With over a half century of wealth-management experience under my belt, I have lived through many crises that have permanently impacted the United States and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is the dastardliest of them all because it preys on society’s frailest members.
From the OPEC energy crisis of the 1970s to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, I have witnessed America protect its wealth, freedom, financial system, and government through our common values, innovation, ingenuity, love for one another, and confidence in the future. The American character will once again prevail through this pandemic, but this time the situation is quite different. We are fighting a disease we cannot easily detect with our eyes, so how we handle this challenge will test all that we are.
Federal and state governments took immediate action to protect us through policies and lockdowns that have kept many of us and our loved ones safe at home. To protect those most susceptible, America’s biomedical community responded immediately by creating COVID-19 tests and then improving them to shorten test times from days to minutes. These essential actions—along with the help and dedication of amazing healthcare professionals risking their lives for us—are stabilizing the infection and mortality rates.
The final test for conquering this virus is a vaccine. Eradication! This is where “we” in the American character steps forth and leads the charge. Major U.S. biochemical labs, usually fierce competitors, are joining hands. They are sharing lab results and ideas, so potential vaccines are moving through clinical trials at a pace seldom ever seen in the drug development process in the developed world. It’s cooperation for the betterment of mankind—another American characteristic rooted in the 20th Century’s two world wars.
Concurrently, we continue to place the highest priority on protecting the most vulnerable among us. As we get more and more people tested and treated for the virus, we will get closer to the freedom of movement and enjoyment we had before the pandemic. American businesses must also rise to the occasion by using tests to protect their employees and getting back into production. American optimism about the future will return, and we will have a chance at a quicker economic recovery. All of this is for naught if we cannot preserve the very economic system that has created the American character.
However, the economic cost of our health and safety has already been enormous and will likely grow. The first economic blow hit America’s small businesses, which comprise more than 99% of all businesses in the United States. Our economy grows as some of these small companies develop into corporate giants. COVID-19 or not, it is normal for businesses to fail. Some fail more quickly than others; some make it five years while fewer make it beyond 10 years.
But all small businesses are the growth engine of our economy, so we cannot forget them. They are the ones who have been decimated by the “COVID-19 recession.” If they have confidence in their future and the United States, how will we show our confidence in them? Part of the American character is confidence in our future, so it seems to me that the entrepreneurial spirit of the small business community needs a confidence boost by:
- Banks working with them to modify loans.
- Local governments giving them some forbearance on property taxes and business fees.
- The federal government giving “restart grants” to help reignite the small business community.
All of this will require continual faith and confidence in the future of America and the innovative spirit that has made America into the world’s largest economy. It is easy to forget that the Hormel brothers who created Hormel foods, Bill Hewlett and David Packard who founded HP, and Bill Gates who started Microsoft were all once small businessmen. The list goes on and on. Despite our current fears, we must continue to keep a question in the back of our minds, “How can we make tomorrow better?” Let the American character do its magic, and as we help one another, we will jumpstart our economic growth.