by Gary Alexander
August 23, 2022
News bulletin: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act “will decrease the deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade” (Forbes, August 16, 2022).
Lest you forget, the federal government ran a $2.8 trillion deficit in 2021 alone, so cutting the deficit by $10 billion a year for the next 10 years amounts to a 0.36% reduction of 2021’s red ink per year. Big deal.
More than that, how can anyone predict deficits (or inflation rates) 10 years from now? That’s like asking the weatherman to tell you whether it will rain next March 17. There is no way that any math wizard can account for all the variables in the external world impacting government spending over the next two years, much less 10. Could anyone predict COVID-19 in advance? The Ukraine War? The current inflation?
Back in 1962, we faced two major threats that should seem familiar today – inflated steel prices in the spring, and a surprise threat of war with the Soviets in the fall. Things looked very dismal. As I showed in my May 24, 2022 column, the far larger market drop came in the Spring over the steel price wars, with only a small market dip during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but then the market soared, thanks to a tax cut!
Democrats never cut taxes, right? But on December 14, 1962, President Kennedy first proposed a tax cut to help spur economic growth. It didn’t pass in 1963, but LBJ passed it and the stock market took off.
Graphs are for illustrative and discussion purposes only. Please read important disclosures at the end of this commentary.
The future is full of surprises like that, which means that which we expect most is least likely to happen.
This summer I’ve been going over memories from the Seattle World’s Fair of 60 years ago (held April 21 to October 21, 1962) between my junior and senior years of high school there. I was an avid science student and jazz fan, a perfect mix for the music and futuristic offerings of those six magical months.
As an avid science student, I remember gyrocopters, the rocket backpacks, the elevated Monorail, and a flying saucer on sticks called the Space Needle. There was promise of high-speed “air cars” that would cloud our skies. It was a thinking man’s Disneyland. By the time it closed, “Century 21” had greeted over 10 million visitors, and even made a profit, but the Fair closed in the middle of that Cuban Missile Crisis!
Oddly, the Fair sort of predicted our October flirtation with Armageddon. Visitors were channeled into a 40-second “Bubble-ator” to enter the “World of tomorrow,” but before reaching tomorrow, we had to view “The Threat,” via images of a desperate family in a fallout shelter. We were invited to choose between destruction and life. Our visual choice was a mushroom cloud vs. Marilyn Monroe – a clear dichotomy!
Alas, Marilyn Monroe took her own life August 5, 1962 and we were soon on the brink of nuclear war in late October when President Kennedy was scheduled to close the Fair. We can now see that scientists in Seattle were so busy looking 50 years ahead that they missed the big news of 1962 and the big picture of the next decade – the rise of feminism, civil rights, the Beatles, long hair, draft riots, and hippies! All we could see were white families in their same old roles, with the same short hair, but with much cooler toys.
TV’s Jetsons Emulate Seattle’s “Jet Set” Futurists
In 1962, the Jetsons were a prime-time ABC cartoon series set in “Orbit City” in 2062. The opening theme was jaunty: “Meet George Jetson, son Elroy, daughter Judy, and wife Jane.” That cartoon family was not very far removed from the future pictured at the Century 21 fairgrounds. Even as we look back at the 1962 photos, we see crew-cut white men in suits and ties inventing ever-more exciting toys, while wife Jane is stuck in her space-age kitchen. (Like the nation, Seattle had a blind spot for minorities then.)
Sixty years later, the Space Needle still hovers over Seattle, but the Monorail is chronically broken. There are no air cars, rocket packs, or gyrocopters crashing into each other, but the sky is filled with invisible “hot spots” and Internet storage; no mushroom clouds or cars, and any space copters are Amazon drones.
We were already on the road to personal computers and the Internet by the time our Fair opened. On April 25, 1961, Robert Noyce was awarded a patent for the integrated circuit – a chip of electronic components in semi-conductive material – the start of the Computer Revolution. Also in 1962, we were madly trying to put a man on the moon. Boeing was a big part of that. In Seattle, Boeing dominated the employment picture. But from 1969 to 1972 – the moon-landing years – the payroll at Boeing shrunk from 102,000 to 29,000. There was a sign on the new Interstate 5, heading south, which read, “Will the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights?” Once those crew-cut engineers (like my dad) put a man on the moon, they became expendable. And now, we haven’t put a man on the moon in nearly 50 years, since late 1972.
Who could have guessed, in 1962, that Seattle would give birth to a half-dozen giant corporations built around the land-borne comfort of yuppies? First came Microsoft, then McCaw Cellular (which became AT&T Wireless, which merged back into Ma Bell). Then came designer coffee at Starbucks, Costco, Amazon, and Nordstrom’s. Meanwhile, Boeing’s corporate team left town to set up shop in Chicago.
My main point is that the future seldom happens as we envision it, and that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want to live in either a bomb shelter or an aerial utopia filled with drunk drivers in the sky. Likewise, the world of 2062 will not be anything like what we envision today. New inventions, now inconceivable, will enter the world and ease our passage through life. (Today’s social blind spots will also be revealed.)
Therefore, it pays to be positive for reasons that nobody can explain in specific detail, yet. Tomorrow will be better, but I can’t tell you why – not yet. The safest bet is that the ascent of man will continue. It is the greatest Megatrend in history, but nobody in history has yet published any clear-eyed view of our future.
OK, I’m done. Now here’s bonus coverage – a “Lucky Strike Extra” – for you history and music buffs…
Musical Coda: America’s Greatest Ambassadors Visited Seattle (and the World) in 1962
In addition to the science angle, in 1962 I was 16 and had just earned my driver’s license, so I drove the 15 miles north to the Fairgrounds to see five memorable jazz giants during the Fair’s run. This week 60 years ago, I saw the Erroll Garner’s trio record his “One World Concert” at the Fairground, August 22, 1962.
In May, I saw Count Basie’s great band first. The sports hall where they booked him was half empty, but that gave me a chance to stand right under his all-star sax section all night. (Heaven!) Then, I saw Benny Goodman’s big band on their way to Moscow. (Basie also toured Europe that summer.) Benny played in six cities in the Soviet Union for 40 days, from May 30 (his birthday) to July 8, including the full July 4th week in Moscow. Benny was warmly welcomed, partly because his parents were born in Russia, plus his manager and guitarist were of Armenian descent and could translate Russian to English and vice versa.
Most of these jazz greats were revered more overseas than at home. As such, they served as America’s musical ambassadors to the world, especially Louis Armstrong, whom I saw in the Fair’s closing week, when there were hurricane winds in Seattle for the first and only time, lifting my car up and over a lane.
In June, I also saw the classic Dave Brubeck quartet in a daytime concert at Aqua Theater by Seattle’s Green Lake. In an era of racial segregation, Dave, Louis, Benny, and Basie had racially integrated bands, setting an example to the world. That summer, Brubeck wrote a special number for Louis Armstrong, which he sang only once, at the Monterrey Jazz Festival that September, called “The Real Ambassadors.”
Some of the lines fit Satchmo like a glove:
I’m the real Ambassador
All I do is play the blues and meet the people face to face.
I’ll explain, and make it plain, I represent the human race,
And don’t pretend no more.
Who’s the real Ambassador?
Louis Armstrong literally stopped a war, in The Congo in 1960, when the two sides signed a truce for 24 hours to hear him, and Benny Goodman may have helped prevent a nuclear war. Back in 1958, a young Texan, Van Cliburn, won the prestigious Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, and Dave Brubeck circled the globe for the State Department in 1958, including Soviet-controlled Poland (composing a song, titled “Thanks” in Polish), but no jazz group entered the Soviet Union until Benny Goodman did, in 1962.
Our State Department didn’t push jazz on the Soviets. They invited Benny. Their Minister of Culture said, “Our people would like that kind of jazz musician. And his family came from Russia. That would interest our people, too.” Back in 1942, Russia and America were war allies when Benny recorded “Mission to Moscow,” and 20 years later BG played a Russian folk song, “Polyushke Polye” for his Moscow fans.
Khrushchev attended the opening night and closing week concerts, even though he didn’t like most jazz. I like to think those human contacts made Nikita think twice before sending missiles toward his old allies.
Navellier & Associates owns Boeing Co.(BA), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon.Com Inc. (AMZN), and Costco (COST), in managed accounts but does not own Starbucks Corporation (STBK), or Nordstrom’s Inc.(JWN). Gary Alexander does not personally own Boeing Co. (BA), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon.Com Inc. (AMZN), Costco (COST), Starbucks Corporation (STBK), or Nordstrom’s Inc.(JWN).