Every once in a while advertisers get it right. They not only make a pitch for their product, but create a spot that moves you. A once great American car company is out with a new commercial for their 2011 model and it epitomizes what is going on in the U.S. economy today. It goes like this (full video is attached below):
“The things that make us Americans are the things we make. This has always been a nation of builders. Of craftsman. Men and women for whom straight stitches and clean welds were matters of personal pride. They made the skyscrapers and the cotton gins. The colt revolvers and the jeep 4X4’s. These things make us who we are.
As a people we do well when we make good things and not so well when we don’t. The good news is this can be put right. We just have to do it. And so we did. This, our newest son, was imagined, drawn, carved, stamped, hewn and forged here in America. It is well made and it is designed to work. This was once a country where people made things. Beautiful things. And so it is again.”
You don’t have to be an American to love this commercial (though any Johnny Cash fan is upset by its brevity). You don’t even have to like the car. But the message is one that should ring particularly true at this time in history. This country has become a place that consumes more than it produces. We have lost sight of what it means to make great things. We cherish the things we acquire more than the things we produce. And in this race to acquire the biggest McMansion or the newest Apple product we have taken on a gross amount of debt. Our complacency combined with a great deal of fiscal incompetence has resulted in a private sector that is grossly indebted and now suffering the consequences. These problems are exacerbated by a public sector which rewards the losers and punishes the prudent.
I firmly believe the current economic downturn is the market reminding us of what we once were. We were once a nation of builders. We were once a nation of producers. We have become a nation of consumers. And in doing so we have consumed ourselves. The “greatest generation” did not become great on their own. They became great because their parents raised them to be great. And their parents raised them to be great because they lived through one of the most trying periods in the history of man. They were a generation who fought in a world war only to be rewarded with a great depression followed by another world war. They were a generation of hardened men and women. With resolve of the likes that has not been seen since. And their offspring are a reflection of that.
They say pride cometh before the fall. Well the fall hath come, but we have not learned our lessons. While consumers continue to struggle and pay down debts we bailout a financial sector which makes (almost) nothing and takes much (our brightest minds and our pocketbooks). The government uses its fiscal and monetary tools to bailout the losers and punish the prudent. We provide homebuyers tax credits and “cash for clunkers” so the private sector can become further indebted. We promote loser capitalism and crony capitalism. Such things do not instill hardwork in our citizenry and certainly do not promote increased output.
It’s time that we get back to being a country of people that make things. And not one that shuffles money from one pocket to the next in the effort to make the next great financial innovation. We are not a nation by the banks and for the banks. We are not just a nation that just consumes things. We are a nation of builders. People that make things. Great things. Let’s hope this message does not fall on deaf ears as this crisis looks more and more like a wasted one….
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.