DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING "Times Are Good, Really" CONTAINS STRONG OPINIONS WHICH ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THE OPINIONS OF FOX NEWS AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE WHEN MAKING PERSONAL INVESTMENT DECISIONS. IT IS FOX NEWS' POLICY THAT CONTRIBUTORS DISCLOSE POSITIONS THEY HOLD IN STOCKS THEY DISCUSS, THOUGH POSITIONS MAY CHANGE. READERS OF "Times Are Good, Really" MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN INVESTMENT DECISIONS.
Here are the headline results from the Pew Survey (search) of attitudes toward Americans:
• Are suicide bombings against Americans and Westerners in Iraq justifiable?
Jordan: 70% yes; 24% no
Morocco: 66% yes; 22% no
Pakistan: 46% yes; 36% no
• What's your view of Usama bin Laden?
Morocco: 45% favorable; 42% unfavorable
Jordan: 55% favorable; 39% unfavorable
Pakistan: 65% favorable; 9% unfavorable
• What's your view of George W. Bush?
Morocco: 8% favorable; 90% unfavorable
Jordan: 3% favorable; 96% unfavorable
Pakistan: 7% favorable; 67% unfavorable
Guess I should cancel that fun-filled trip to Jordan that I had planned.
The point here is that reading the newspaper, or watching most newscasts on TV each day is turning anxiety into paranoia. And paranoid investors get crushed because their emotions take over their logic. Investing is hard enough without a debilitating mental outlook.
Paranoia is good for business – if that paranoia is about someone serving your customers better than you do. The energy that business paranoia generates is a big part of maintaining competitive edge. The opposite of paranoia is complacency and arrogance, both of which can kill a business. Case in point: CNN.
But seriously folks, this paranoia about jobs in America and our standard of living going to hell in a hand basket, and “two Americas: one rich, one poor” had become a debilitating paranoia that is making some investors miss big buying days like Friday and Monday.
You have got to get this fiendish strain of economic paranoia out of your system or you will miss the profits so many of us are racking up buying the reflex sell-off days. Lou Dobbs is dead wrong in his claim that America is being “imported” into pending poverty. Lou is simply ranting away to get some of his lost ratings back -- and it’s working.
But let’s not confuse a good story with the facts.
The real facts are the lifestyles and income of the great American middle class is not stagnating -- it’s higher than it ever has been. The statistics of this “progress paradox” comes from the great immigration wave of the last 20 years. As Gregg Easterbrook so correctly points out in his recent Random House book “The Progress Paradox,” the “scale of immigration into America outpaced immigration in the rest of the world put together” over the last 20 years.
Which jobs have the 5 million immigrants taken? The lowest paid jobs, of course.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I think it’s appropriate to remember that the Irish came to the U.S. in search of a better life -- and started on the very, very bottom of the socioeconomic ladder as all waves of immigrants did. My grandparents came over from Belfast, Ireland, with a family to feed, a desire for a better life and the willingness to do whatever it took to make that happen.
The point Mr. Easterbrook makes in his book so well is this: Among native-born Americans, poverty rates have been in steady decline since the ’60s -- a fact that the fear-mongers fail to mention in their daily “woe is me, the U.S. is in permanent decline” diatribes.
The facts are totally reversed. Median incomes for black families in America have been rising recently at twice the pace of the country as a whole. See this fact in any Democratic attack ads?
Between 1980 and 2000, Americans in the workforce rose 40 percent while the population grew 26 percent. How is this possible? The answer is there are more women in the workplace. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank (search) in Minneapolis shows that a tripling of women’s hours worked can be explained “entirely by a gender wage-gap that has significantly narrowed.”
I wonder what the pay gap between genders is in Pakistan or Jordan?
Immigrants Want to Come Here for a Reason
The simple fact of life in America is that more than 5 million of the hardest-working, most-motivated people in the world chose to move from their countries to the U.S. without a gun to their head. They moved to bring the opportunities of equality and opportunity to their lives in the biggest market in the world. Women and men. Black and white. Asian and African. Muslim and Christian.
The simple fact is in this great but not faultless country is that we are richer today than we were at the height of the stock market bubble of 1999-2000 -- as in $44 trillion of household wealth according to most recent estimates.
More Americans that ever own their own home, average two cars per household and send their kids to college than at any time in our short history. We have more TVs, more computers, more vacations, more second homes, more boats -- i.e. more of everything per capita than any civilization on the planet.
I’m not going to get into the discussion of whether or not all this stuff makes us any happier than the rest of the world – longtime WaveWatchers and WaveRiders know my perspective on Emotional vs. Financial wealth. But geez Louise guys, if you just read the headlines, or listen to Mssr. Dobbs every night, you are missing the most important figure of all: Middle-income trends are improving (with the new tax cuts) faster than they ever have and we native born Americans are getting richer and better-off faster than at anytime in our country’s history.
Think of these facts the next time a terrorist decides to blow himself up or some politician introduces a “no outsourcing” bill to “protect” American jobs and the “shrinking” middle class. Our prosperity does not go up in a puff of smoke from the barrel of a bazooka or bomb in some death chariot in the Middle East.
Living the Dream
The American Dream is a reality to more of us than at any time in our history. And it is coming to the hard-working immigrants more and more each day as they perform the lowest-paid jobs in our country in the great tradition of the Irish, Italian, German and all other immigrant waves.
Our country created 24 million jobs during the ’90s and we overbuilt production capacity as never before. We’re still working off those excesses, but we’re doing it faster and more productively than after any other recession.
Take a second -- walk outside, touch your grass and smell the roses. You are part of the richest set of human beings ever to walk the earth. You are lucky to be among the company of the hardest-working, most-innovative and most-charitable citizens of the world.
Our country is not perfect, its leaders will never be, and we will make wrong decisions every day of our lives -- such is the human condition. But my gosh -- the good times are now. If you honestly don’t appreciate the greatness of what you have now and can’t value the enrichment that has come to our lives through the hard work and sacrifices of native and immigrant citizens over the last 50 years, it’s time to turn in your passport and find another country to live in. And find another way to grow wealth.
You will fail desperately as an investor in America if you can’t see the economic forest through the rhetorical trees.
Tobin Smith is a contributing market analyst for FOX News Channel and is a regular panelist on "Bulls & Bears," FNC's highly-rated weekly investment program.