There have been mountains of articles written about the impending death of the American economy as we know it. Frankly, I'm sick of reading about the "Japanification" of America. One snippet in particular from Time Magazine stood out for me:

Even the economists do not have a name for the present condition, though one has described it as "suspended animation" and "never-never land."

"Never-never land"? I'd be terrified of that unnamed economist's dire prediction ... if it wasn't published in 1992 -- almost 20 years ago!

Deja vu all over again
I've pored through decades-old issues of magazines and newspapers with similar warnings, and I continually come across a common theme:

  1. The United States economy is in uncharted waters.
  2. There's a chance we'll never recover.

Nonsense! Since that Time article was published, the S&P 500 is up 180% and we've witnessed the breakout performance of homegrown companies like Microsoft, skyrocketing 1,100% over the same period.

Today, I'm unveiling my three favorite American companies -- not because investors should blindly buy U.S. stocks -- but because we have an opportunity to profit from strong, iconic American companies today while pundits continue to fret.

Two you've heard of, one perhaps not, but all three are great American companies, and you have the opportunity to profit alongside them.

The patriotic portfolio
First, I'm turning to an old-fashioned, hard-working American industry: steel.

Over the past three years, the steel industry has taken a beating along with the manufacturing and construction industries it supplies. I believe the decline has been overdone. The economy will recover eventually. When it does, the U.S. will use more steel, and the industry will recover as a result.

To that end, we're witnessing a time arbitrage opportunity in steel, and specifically in one stock positioned to profit when the industry recovers. That stock is Nucor (NYSE: NUE). I'm singling it out for one simple reason.

Nucor has a major operating advantage. Its minimills break even at 45% capacity. Compare that to competitor U.S Steel (NYSE: X), whose furnaces require 60% capacity to break even. It's easy to see which company will outperform during an extended industry downturn.

Next, I'm turning to the restaurant industry, notably the most American segment of all: fast food. While that may not as seem as wholesome as the steel industry, this is an industry in which America is a leader, and I see no signs of it slowing.

One company poised to pop in this space is Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM), the largest restaurant company in the world, and owner of iconic American restaurant brands such as Yum's Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Yum isn't growing its revenue in the United States, but there is one country where it's just raking in the sales: China.

Ten percent of Yum's stores are located in China, and that figure is growing every day. In fact, one new KFC is opened nearly every day in China.

This is remarkable -- even McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) has only around 1,200 locations in China versus Yum's 3,600. I like Yum for my investment dollars because it's not purely focused on selling to U.S. citizens, but has been venturing into emerging markets for decades -- most notably with its entrance into China in 1987.

Lastly, I turn to a classic American brand that has been absolutely crushing its Japanese counterpart over the past five years.

Ford (NYSE: F) and Toyota (NYSE: TM) are both great companies -- in fact, I named Toyota the "AK-47 of the auto industry" in 2007 because of its reliability, cheapness, and availability for the mass markets worldwide. But let's talk about the real winner over the past five and, in my opinion, the next 30 years: Ford.

I recently watched Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner and Million Dollar Portfolio Advisor Ron Gross in a new video interview called Motley Fool Top Picks & Portfolio Perspectives 2011. In it, David laid out three critical points that all potential Ford investors should know:

  1. Ford is about to pass a very important point. It will soon have more cash than debt – one year ahead of schedule. Consider that it's the only U.S. automaker that did not accept a taxpayer-funded bailout and you'll realize the significance of that.
  2. Ford is brilliantly managed. CEO Alan Mulally, an engineer by trade, worked his way up at Boeing and moved to Ford as CEO in 2006, just in time to prepare the company for the impending recession. He has since returned the company to profitability in one of the worst years for the auto industry since 1982.
  3. David and Ron both personally own Ford. I've profited from David's advice on many great stock recommendations, and I get especially excited when I discover a stock he's buying for his own portfolio. Combine that with the fact that Ron, a successful value-focused hedge fund manager, deems it fit for his portfolio, and I'm sold on Ford as a great American investment.

An essential American brand for your portfolio
Back to Motley Fool Top Picks & Portfolio Perspectives 2011. We've decided to release the video for free to 100% of The Motley Fool audience. David and Ron not only expand on why they like Ford's stock, but also reveal the stock David calls the Essential Core Holding For Your Portfolio. This company has zero debt, $3 billion in cash, and -- like Ford -- has a strong leadership position in its industry. Also like Ford, David owns this stock in his personal portfolio, which caught my attention. In fact, I bought this stock for my portfolio, too.

To receive the name of this stock, get instant access to the Top Picks & Portfolio Perspectives video for free, and find out about Ron's market-beating Million Dollar Portfolio, simply enter your email address in the box below.

Jeremy Phillips owns no shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Ford and Nucor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Nucor, and Yum! Brands. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.