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Yankee Dwindle?


Critics pile on, but U.S. still relevant.


I'm not so sure about why so many people in America want to put the country out to pasture. I understand there are some ulterior motives for bad-mouthing the nation, but these people are going beyond that notion.

The fact is there almost seems to be a cheering, not for the actual demise of the United States, but for its comeuppance. On the cover of Newsweek there's a photo of the Statue of Liberty (taken from behind that great monument of freedom) and the title "The Post-American World," written by Fareed Zakaria.

While I realize the rest of the world is coming on strong they would have to come on strong for decades for any to supplant America as the heartbeat of global commerce. Moreover, because of their huge populations, these nations would need to dwarf the economic output of America to match the per capita purchasing power.

Personally, I have no problem with the rest of the world coming on: In fact, I want it to happen badly. However, I do have a problem with the spin of the story, which suggests:

  • America's crumbling.
  • America's not worthy of all it has earned.
  • America shouldn't be looked up to.
  • America isn't needed.
  • America's being punished.

I think these notions are misguided and dangerous, but they aren't anti-American because, in America, one can have such opinions.

America has set the tone for the rest of the world, created the template for prosperity and has endeavored to share this template willingly. I'm incensed, however, because smart people are using the cover of the business cycle or faster growth abroad to mask their true contempt for the country. Of course, America isn't ordained to be the leader of the world but it's earned that distinction through valor, innovation and determination.

By giving the world $2.2 trillion dollars since the end of World War II, America has earned the right to be respected. By giving thousands of lives to fight a series of oppressive philosophies from Nazism and communism to current day terrorism, the U.S. has been and continues to be the beacon of the world.

The rest of the world is coming on: Amen. It's a blessing for all, especially Americans, as even Atlas needed a break at some point. With that in mind I wonder if the next great economic power(s) will be willing to protect the entire planet. I wonder if the next great economic power(s) will be able to generate the innovations that propel mankind into better and more sustainable lifestyles.

I wonder if people who are rooting for the demise of America understand that "change" isn't always for the better. I'm rooting for the day the entire planet can feed itself. I'm rooting for the day the entire planet can defend itself. I'm rooting for the day Americans can sell their wares and services to 3 billion people rather than just 300 million or so.

The combination of the end of the greatest housing boom in American history, poor risk management on Wall Street and presidential politics have cast a pall over America. The notion that America is falling off a cliff is threaded into every movie that comes out of Hollywood and been made topic number one on the campaign trail. I just hope Americans don't forsake the dream of anyone being able to make it to the top and buy into the notion the only way to save this nation is to curry favor from the rest of the world while redistributing the nation's wealth. I picked up a book this week: "God's Crucible" by David Levering Lewis about the history of Islam and its influence on Europe from 570 to 1215. In the book is an interesting mention of Mazadakism, a social revolution that sought to attack the wealthy and redistribute wealth. It didn't work, but the fact is there has always been resentment from those on the bottom for those on top that could be stoked into action which ultimately harms everyone.

The key is that those on the bottom aren't hurting in America the way that those on the bottom have hurt in the past. I know it's been portrayed that way but it simply isn't the truth. There is a shift where manual laborers without college degrees are being pushed out of well-paying jobs that is a function of the evolution of the world. Blame the computer chip if you must point the finger. So-called intellectuals are having a field day with these rapid changes and using them in a campaign to usurp America's best asset: Its soul. The have-nots will always resent the haves even when the former owns a home with a couple of flat screen televisions, has a time share and takes the family to the movies from time to time. One thing to consider is that in our society the richest "haves" were born mostly "have nots." Therein lays the beauty of America and why it is a long way from being a marginal player in the world.

Sure there are wonderful stories of individual wealth creation in India, Russia, China and now even in Africa. They may not marvel at Donald Trump in India anymore but more people could aspire to become "The Donald" in New York City alone than all of India. (By the way, the story of wealth inequality that is supposedly why capitalism should be moderated is much more magnified in those nations that are going to eclipse America. In India a 60-story single family home is being built on the edges of one of the poorest metropolises on the planet.)

Don't write off America yet. The country isn't ordained to be the greatest: It's simply earned that distinction and I think will keep it for many generations to come.

If you are worried about America's place in the world it should be because of the threat that our capitalistic structure will be ripped apart. We should be worried about education and the drop out rate and the elitism that pits Americans against one another.

By the way, another group of folks that wrote off America this year have been economists. Granted, these are mostly apolitical folk more interested in the results from their calculations than who's in the white house.

Still, it has felt like an unrelenting assault or doom and gloom with each experts advancing a harsher version of the future than the previous experts. Now we are hearing that maybe, just maybe, there wasn't a recession after all. Hallelujah! There has been an economic downturn but this isn't 1929 or 1971 or 1980. More importantly, the nation will work through the challenge.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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