Rugged Road to Greatness

Charles Payne
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Posted: Jan 29, 2012 12:01 AM

Modern society has come a long way, but is it heading in the right direction? I ask because I had a chance to see an authentic "The Birds of America" by John James Audubon, which is expected to set a record when auctioned at Christies tonight. There are only 120 complete sets of the book in existence, which helps to explain the $7.0 to $10.0 million anticipated. I actually think it's going to break records and fetch a bid above the high end of expectations. One thing in addition to the majesty of the work is the story of Audubon himself. His colorful life reflects the hustle and wonder of living in America during his time.

Yesterday on Varney & Co, Francis Wahlgren, head of books and manuscripts at Christies, repeatedly pointed out that Audubon repressed rugged individualism. That's the same rugged individualism that President Obama called a myth earlier this year, and it's being discouraged in a bid to get Americans in line with centrally planned agendas. Maybe one day we will read about pioneers as reckless risk-takers, but for now their stories are pure inspirations including that of Audubon. A true outdoorsman that ate what he killed, including many of the birds he so beautifully illustrated. He was known to pal around and respect Native Americans, mostly the Shawnee and Osage.

Drawing from their expertise in hunting, he honed his skills as did regulators, Kentucky rifleman that carried out the laws. By the time Audubon got to England at age 41 with his first collection of art, he was being called "the American Woodsman." He wowed them and came back armed with the mission to sell more books. The project was expensive, coming in at more than $2.0 million in current dollars, paid for through getting subscriptions, making exhibitions, earning commissions, and selling animal skins.

These days Americans are so intimidated they won't even invest in McDonalds, Nike, or Starbucks. In fact, USA Today underscored a pet peeve of mine for the past decade, pointing out in an article yesterday how Americans snatched $400 billion out of stock market funds over the past four years. Also, Americans have pulled out of the notion of home ownership (glad to see multifamily starts down and single family starts up last month) and even participating in the jobs market. In others words, they've thrown in the towel on so many things that have built this nation and made it the world's envy.

We are miles away from that rugged individualism that shaped Audubon, and we're slipping further each day.

Rugged Road to Recovery

The United States Conference of Mayors released a scathing report on the slow recovery of Americans cities. Just 26 of 363 metropolitan areas have seen a full rebound to pre-recession peaks. Moreover, just about 80 of those areas will need five years to bounce back to previous levels. In addition, medium real income for US households was $49,455 in 2010, down from an inflation-adjusted $53,252 in 1999. In metro areas median income slipped 2.2%. The good news is 2012 is shaping up to be better, but still in the grand scheme of things, not as robust as the past. People leave the farms to make money in the big city.

Sectors that look to get better

Construction and mining look to lose 135,000 and government (local) 196,000.

A lot of job growth this year will come from that rugged arena of energy. According to the report, jobs associated with the Marcellus Shale to the Barnett Shale will grow strongly. It is not just direct jobs from these great opportunities, but the report says professional business services will add 12,800 jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, 10,500 in Houston and 1,900 in Oklahoma City. Add in another 23,400 new jobs in education and health service workers in these three metro areas and you have to think the war against fossil fuels is foolhardy and suicidal.

Even more suicidal is the amount of people relying on the government these days. The latest data says 48.6% of the population lives in households receiving government benefits. In addition, as we approach 50 million on food stamps, the tally came in last year at $71.8 billion. It's really tough trying to be rugged when the most strenuous thing you do to survive is walk to the mailbox. I realize crunching numbers on corporate reorganization isn't the same as joining a Shawnee hunting party, but most high paying jobs tax the cerebellum muscles more than calf muscles these days. But you still have to get out of bed early in the morning and work late into the night.

Charles Payne
Wall Street Strategies