Optimism! The Bullish Case for America

What a mess.

More than 20 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Millions of them have been out of work for six months or longer.

Millions are underwater on their mortgages. Student loan debt is ballooning. American's credit was downgraded last summer. The Census Bureau now counts nearly one in six Americans as living in poverty.

You can go on and on.

But, as Oscar Wilde said, "We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." Take off the doom goggles and look around, and you might see that America still has a lot going for it. Here are 19 examples.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (22) | Recommend This Article (76)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2012, at 7:24 PM, CrankyTexan wrote:

    Only a few weeks until Election Day! Things are great, people! Really!

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2012, at 9:52 PM, bluedepth wrote:

    It's refreshing to have some occasional optimism in print.

    One question I have about #19 is whether there will be 47 million more jobs in 2050 to accommodate our larger, younger workforce. Each month we will have an increasingly higher bar to clear for new jobs just to keep pace with our population. I hope we are up to that and don't become another Spain with regards to youth-employment.

    Let's get to work USA!

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2012, at 5:25 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    @bluedepth

    The 200 million jobs left vacated in China could move back here where 47 million are more productive then 200 million in China.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 12:04 PM, Darwood11 wrote:

    Yes, the oil and gas numbers are very hopeful. BUT:

    Will problems with shale oil and gas be successfully resolved? That includes technical as well as political.

    Will pipeline and other oil and gas infrastructure issues be resolved, so that this trend can continue? I understand that North Dakota oil production has eclipsed Alaska's.

    Will Shell's $4.5 billion gamble in the arctic succeed? If not, then the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline will be over. That's not likely with an estimated 90 billion recoverable barrels, but this is politics and that oil could sit there for decades.

    Will household debt continue to fall, or will it rise when all of those option ARMs are recast in 2015 or so? It's my understanding that when that does happen, tens of $billions of dollars will be added. The loans at Wells Fargo are supposed to notch payments up 7-1/2%. Ouch.

    "It ain't over yet."

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 5:20 PM, TheHobberDobber wrote:

    Does that mean we should re-elect Obama? I don't think so!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 5:36 PM, terryongarland wrote:

    Clearly this based upon the expansion of carbon based energy production.

    If Obama is reelected one wonders if he will turn loose the EPA to stop the production of this resource. After all he will not have to deal with another election.

    Stuff to think about. Chilling thought.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 5:46 PM, timarchibald wrote:

    Yes- We should re-elect Obama! Imagine how well off we would be if we had a Congress that would show up to work....

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 5:49 PM, PositiveMojo wrote:

    Love the charts, but being positive means facing problems and coming up with solutions.

    The middle and lower class have taken it in the teeth from high gas prices, credit card rates that are simply usery, and inflation in the cost of food, healthcare and just about everything else. And the Fed keeps printing money and weakening the dollar.

    The median income has decreased about 7.5%, that would make an interesting chart...

    Do you think people should be concerned about this?

    * U.S. Tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000

    * Fed budget: $3,820,000,000,000

    * New debt: $ 1,650,000,000,000

    * National debt: $14,271,000,000,000

    * Recent budget cuts: $ 38,500,000,000

    Let's now remove 8 zeros and pretend it's a household budget:

    * Annual family income: $21,700

    * Money the family spent: $38,200

    * New debt on the credit card: $16,500

    * Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710

    * Total budget cuts: $385

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 5:55 PM, PositiveMojo wrote:

    I might add that the private sector, that has been demonized in so many ways over the past 4 years, has done well IN SPITE OF government mismanagement by both sides of the aisle.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 6:00 PM, PositiveMojo wrote:

    @Morgan Housel. Seriously, can you put together an article that charts those things relevant to the average family, like fuel costs, grocery costs, median income, healthcare costs, etc? Your unemployment chart would fit in that category.

    I'm sure you don't have an agenda in picking the charts that you did. I personally think it was quite innovative and would like to see more.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 6:05 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:
  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 6:12 PM, Lazarill0 wrote:

    @PositiveMojo, I LOVE your comments... especially the "taking away the 8 zero's" assessment. Genius!

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 6:35 PM, eeeeps wrote:

    This is why I allowed my MF subscription to expire! These fools will believe anything.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 6:57 PM, nikeherc1 wrote:

    PositiveMojo, you are 100% correct. Thank you for putting it with simple to read numbers. The zero's are mind boggling. Washington will never learn that spending more than you take in is a losing proposition.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 8:20 PM, 6gbarton wrote:

    Although it is nice to get all sides to every story, Motley Fool seems to give the opposite view points to everything it says. Thus, it becomes rather useless in terms of recommendations, opinions, etc.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 8:27 PM, Jaywynne wrote:

    While the Mary Sunshine approach can be mindless, a healthy optimism is worth employing from time to time. It is a necessary antidote to the wild drum-beating of the growing dung heap of self-serving media of all stripes and elected officials who cannot keep their activities and actions within the simple confines of the Constitution to which they swore allegiance with their oath of office.

    This is still a wild and wooly country, as vital as any. Yet, we struggle to identify and to overcome the manipulative reality of endless conflict that dominates twists nearly all rational discussion, deeply scarring our reasonable debate of what solutions we can devise to master our pressing social needs, from poverty to an impoverished infrastructure that rots beneath us.

    In the service of that conflict, many in our political class continue to promote a military-industrial complex and a dangerously spreading bureaucratic intrusion into every aspect of our personal lives.

    As a result of this and more the average citizen has become indifferent or, worse, is gulled into approving it as he and she lose more and more of their liberty.

    In this context, liberty is personal, one's control over one's own life, not to have it directed, restricted or guided by any outside power, whether it is political, financial or religious.

    In that context, a little ray of sunshine now and then, some optimism is refreshing, if only for the strangeness of feeling it might create.

    It is good to be reminded to see something good, just a little, and to take pride in what we accomplish every day as much as it may gratify some to endlessly criticize what we are not...

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2012, at 9:27 PM, rojostyle wrote:

    Positivemojo isn't very positive. More like positively blaming everything that's gone wrong in the last four years and overlook everything that's gone wrong in the last 40 years bc that's how long middle the middle class has taken it in the teeth.... Thanks for your worthless political take on a financial site. For we are all now dinner for reading your opinion.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2012, at 12:33 AM, xetn wrote:

    "Don't worry, be happy! Everything is coming up roses. Yeah, right.

    The net present value of the unfunded liabilities (social security, medicare, etc.), according to economist Laurence Kotlikopff, is 220 trillion dollars. That is more than the total gdp of the whole world. So, it looks like we will either have hyperinflation and a currency collapse and default or outright default of the debt. In other words, the US will default on its debt.

    "Lets break out the booze and have a ball". Happy days are here again.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2012, at 1:04 AM, Ken311 wrote:

    We should all be optimistic! So what the 3M CEO just cut their global growth projections in half today, Obama will save us!

    roll eyes

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2012, at 1:50 AM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<The net present value of the unfunded liabilities (social security, medicare, etc.), according to economist Laurence Kotlikopff, is 220 trillion dollars. That is more than the total gdp of the whole world. >>

    The net ability of economists to make predictions about the future with even the slightest shred of accuracy is 0%. In 2000 they said we would have no national debt by this time...what makes you think they got it right this time?

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2012, at 6:08 PM, PositiveMojo wrote:

    @rojostyle. Re your comment: "Positivemojo isn't very positive. More like positively blaming everything that's gone wrong in the last four years and overlook everything that's gone wrong in the last 40 years bc that's how long middle the middle class has taken it in the teeth.... Thanks for your worthless political take on a financial site. For we are all now dinner for reading your opinion."

    Your response is amusing. You obviously didn't read everything that I wrote. I think you missed the sentence, "The private sector, that has been demonized in so many ways over the past 4 years, has done well IN SPITE OF government mismanagement by both sides of the aisle."

    So, what part about what I wrote got under your skin? Be specific and I'll be happy to respond.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2012, at 10:35 AM, Morgana wrote:

    1. Tim Archibald post is correct: Congress has stonewalled the president. Even Europeans recognize the effort to make Obama seem like a failure.

    " For Democrats, perhaps the most obvious piece of evidence of GOP premeditated malice is the 2010 quote from Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell:

    'The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.' "

    (The Guardian)

    (P.S. Under what administrations does the market do well????)

    Imagine hiring a new president (Obama) for a company (USA) and the workers (certain members of Congress) simply refused to work with him even to the point of destroying the company (USA) itself if necessary. Oh . . . geee . . . . I wonder who is funding the workers . . . sabateurs (big corp)? But, WHY?

    2. Anyone with a mortgage or car payments or a kid in college or a credit card has some form of debt. Debt is not the ugly word some politicians have painted it to be. People go into extra debt to make money . . . buy a car to get to the new job. What is different is that Congress won't allow the car owner to put gas in the car.

    3 The best explanation I have read (for my plain brain) explained that, if the average person has no money, he can't go in a store to buy something. . . anything. So . . . the store can have the most important and needed products (chocolate . . . seriously . . . food, medicine), and plenty of it on the shelves, but the average person can't buy it. It does not matter if the store owner has great products. BUSINESS OWNERS NEED CUSTOMERS WITH $$$$$.

    4. I am so stunned, depressed, appalled, enraged that politicians can cut social programs while giving tax breaks to the wealthier people. This is not the world I want to live in. Please do not tell me it will create jobs. (See #3 above.)

    5. AAAAHHHHH . . . . the tax rates. Now here is something to discuss. I looked at the tax schedule to find out my tax rate as a newly retired person. After staring at the schedule for five minutes, I began to have questions about the schedule itself.

    The schedule premises that the tax rate increases as people make more money: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%. The table ends with people earning $379,150 paying 35%. (2011 info) So, my question is: If the scale is progressive (and, by the way, I think it increases too much at each step) UNDER $379,150, why is it not progressive OVER $379,150!?!??! If the tax game is based on progression, it should PROGRESS all the way.

    What is fair? I am not sure. BUT, as is, the tax rate is not FAIR. waaaaah waaaah waaaaah. Yes, I am whining.

    6. Every time someone says that the private sector is doing well, I want to scream. What world do you live in?! The private sector is getting corporate welfare, tax breaks. . . . lots of money from the government. Explain why the oil companies should get tax breaks. Some that have gotten tax breaks are not even American companies. What were the profits for the five major oil companies in 2011? $116 Billion??!!!

    Also, how many corporations pay NO taxes?

    e.g.

    " Seventy-eight of the 280 companies paid zero or less in federal income taxes in at least one year from 2008 to 2010…In the years they paid no income tax, these companies earned $156 billion in pretax U.S. profits. But instead of paying $55 billion in income taxes as the 35 percent corporate tax rate seems to require, these companies generated so many excess tax breaks that they reported negative taxes (often receiving outright tax rebate checks from the U.S. Treasury), totaling $21.8 billion. These companies’ “negative tax rates” mean that they made more after taxes than before taxes in those no-tax years."

    Now explain why I have to pay more than they do on a pension check that will never see a COLA increase?

    Whoooo. Got that out of my system.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2019416, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 11/28/2014 12:20:00 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement