Can you imagine a world without the United States in it?
The latest headlines would have you believe that we are moments away from such an eventuality. But while history has taught us that all empires must end, America shall continue to endure far longer than the nay sayers would have us believe.
There is no question that as a nation we must make massive changes in order to right our economic ship. Our national debt is ridiculously high ... our government spends more money than it takes in ... and our financial regulation enforcement is a joke. (More regulation, by the way, is not the answer; more and better enforcement of existing rules is.)
In 1999, for example, a concerned Wall Street insider sent the SEC a 19 page document that explained in clear, easily understood English the exact nature of the alleged fraud being perpetrated by Bernard Madoff.
Point by point he laid out how Madoff had to be lying. All the SEC had to do was match the trade tickets with the reported counter parties and they would have busted this fraud wide open. I'd like to believe that they weren't paid off ... but if corruption wasn't at the root of this evil, then the only other explanation left is utter incompetence. The idea of a corrupt agency would sit better with me than a toothless, incompetent one.
Barack Obama promised change, and now it's rubber meets the road time. The SEC essentially needs to be deep sixed, and the government has to start over again. In the months ahead, the U.S. Government will enact the largest stimulus package in American history (and hopefully they'll earmark some of that money to funding greater enforcement efforts).
Some clear winners from all of this government largess will be the green technology sector, infrastructure, heavy equipment and education companies.
That leads us to the question of who is going to pay for all of this lavish spending?
The rest of the world will, that's who. They will buy up our bonds with an almost religious fervor.
Because the fastest way to get their economies to turn is to help turn ours first. The U.S. is the engine of global economic growth. It won't always be that way ... Asia's catching up and the Europeans will finally get their act together at some point and start acting in a more collective fashion. But for right now, in the world we live in today, our economy drives the world economy.
Where do you think China, Japan and the Arab world's foreign reserves came from? From me, from you, from all of our massive buying habits. That's where all of that global wealth came from. Our buying habits paid for China's shiny new roads, our buying habits paid for Dubai's gleaming new towers, and our buying habits have given Japan the world's second largest GNP.
Our buying habits, not theirs. They have nothing, they build nothing, they sell nothing without OUR demand.
We are the most efficient and hardest working group of people in the developed world. Our collective earnings power is truly magnificent. Our limitless belief in ourselves and in a brighter tomorrow is our greatest economic weapon.
Let me be clear, we've gorged ourselves on a horn of plenty that was fueled by easy credit and massive financial leverage, and now we have to pay the price. That means 2009 will be a very tough year. Unemployment will rise, crime will increase and many more families will lose their homes.
In short, we will experience the hardest recession we've seen since the 1930's. I don't see government intervention reaching consumers fast enough to stave off severe pain in the so called "real" economy.
But let's not confuse a broken leg with a broken neck. And that's what I see happening: I see so many people jumping on the "America is finished" bandwagon that it makes me sick. America is you and me ... it's not some abstract idea. And so long as there are people like you and me that refuse to embrace this media-fueled dark and dim view of America's future, we will overcome.
We may be battered, we may be bruised, but we will never be beaten.