Economy and Education & Workforce Development and Government and Real Estate & Retail

BULLS & BEARS: Problems look daunting? A lesson from Granddad

November 14, 2005

Granddad rocked back and said, "The news is pretty tough to read these days. Makes me want to sit on the porch and just watch the leaves turn."

He shook his head and mentioned all sorts of events that made him wonder if the United States could ever bounce back.

First, he brought up the battles for control in the Gaza strip and the fierce fighting over Palestinian areas.

Then came speculation on how the United States was going to catch what he called "that despot hiding out in the hills of a Third World country," who had led terrorist attacks against Americans and caused the mobilization of thousands of troops.

He was vexed as to why our government was at odds with so many European nations and worried about the fledging Russian government after the collapse of the old guard.

He was encouraged, though, about other foreign developments. He marveled that three different ethnic groups in one nation had gotten together, drafted a constitution, and formed a democracy. Sure, there was violence among the groups, but the fact was people there were getting the right to vote.

"It's pitiful how folks just take voting for granted around here," he lamented.

Granddad mentioned the president, not even a year into his second term, who barely won re-election and has seen his popularity plummet.

The president was vilified for a lousy economy, getting us involved in a war that's "none of our business" and "nation building" in foreign lands. "I thought with that Ivy League education he'd be smarter than that," Granddad whispered while glancing over his glasses.

"The turmoil at General Motors isn't helping the stock market any, either. I haven't made a dime in three years while your Uncle John has made over 50 percent on his real estate," he continued.

"The scariest thing, though," he warned, "is this bird flu everybody is talking about."

He concluded: "I guess the world's problems will get solved sometime. At least both my Red Sox and White Sox have won the World Series now."

"You know what the best part is, though?" he asked as a smile came across his face. "Next year with daylight-saving time we'll have one more hour to enjoy this porch."

This conversation didn't really happen-my granddad died almost 40 years ago.

But, amazingly, the discussion easily could have taken place in 1918, as all these events happened in 1917 and 1918.

Time zones and daylight-saving time were established in 1918 and the "Sox" were winners in those two years.

The Spanish flu did kill millions. Inflation increased prices 49 percent from 1916 through 1918, and William Durant wrested control of General Motors.

The Princeton-educated President Wilson barely won re-election, immersed the United States in World War I, and forced "regime change" in Haiti and Nicaragua.

The Serbs, Croats and Slovenes drafted a constitution forming Yugoslavia; the Russian revolution ousted the tsar, and we declared war on Germany.

And who was the terrorist despot? That was Pancho Villa.

Back then, the Industrial Revolution led the economy and the stock market to prosperity. This time, 87 years later, the digital revolution will lead.

As the first chapter of Ecclesiastes says, "There is nothing new under the sun."



Gilreath is co-owner of Indianapolis-based Sheaff Brock Investment Advisors, money management firm. Views expressed are his own. He can be reached at 705-5700 or daveg@sheaffbrock.com.
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