by Gary Alexander
November 24, 2020
Stop! Do not laugh. Don’t throw tomatoes: 2020 is the year everyone loves to hate. I was ready to write a column of semi-despair about how we might revive Growth by opening up the economy again, but I knew that nobody in power would surrender to that desperate plea, so I’ll retreat to the lesson my mother taught me long ago – “Nobody likes a complainer. Just be thankful for what you’ve got, Gary.” So here goes:
#1: Thanks for a peaceful transfer of power to a decent man, Joe Biden. I for one will give him a Honeymoon to handle the heavy lifting awaiting him, wishing him well in all the challenges facing him.
#2: Thanks for a good leader in Donald J. Trump, who kept us out of foreign wars, protecting our security and the lives of our soldiers, growing our pre-Covid economy more than any president in this century, expanding jobs and wealth for minorities, all with no help from the media or powerful enemies.
#3: Thanks for all the hard-working poll workers who processed nearly 160 million ballots, some without pay and others without sleep, all night November 3, with no overt bias, in an honest election.
#4-Thanks for our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, which guarantee our freedoms through crises like these. Whether most of us read them or not, they remain our fortress.
#5-Thanks that America is the strongest nation on earth, by far, and we are a good nation. We do not seek an empire, nor do we seek to destroy others, but we promote peace and commerce among allies.
#6-Thanks that we might bring our troops out of Afghanistan in our 20th year of occupation there.
Now, on to this rapidly recovering economy in a Covid-scarred year:
#7: Thanks for Covid forcing us to rethink our personal lives, especially how to work more efficiently at home, how to shop more efficiently online, and how to find ways to help our children learn at home.
#8: Thanks for Covid scaring us into paying off our credit card debt and storing up savings. For the first three quarters of 2020, consumers reduced credit card debt 13% ($120 billion). Savings reached $6 trillion at one point in a “come to Jesus” moment that never would have happened without a Covid scare.
#9: Thanks for the housing boom that pushed existing home sales to a 16-year high in October, reaching a 26.6% gain in the past 12 months. Our son in Portland, Oregon, rode that wave in a welcome home sale.
#10: Thanks for a “V” shaped economic recovery. In April, the bears were predicting an “L” shaped recession, with 40% unemployment and a decade-long 1930s malaise – a “Greater Depression,” worse than the Great Depression. As it turned out, the peak jobless rate was 14.7%, and that rate fell rapidly.
Graphs are for illustrative and discussion purposes only. Please read important disclosures at the end of this commentary.
Now, we move on to the Covid bug and its impact:
#11-Thanks for “Operation Warp Speed” that will bring at least two effective vaccines by year’s end. One company expects to produce enough doses for 25 million Americans this year and 1.3 billion doses in 2021, and another company may match that volume, and both vaccines seem to be about 95% effective.
#12-Thanks that there are “only” about 260,000 U.S. Covid deaths (subject to revision due to multiple causes of death) rather than the 2.5 million originally projected, and future deaths may be preventable if we can isolate those most vulnerable by age and risk rather than putting all people in the same risk profile.
#13-Thanks to our responsive Federal Reserve and Congress for delivering checks to needy families this year. No matter the consequences in future years, that was the necessary thing to do at the time.
#14-Thanks for the stock market buying opportunity in March and a huge recovery to help us make a helpful amount of money if we had the courage to believe in the Great American Miracle once again.
#15-Thanks that competitive sports are back – NFL and college football in particular – but also a great World Series, NBA, and NHL finals just finished, MLS soccer playoffs, and tennis and golf tournaments.
Now I’ll conclude with some personal sidelights to round the list up to 20:
#16: I’m spending less on travel and sending all the savings to those in need. There are many top-tier musicians in New York in danger of eviction due to job losses in the “gig” economy (a term that came from the jazz community). I’m sending my savings from the canceled Jazz Cruise to those musicians. (Can we all please consider sending a portion of our excess income to those now in greatest need?)
#17: Isolation has given me time to read all Shakespeare plays and movies of same and read 100+ books.
#18: With fitness center closed, I’m walking the open road and discovering some marvelous trails, resulting in 240 straight days of walking on my home island, discovering new beauties each day.
#19: I’m discovering chat rooms on Zoom with like-minded individuals in several marvelous fields. Even our family Thanksgiving dinner will be held by camera and with creative storytelling, and safety.
#20. I’m thankful to be writing Growth Mail for my 11th straight year writing for Navellier, and I’m especially thankful to be “fully in the market” since 1990, while encouraging you all to be fully invested.
And, living in the Pacific Northwest, I’m thankful to dodge the coming Cascadia Quake another year.
Songs About the NEW Thanksgiving
On my weekly radio shows (19 years and running), I play music from the Great American Songbook tied to composer birthdays. In Thanksgiving week, I often play songs with “thanks” in the title, but this week I will expand that theme to include Covid-related restrictions to dining table limitations of 10 outdoor seats.
This year, Thanksgiving is November 26, so I’m featuring songs by Arthur Schwartz (born November 25, 1900), starting with his first hit, “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan” about our new mandate for small groups dining outside, then his lonely songs – “Alone Together,” “By Myself,” and “Alone Too Long.”
Jerry Bock, born on this date, also wrote the ideal song for social distancing: “Too Close for Comfort.”
Irving Berlin had most American holidays cornered in his songs (White Christmas, Easter Parade, God Bless America), but his Thanksgiving song didn’t contain the word thanks. It was Count your Blessings:
Count Your Blessings
When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings
–Words and music by Irving Berlin (in 1954)
That’s what I’ve done today – I’ve counted 20 blessings in this otherwise cursed year of 2020.