The American Way

I've covered the financial community for 20 years now and do you know what I've discovered? Not to think with my head, but my heart. Not what my brain is telling me, but what my gut is telling me.

Because it's not about numbers, stock multiples, cash dividend levels, the PPI, or the CPI. It's about us. If you really want to know what's going on with the numbers, then forget the numbers and look at your friends, your family and yourself.

Here's my crackpot theory: people do as they feel. When they feel good, they buy things. When they don't feel good, they don't buy things.

Right now, a lot of people don't feel too good. Retailers hate it, because they know you're bummed. They are chopping the prices of cars, computers and airline tickets. Anything they can get their hands on, just to get your hands on their stuff.

A lot of us aren't budging, because we're scared.

Scared about our jobs and whether we'll have them.

Scared about our homes and whether we'll afford them.

And after September 11, scared about our lives and whether we'll enjoy them.

That's why no matter how much the Fed slashes rates, now at historical lows, people aren't budging. Logic tells you cars and computers and mortgages have never been so cheap. But this isn't about logic. And economists who tell you otherwise are all IQ and no EQ.

The good news is that fear can stunt you, but it rarely stops you. Americans, in particular, have a unique reserve, an inner resolve to fight the darkness and see the light.

It's human nature to feel sad right now. But it's the American nature to not feel that way for long. That's why I'm upbeat. Books didn't teach me that. My gut did. And as I've said, it's pretty big gut.

That's why I've said, the sum of our fears isn't close to the whole of our character. And the unique American ability to curse the darkness and ultimately see the light.

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