Four years ago, there was a sense that America was clearing its last hurdle on race and ideological animosity. There was pride in electing the first black president, even by those that didn't cast their vote for Barack Obama. Fast forward to even before Friday's massacre, and there was a malaise hanging over the nation ripping it apart on so many levels. Americans pitted against fellow Americans. It's not good enough to lose elections anymore, there has to be complete demonization and the absence of any compromise.
God is under attack, traditional values are being abandoned, and capitalism is considered heartless as many romanticized the notion there is a form of socialism that could be nicer. Then last week something happened that, like the election four years ago, could have galvanized the nation, but instead threatens to rip it apart even more. The first line in Tolstoy's classic Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" speaks volumes about where America is these days.
It's very difficult to think or discuss investing and politics in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. I haven't felt so empty since 9-11, when unstoppable tears strolled down my face as I tried to navigate crowded roads to reach the schools of my children, all the time looking to the sky wondering when the next plane would crash into a building or fall from the sky. Sadly, what happens next will be another battle that rips apart the nation. While there will be no debate over better mental health testing and surveillance, the idea of going after gun owners is going to be ugly.
Most will agree on changes to so-called assault weapons, but warranted suspicions of ulterior motives will make certain registrations and other legislation is a battle. I don't own a gun, but I think people have the right to own them and to protect themselves, their families, and businesses. In the meantime, a media onslaught has already begun, painting gun owners and folks that visit gun ranges as bad people. Already, I despise how moderately successful people are being painted as greedy and mean-spirited, worthy of scorn and higher taxes; now, more ordinary citizens will be painted as villains.
We are an unhappy country that will only grow sadder. We need help, leadership that finds a way to inspire everyone to do things they may not like but understand it's for a greater good. In the meantime, we can never forget those children in Newtown, Connecticut. How we honor their deaths remains to be seen. This could move us closer as a nation, or this just might move us further apart.
'Leave truth to the police and us; we know the Good;
We build the Perfect City time shall never alter;
Our law shall guard you always like a circle of mountains,
Your ignorance keep off evil like a dangerous sea;
You shall be consummated in the general will,
Your children innocent and charming as the beast'
The Never-Ending War
Since the inception of this nation, there has been a never-ending battle for the right balance between a giant central government and smaller local government. and it rages like a wildfire today. The Newtown massacre will fuel that debate just as the fiscal cliff has been its central battlefield. Lost on Friday was an olive branch from Speaker Boehner that was immediately rejected by democrats and hated by conservatives. The offer included higher taxes for those at $1.0 million and pushing the debt ceiling debate off a year.
I must say republicans mishandled this thing from the start, but Boehner has been more than accommodative. Even though there are polls that suggest a vast majority of Americas want give and take, the narrative has been the GOP comes out as the bad guys if we go over the cliff. I would suggest they forget the polls. If the will of almost half of Americans are trampled completely then at this point so be it. I get why President Obama keeps waiting and snubbing the GOP, Boehner keeps negotiating with himself, giving away more and more and still losing his grip.
Feeding the Beast
The American public has given up so much over the last five years even as government spending continues to run amok. I keep hearing politicians talk about how much it costs to run the government, but its rings hollow to people that have made real sacrifices. Outside of student loans, Americans have cut back during the Great Recession. Our government simply will not.
Where to Put Your Money
I mentioned on Friday there is a strange chance that the stock market might be the only game in town for those seeking growth. I think a lot of money will find its way into the housing market, but it's still a long way from being robust as mostly investors are stirring the action. If all the possible taxes go into effect, there is no reason to invest in "safe" dividend stocks. At some point, the bond market will implode and while gold should be in everyone's portfolio the Fed will find a way to manipulate official inflation readings.
Of course, there is the question of how the market and society at large handles yet another impasse in Washington. I think the nation will sink deeper into a depression, mental not economic, although that becomes the risk as well.
In the long run, being part owner of great American companies might be the only economic salvation but, for now, there are a lot of questions.
The only thing we don't have to question is that our unhappy family is unhappy in every way.