Not in the Headlines

I’ve always felt a basic reflection of our current culture can be obtained by just reading the headlines.  To wit, here is a recent sampling…

  • Taliban Ban Women’s Sports
  • Fed Official Who Warned on Real Estate Was an Active REIT Trader
  • Natural Gas Jumps to 7-Year High
  • GE and 3M among $114 Billion Debt with Downgrade Risk

Source: Bloomberg

Without reading the details, one might conclude that Afghanistan is a mess, corruption exists in government, inflation is worsening, and there is way too much debt. 

It is much more difficult to find encouraging headlines.  Is that just media bias or do we have a shortage of encouraging developments happening today?  Even with the never-ending flow of discouraging headlines and frustrating developments on multiple fronts, there are still reasons to be hopeful.  And, as Andy Dufresne stated in The Shawshank Redemption – “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  

A few hopeful thoughts…  First, gridlock will be back in Washington after the interim election next November.  It is likely the Republicans will take either the House or the Senate, perhaps both.  Gridlock in Washington will likely be good for the markets.  Gridlock, at least in the short run, would mean less chance of higher taxes and wasteful spending. 

Second, the amazing adaptability and resiliency of American businesses remains strong despite the anti-business policies and ideology of the Left.  We have seen this in the productivity numbers and in the recovery in earnings growth following the government shutdown.  Despite the struggles in the labor markets, made worse by government disincentives, production is recovering as companies harness technology and innovation to produce more with less.  This phenomenon is happening in all areas of our economy, from small businesses, to Fortune 500 companies.  It is the best of free market capitalism, which does still exist, despite external pressures toward cronyism, or the Left’s drive to expand the welfare state.  Our capitalist economic system is far from perfect, but it continues to adapt and produce, despite the political challenges.  In a nutshell, business’ ability to innovate and adapt is one of our country’s greatest strengths.  With it we can overcome any global challenge.  The business sector essentially proved this with its incredibly fast response to developing a Covid vaccine.    

Third, despite dire warnings from many noted pundits, there is a growing sense in our country that it is time to refocus and reprioritize what we truly value.  Part of this is due to the devasting impact of Covid across our country.  We have realized that despite political polarization, we are interconnected.  Concerns about the health and safety of our families and neighbors have given us a much-needed dose of perspective.  Political differences between us still exist, but we have become more tolerant, less abrasive, less inclined to argue our viewpoints without listening to counter arguments.  This is the first step toward reconciliation.  The first step toward committing to understand before being understood.  This is what I see and sense is happening across this great country.  You won’t read about it in the headlines, or in social media, you have to witness it firsthand, face to face with friends and even with strangers, people who look like us and those who don’t.  But it is there, and it is growing, and it should give us all great hope.     

Fourth, the cultural pendulum is about to swing back toward the middle.  In our country, whenever we have gone too far toward the extreme right or the extreme left, cultural forces – our inherent sense of morality and basic common sense, tends to bring us back toward the middle.  I believe that is occurring in our country as well.  In essence, we will likely see the adults in the room stand and guide us back toward meaningful conversation and compromise.  Again, you won’t find the names of these civic peacemakers in the headlines, but they are already at work, in small groups, and in local communities. 

Change, in a country as large and diverse as ours, does not happen quickly.  Still, we are constantly evolving, adapting, making progress, overcoming challenges.  No doubt we make lots of mistakes, individually, collectively, within both the private and public sector, but we persevere.  Today, the values of the ordinary, everyday American are not consistent with the Progressive Left nor with the political elites.  While there are differences within small town America, there is a common thread of decency, and an inherent sense of right and wrong.  Most importantly, the fate of our nation lies not with the corrupt and powerful elites, but with the collective goodness of ordinary citizens.  Over time, the later will pull us back toward the middle, and away from totalitarian abyss.

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville stated the following about America –

“I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests–and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning–and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution–and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!”

I still believe we are basically good.  Flawed?  Yes.  Will we ever be perfect?  Not in this lifetime.  Still, there is always hope.  It just won’t be in the headlines. Michael Kayes, CFA