Since the Carter administration I have heard over and over again that the economy was on shaky ground. It may have been reported prior to that but I wasn’t paying attention until the mid 70s. So I am used to the reports that the sky is falling. What I have experienced, however is that prices will always eventually go up. Wall Street will bounce up and down. Some companies will go out of business and others will boom. And as always, the only thing that is certain is death and taxes.
Death, taxes and American competition. I think that it is in the water we drink. At a social gathering last month, a father of an American Olympian told the story of a bronze metal water polo match that the Americans won. An opposing player shook her head and explained that in her country she would have been a hero for being a bronze medalist. But, she exclaimed, in America these athletes will be considered the losers.
Indeed, I still have not forgiven Bob Costas for an interview he had with a silver medal female swimmer in the Seoul Olympics. His questioning started with something about how she felt putting in so much work and yet losing. This was the second fastest swimmer in the world and he called her a loser. I thought that it was disrespectful and completely without any perspective. Yet, that is how we feel about competition.
John Wooden is reported to have asked one of his NCAA finals teams before the big game to name the second place team from two years before. When no one could he had made his point. There is the Dale Earnhardt quote that, “Second Place is just the first place loser.” Vince Lombardi admonitions on winning have filled books.
What does this have to do with the economy? The headlines are full of the gloom and doom for America and full of smug declarations from abroad of the fall of U.S. economic domination. I think that they had better hope not as we buy the majority of the rest of the world’s stuff. My opinion is the same as Mark Twain when he said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
The reports of the death of the U. S. economy, I think are greatly exaggerated because of the competitive nature of the U. S. population. Are we having an especially bad time of it right now? Undoubtedly! It is good though to keep some perspective in the midst of the panic.
Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, September 24, 2008: “Don’t Sell America’s Economy Short” quoted an Israeli Cabinet minister, “… The economic woes of the US, he found, are not as readily apparent up close as they are in sensational media coverage abroad. So far, Main Street has shown a surprising amount of resiliency given the problems of Wall Street. Even if the economy eventually succumbs to recession, as now appears more likely, it will bounce back before long. It always has. There have been plenty of crises in the past — the stagflation and oil-price spikes of the 1970s, the savings and loan debacle and soaring trade and budget deficits of the 1980s, the popping of the dot-come bubble and the terrorist attacks in the early 2000s — that led many observers to predict that the United States would soon go the way of Rome.” We have had many fiddlers and not much in the way of flames.
I don’t think that this will be the end of life as we know it because “Main Street” means you and me. As I drive down the street I still see traffic. I see crowded malls, people at restaurants, cars lined up to get gasoline and plenty of commercials on TV, radio, newspapers, billboards, internet etc. I see new products coming out and consumers to buy them.
Just because you are invited to a horrible party doesn’t mean you have to attend. Just because we are being invited to a miserable recession doesn’t mean that we have to participate. Maybe it is just because I am getting old and tired. The boy has called wolf too many times and I think that I cannot summon up the energy to panic about this new crisis because is just feels too much like the old crises that we eventually weathered and muttled through.
I have as yet not been asked to join the Federal Reserve board. Nor have I been appointed to the Department of Treasury. There is no authority that I have been granted to make any difference in the overall health of the United States economy. All I have control over is my attitude, my personal productivity and the excellence of my service to my customers. I know that I can be better than my competitors because I have inborn that American competitive nature and first place is the only real option. When I don’t reach the gold, I get up and go for it again. That is what we do, that is who we are and that is why we will come out on the other side of this calamity stronger. Again!
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