democrats in 2006, and consummated the change in 2008 after the banking crisis.

The Democrats had full control of government. They enacted their sweeping agenda. The economy got worse; corruption was rampant (Solyndra, et al); and the increased debt made Republicans look like penny-pinchers. So the American people said – time to change again. In 2010, we began to elect a different set of leaders.

In any other country, facing the convulsing issues we have faced since 2008, combined with the multi-cultural nature of our population, we would have a deteriorating security situation under the same set of facts. People should realize how rare power changes hands without conflict in most of the world. It is a testament to our greatness that America has done so for 235 years and counting.

Our politics is not dysfunctional, it is working exactly as it should.

Third, and finally, who is next in line to compete?

There was a serious concern, in the late 1950’s, that communism, and the Soviet Union, would surpass and overtake the American experience. Soviet troops were on the march in Eastern Europe and Asia, and the Russians had just launched Sputnik – the satellite which placed them first in the race to space.

By 1991, the Soviet Union had imploded.

In the 1980’s there was a fear of the Asian tiger – Japan. The Japanese were advancing and surpassing the United States in all areas of manufacturing, and in many areas of technological expertise.

At the end of 1989, Japan was entering a two-decade economic downturn which has yet to recede.

Today, China represents our nearest economic competitor, and their economy will exceed ours at some point in the future, simply by the size of their population. Everyone is discussing the fear of the rise of China.

But no one is predicting their per capita wealth will ever exceed the United States. And more importantly, their wealth is derived from “copying” precisely our economic model. From the roads and bridges to the skyscrapers, to the fractional reserve banking to small bank lending, to the use of corporate farming techniques to the intellectual theft of entire Apple Stores being pirated, it is easy to have substantial economic growth when all you have to do is steal the ideas of someone else.

There is limit to growth by theft, and eventually that growth must slow down without your own innovation and entrepreneurship. Facing an America with the deepest capital markets, and freer political systems, makes China most likely the next in line to “lose the future” to the US.

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Our current problems are fixable. Debt can be repaid, jobs can be created, and businesses can expand. Decline is a choice, and you can see the results of that choice for the last 3 years. But consider where we have been and where we possibly could go…

During the Great Depression in the 1930’s – radio, TV, the helicopter, and the commercial use of plastics all were invented or came to use.

The 1970’s had the same economic feel as the last three years. Yet cable television helped bring about an expansion of leisure; video games also further expanded personal entertainment. We invented post-it notes, which as silly as it seems increased personal and business efficiency. The word processor, laser printer, VCR, and cellular phones were all invented during this era of “malaise.”

The 1980’s started the longest and largest two decades of wealth creation in human history. Aided by superior governance at the Federal level for the 1980’s, and fiscally conservative legislative leadership in the 90’s, the country went on a capitalist feeding frenzy. Satellite television was born; there was the advancement of the microchip; and, the affordability of the personal computer led America to staggering heights of across-the-board wealth creation and broadening prosperity for everyone. Unemployment became “full employment.”

When the internet was added to the mix in the mid-1990’s, America was without any peer or competitor when using any measurement of the human condition…ever.

And yet, there were downturns. The natural business cycle led to a recession in 1992, and another in 2001. Unlike the massive social experiment unleashed by the liberal progressive government we have now, in each case, the economy and the free market healed on its own – without government intervention.

The 1992 recovery benefited from the massive tax reductions of the Reagan era, and we weathered the storm within 10 months. In 2001, it was the dot.com bubble that was going bust and then the follow-up effects of 9/11. Yet, despite that recession and the wars that followed, that decade gave us American innovation such as the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, Google and Facebook.

My point is this: America is greater than the problems it faces, and they are solely man-made. I don’t want to get into politics today, I want to remind you of our collective greatness, unique in all of world history. We can recapture our leadership, and our greatness, by controlling what we can control. VOTE for the people who guard your money in a conservative way. And when it comes to your own finances, you should do the same. A strategy that improves, protects, and grows your portfolio in a responsible manner. Every day I help people protect their money from losses. Hopefully, we can all protect America’s future in the same way.