An Attitude of Gratitude

Mar 28, 2017

A central issue in the 2016 presidential election was that America was getting played by the rest of the world.

     As “victims” of poor trade deals, currency manipulation, and other inequities, we were “not being treated fairly by other nations,” or so went the assertion. Great soundbites, but are there not compensating balances in our favor? Let’s look at a few:

Global currencies: America has two distinct currency advantages no other nation has, and they are whoppers: 1) First, our Dollar, as the world’s reserve currency, is widely used in most global transactions, and 2) Second, the petrodollar system used by OPEC nations to transact oil trades is a windfall for America. (See: Our Dirty Little Secret”)

     These advantages create a constant demand for American Dollars by the central banks of the world for global trade transactions. They not only provide us with access to cheap capital through the money we can easily “print” or borrow to finance our deficits, they lower the transactional costs of our trades. The OPEC petrodollar surpluses recycled back into our economy further sweetens the deal.

Resource Consumption: America, with about 4% of the world’s population, consumes almost 20% of its oil and emits about 16% of all greenhouse gases. Our per capita consumption of almost everything from fresh water to meat, ownership of cars to calories consumed and so on far exceeds the world norms. Clearly, we’re getting more than our fair share of the global pie.

Military/Defense Spending: America spends more than the next eight largest defense-spending nations combined and is a leading arms exporter. Like it or not, the military balance-of-trade ratio is overwhelmingly in our favor.

Domestic Advantages: Our abundant reserves of fossil fuels, renewable opportunities, ores, minerals, agricultural surpluses, fresh water, and our technological prowess and access to capital are formidable. Further, as the richest consumer market in the world, our leverage and desirability as a trade partner is considerable. What’s not to like about this?                                                  
It is easy to overlook these inherent advantages and fixate instead on our trade deficits with China or Mexico, but it’s only a small part of a far bigger story.

     For openers, American consumers enjoy the lower cost products we get from our trade partners along with the domestic jobs created to handle the distribution and servicing of these goods. And, we’re no slouches when it comes to exporting our agricultural, aviation, heavy equipment, and construction and technological services and more. It’s a two-way street.

     Instead of looking for scapegoats and bemoaning our “victim” status, let’s look in the mirror for an honest appraisal of our assets and opportunities.

     Rather than blame immigrant workers for taking our jobs, let’s consider what it will take to upgrade the skillsets of our workforce to meet the requirements of the new 4th IndustrialRevolution; an age of robotics, artificial intelligence, connectivity and cyber-everything.

    Instead of mourning the decline of legacy industries – like coal – that are falling victim to a changing market, let’s capitalize on American innovativeness to create new engines-of-growth in the clean energy, sustainability and hi-tech sectors. Thinking really big, we could transform our entire infrastructure by building a world class electrical energy grid system.

     There are opportunities galore, and pulling away from trade agreements, partnerships or our responsibilities as a global citizen is not the answer. Nor is disrespecting allies, alienating neutrals or disengaging from global efforts like climate change. (See: The Ozone – End Zone). Strategically, it pays to be a good global partner – not a pariah – and it’s the right thing to do.

     An “attitude of gratitude” might be the best Rx prescription of all. It’s hard to envy, resent or condemn others when we’re grateful for what we have. And, if we’ll take a moment to inventory our assets, we might find we have a pretty good deal already that’s loaded with a plethora of new opportunities from which we can build.

Mike Conley

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