Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Investing 101 ... Lessons in History ... The U.S. is the Best Bet

Buy America, sell Europe tells it like it is and reminds me of a story about two boys being chased by a bear.

When one of the boys stopped to put on his running shoes, the other boy said, "Why are you doing that? Don't you know you can't outrun a bear?"

To which the first boy replied, "I don't have to outrun the bear.  I just have to outrun you."

So while we have many problems to address and solve right here in the U.S., we also have a long history of doing just that.

To paraphrase what Winston Churchill once said about Americans, in the end We the People will do the right thing after we've tried everything else. That alone makes us a whole lot different from Europe and much of the rest of the world.

So for a better perspective on this history lesson, let's quote from the above referenced article:

"When you watch the reports on European elections, about change sweeping through the euro zone, be grateful that you live or invest in the U.S. of A.

The United States promises much. It dreams big and it always outperforms. It comes together. Through ingenuity and grit, the U.S. perseveres and pays its bills with interest.

Europe promises the world. It dreams. Then the group starts to fight amongst itself. It falls apart. Europe defaults. It needs to be bailed out, sometimes by the U.S.A.

During the last 200 years Greece has defaulted twice, Spain twice, Portugal twice. Germany has defaulted. Italy has defaulted. There have been 10 defaults in the last 100 years. And that list, compiled by the business school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, doesn’t include defaults caused by “wars, revolutions, occupations and state disintegrations.”

They just kind of went belly up.

Add those wars and disasters, and European defaults might exceed 30 or more, a rate of more than one default a decade.

That’s nice of the MIT people to look at it that way. After all, the U.S. has had several wars during that time, including one with itself. Indeed, it’s bailed out Europe’s butt militarily and economically a couple of times in the last 100 years. Still, it’s paid its bills. 

In many ways, it’s that history that explains why Europe is being punished in the markets for veering away from austerity and the U.S. never was. It’s why Standard & Poor’s was wrong in downgrading U.S. sovereign debt last year. It’s why Warren Buffett, who knows a thing or two about credit, called the United States a “quadruple-A” credit.

Sell all of them (European sovereign debt) if you can, because Europe is about to respond to a crisis caused by printing too much money by printing too much money.

Now, for a country such as the United States, printing money may not be a bad strategy. To work, it requires something from investors: confidence. And confidence is earned.

One of the ways to earn the confidence is to never default. Another way is to turn printing money into economic expansion. And for all of our whining about the recovery — “only” a 2.5% growth rate and a “high” unemployment rate of 8.1% — it is nothing compared to the euro zone: 10.9% unemployment in May and an expected 0% economic growth rate in 2012.

In other words, we’re going gangbusters compared to the austerity-driven economies just west of the Caucuses."

Summing Up

And that's why I'm optimistic about America. We always have and always will outrun our counterparts in the rest of the world.

As Churchill said, when all else fails, We the People always face facts, gut up and do the right thing. That's American Exceptionalism in action.

So while we're listening to all the divisive political garbage in our country this election season, let's take time to remember who we are and what we represent.

And let's remember who we're not as well.

The political and economic road may be bumpy these next few months and perhaps years, but we'll persevere and come out of this stronger than ever.

Of that I'm sure.

As for Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, Russia, Japan, China, India and others, I'd rather be us.

And I'd rather live here as a free speaking American, too!

Thanks. Bob.